General Aleksei Nikolaevich Kuropatkin (1848-1925) 'was an exremely clever and noble man but educated only as regards military topics; he doesn't have a clue about internal or international law or about political economy, and is therefore not only useless but also dangerous in the discussion of general matters', from the diary of A.A.Polovtsov, Red Archives (Moscow 1923) volume 3, p.83.
In April 1901, Repin received a commission to paint the picture Formal Session of the State Council in honour of its Centenary on May 7, 1901. Now in the Russian Museum in St.Petersburg, it is Repin's largest canvas (400x877cm.). Repin finished the painting only in December 1903.
Helped by two students, B.M.Kustodiev and I.C.Kulikov (who were essentially in charge of the perspective and background), Repin was permitted to be present at all the sessions of the State Council for the preparation of the painting. Each member of the State Council including the Tsar, was asked by Repin to pose fully dressed early in the morning in the main hall of the Mariinski Palace when no one else was present. When it was suggested to the artist to use photographs, Repin threatened to cancel the commission.
The Council, founded in 1810, was a body designed to advise the Emperor on civil legislation and the budget. The monarch was, however, not obliged to consult the State Council on such matters, still less to follow the advice of its majority, and up to 1906, all members of the council were appointed by the Emperor.
For futher literature please see;
I.Grabar & I.Zilberstein Repin, Vol. I (Moscow, 1948) pp.264-272
O.A.Liaskovskaia I.E.Repin (Moscow, 1982), pp.384-392
D.Lieven Russia's Rulers under the Old Regime, (London 1989)
Moscow, Tretiakov Gallery, Repin (2000), pp.231-238 for an illustration of the full paintings and its details.