Repin depicted 81 people on the canvas of 400x870 cm in size. Most of them are members of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society (IRGO).
Nicholas II, who is at the head of the meeting, is reading the commemorative letter on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Permanent Council by Alexander I. The Permanent Council was the predecessor of the State Council. Initially, when a “photo in oil” was ordered to Ilya Repin, it was assumed that this would be the whole plot. But the artist offered to add more life - so the secretaries appeared on the canvas, distributing commemorative medals to the council members.
Repin received the order in April 1901. By that time, he had serious health problems. The artist could not have mastered such a large workload in such a short time alone, so he asked for assistants. Repin's assistants were his students Ivan Kulikov and Boris Kustodiev. Ivan Kulikov painted the left part, Boris Kustodiev painted the right part, Ilya Repin painted the center of the painting.
Depictions of almost all noblemen are etudes. The order was urgent but there were a lot of people for being painted and therefore there were no more than 3-4 sessions for each person. Some people posed with the back of the head and painting of them took only one session. Art historians believe that Repin has developed a special style of the single-session writing. These are sketches made by brush, fleeting impressions, but at the same time these are the last synthesis of many years of careful attention.
They began work a few days before the anniversary, starting with the interior. On the day of the ceremonial meeting, in addition to drawing supplies, the painter brought a camera to the hall. Later Repin repeatedly took pictures of what was happening, but he continued to draw from life rather than from a photo. The list with indication of the rank, uniform, orders, etc. of all members of the State Council was prepared for the artist. Repin insisted that the nobelmen behaved naturally, were in the same places as usual during his work.