L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Isaac Levitan

Evening Bells, 1892.

Isaac Ilyich Levitan (30 August 1860, Wirballen – 22 July 1900, Moscow), considered by many the greatest Russian landscape painter.  He was born in a shtetl in Lithuania to a poor but educated family.  When he was ten, his family moved to Moscow where, in 1873, he entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.  His mother died two years later, and his father became very ill, dying soon after.  The family descended into extreme poverty and he was expelled from school for inability to pay but, eventually, Levitan was given a scholarship in recognition of his prodigious artistic abilities.  When he was seventeen, his works were exhibited for the first time.  He received good notices in the press, and in the following years became increasingly successful, prolific and much celebrated.

Moon at Twilight, 1899.
Birch Forest, 1885-1889.

Much of his best known work has been described as being "the landscape of mood", in which nature is somehow spiritualized, and seems to reflect aspects of the human soul, a type of landscape painting that could only be Russian.  His work is a perfect example of a crisp, Impressionist-influenced realism, which still manages to be inherently and profoundly poetic; perhaps it comes as little surprise that Anton Chekhov was his closest friend. 

The Evening After the Rain, 1879.
Vladimirka Road, 1892.
Moonlit Night, Highway, 1897-98.

He had been ill for some time, and in 1897 Levitan was diagnosed with degenerative heart disease, possibly as a result of the lingering effects of the abject poverty of his youth.  He died three years later at the age of thirty-nine.

Water Lilies, 1895.
A Train on its Journey.
The Quiet Abode, 1890.
By the Deep Waters, 1892.


  1. Superb, every one. I wasn't aware of this artist. Now I'm hooked. Each one is like a moment, while passing by, that is caught and held. Breathtaking. Thanks!!!

  2. Levitan was very fortunate to be accepted in the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture because Moscow was not in the Pale of Settlement.

    Impressionist-influenced realism is an apt descriptor for these rather stunning paintings. Do you have a good reference for Isaac Levitan? We clearly have some reading to do.

    Hels and Joseph

    1. I don't really know any comprehensive source on his life and art, though I should think there is one; whether it would be in English is another question. What little I know I've found in various nooks and crannies around the internet. : )