Reproductions Levitan, Isaac Ilyich

Isaac Ilyich Levitan

1860 - 1900

Painter, Russia, Naturalism

Isaac Ilyich Levitan Biography

Isaac Ilyich Levitan August 30, 1860 - July 22 (August 4 new style), 1900), a classic Russian landscape painter who advanced the genre of mood landscape.

Isaac Levitan was born in a shtetl of Kibarti, Kovno region, Lithuania, into a poor but educated Jewish family. His father, a son of a rabbi, completed a Yeshiva and also was self-educated. He taught German and French languages in Kovno and later worked as a translator at a railway bridge construction for a French building company. In the beginning of 1870 the Levitan family moved to Moscow.

In September 1873, Isaac Levitan entered the Moscow School of painting, sculpturing and architecture where his older brother Avel already studied for two years. After a year in the copying class Isaac transferred into a naturalistic class, and soon into a landscape class. Levitan’s teachers were famous Savrasov, V.G. Perov and V.D. Polenov. For his successes, Levitan was awarded with a box of paints and two dozen of brushes.

In 1875, his mother died, and his father got seriously ill (he died in 1877) and became unable to support four children. The family slipped into abject poverty. As a patronage for Levitan’s talent and achievements and to keep him in the school, Levitan was given a scholarship. In 1877 Isaac Levitan paintings were first publicly exhibited and were positively recognized by the press. In May 1879, mass deportations of Jews from big cities of Russian Empire forced the family to move to a suburb Saltykovka, but in the fall, with the pressure on the officials from the art devotees, Isaac Levitan was allowed back. In 1880 his painting Inaiiee aaiu. Nieieuieee (Autumn day. Sokolniki) was bought by famous philanthropist and art collector Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov.

In the spring 1884, Levitan participated in the mobile art exhibition, also known as the Peredvizhniki and since 1891 became a member of the Peredvizhniki partnership. During the study in the Moscow School of painting, sculpturing and architecture Levitan befriended Konstantin Korovin, Mikhail Nesterov, architect Fyodor Shekhtel, painter Mikhail Chekhov, his famous brother writer Anton Chekhov who became the closest friend of the artist for life. Levitan often visited Chekhov and some think Levitan was in love with his sister, Maria Pavlovna Chekhova. Levitan collaborated with Chekhov brothers in the illustrated magazine "Moscow" in the beginning of 1880s he illustrated M. Fabritsius edition "Kremlin". In 1885-1886 together with Korovin he wrote scenery of performances of the Private Russian opera of S.I.Mamontov.In the end of 1880s he visited the "drawing evening" in the Polenov’s house. The landscape painter, deeply feeling both lyrical revealing unique charm and quiet greatness of Russian nature, Levitan practically did not paint urban landscape paintings, with the exception (currently lost) "View of Simonov monastery", mentioned by Nesterov, Moscow is present only in the painting "Illumination of the Kremlin". In the end of 1870s Levitan worked a lot in vicinities of Moscow, and created the special variant of "landscape of mood" in which the shape and a condition of the nature are spiritualized, become carriers of conditions of human soul ("Autumn day. Sokolniki", 1879). During work in Ostankino, Levitan embodied fragments of mansion’s house and park, but basically he was fond of poetry chamber places in forest or modest countryside.
In the summer of 1890 Levitan went to Yuryevets and among numerous landscape paintings and etudes he wrote "The View of Krivooserski monastery". So the plan of one of his best paintings "The silent monastery" was born, where the image of a silent monastery and planked bridges through the river, connected it with world around, expressed deep reflections of the artist about life. It is known that this painting made strong impression on Chekhov.

In 1897, already world-famous, Levitan was appointed an Academician of the Academy of arts and in 1898 Levitan was named the head of the Landscape Studio at his alma mater. Levitan met the last year of his life (1900) at Chekhov’s in Crimea. In spite of the painter being terminally ill, his last paintings are full of light. They reflect tranquility and eternal beauty of Russian nature.
Levitan was buried in Dorogomilov Jewish cemetery and in April 1941 was reburied in the Novodevichy Cemetery, next to Chekhov’s necropolis. Levitan did not have a family or children.

Isaac Levitan’s hugely influential art heritage consists of more than a thousand of paintings, among them watercolor paintings, pastels, graphics, and illustrations.