ISAAC LEVITAN: THE ACADEMIC OF LANDSCAPE PAINTING
Image Courtesy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Levitan
Responding to the lyrical and revealing charm of Russian nature and creating a special variant of the atmospheric landscape that carries the conditions of the human soul through muted light and melancholy colors, the Russian landscape painter, Isaac Levitan, is remembered as the master of landscape painting and founder of the “mood landscape” genre.
One of the most influential figures in Russian painting of the 19th century, Levitan was born on August 30, 1860, in a shtetl of Kibarty, Augustów Governorate in Congress Poland, Russian Empire (present-day Lithuania). He came from a poor but educated Jewish family. In 1870, the family moved to Moscow, where he attended classes at the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture from 1873 to 1883.
Levitan's parents died during this period and he spent his youth in dire poverty. For his talent and achievements, he was given a scholarship to continue his education. In 1877, Levitan had his first exhibition, receiving favorable recognition from the critics. In 1880, his work “Autumn Day, Sokolniki” was purchased by the eminent art collector Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov.
During the late 1870s, Levitan often worked near Moscow, and created the special variant of “the landscape of mood”, in which the shapes and conditions of nature are spiritualized. And this spirituality was achieved through his supreme mastery of color, light, and shade. Being a realist, Levitan was devoted to naturalism and plein air painting and had a gift of portraying all seasons of the year, different times of the day and an infinite variety of natural views.
In 1884, he participated in a mobile art exhibition and became a member of the Peredvizhniki partnership in 1891. It was around this time that he began a life long friendship with the dramatist Anton Chekhov. Levitan rarely if ever painted urban scenery, preferring instead more rural views of woodland and meadow. His profound understanding of light, linear perspective and sympathetic colors are visible in paintings like “Secluded Monastery”, Road to Vladimir “, and “Golden Autumn”.
In 1890s, Levitan's reputation spread throughout Europe. In 1897, he was elected a member of Imperial Academy of Arts, and in 1898 he was appointed the head of the Landscape department. Despite suffering from a serious heart disease, he produced several alluring paintings.
After spending his final year at Chekhov’s home in Crimea, Levitan died on August 4, 1900, and was interred at the Jewish cemetery at Dorogomilovo. Later in 1941, his remains were moved to the Novodevichy cemetery.