Isaak Ilyich Levitan (1860 - 1900)
He was artist - painter, landscape painter, master of a lyrical landscape; teacher of the Moscow school of painting, sculpturing and architecture; representative of realistic school.
Levitan was born in Kibarta, near Verzhbolovo Station, in Suvalk province (today Kibartay, Lithuania) on August 30, 1860 and died in Moscow on August 4, 1900. He is considered perhaps the greatest landscape painter of Russia. He was born in a poor Jewish family, but was able to study, from 1873 to 1875, at the famous Moscow School of Painting and Architecture where his talent for landscape painting became evident. He was taught by Vasily Perov, Aleksei Savrasov and Vasily Polenov. The influence of the last two on Levitan's work is particularly significant. His first attempts at landscape painting clearly show the influence of Savrasov. By 1879 Levitan developed his own style and his pictures were enthusiastically received at exhibitions. During the 1880s Levitan explored different styles, trying to follow Ivan Shishkin and the French Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. This marked a new step in the development of the painter. About 1883 Levitan became acquainted with the writer Anton Chekhov, whose brother had been a colleague of Levitan at the Moscow School of Painting. This relationship would turn into a life-long friendship. In the summer of 1884 Levitan made his first trip to the Crimea, and in 1887 to the Volga. In this region he managed to capture the poetry and emotion of the landscape in an unprecedented manner. In the 1890s Levitan travelled extensively through Europe. As he was travelling, he sketched the landscapes and familiarized himself with working en plein air. More importantly, he discovered the world of the Parisian Impressionists. A good example of the Impressionist or even Post-impressionist influence on Levitan is one of his last paintings, The Lake: Russia (1899-1900), in which the free and dynamic brushstrokes and the brightness of colors indicate perhaps Levitan's familiarity with the work of Vincent Van Gogh. The increasing success of the painter was, however, counterbalanced by the growing anti-semitism in Russia. In September 1892, in connection with the expulsion of the Jews from Moscow, Levitan was confined to the village of Boldino in the Vladimir province and was allowed to return only after the intervention of some artist friends. Levitan was prone to mood changes and melancholy, and his emotions were often captured in his paintings. His main goal was to convey the grandeur and beauty of the Russian landscape. Levitan's early death cut short a very promising artistic career. In 1897 he had been made a member of the Munich Secession and he participated in the group's exhibitions in 1898 and 1899. In 1898 the Saint Petersburg Academy of Art had given him the title of Academician. Today, many of Levitan's paintings are in the collection of the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow, but a small Levitan house-museum in Ples, on the River Volga (Ivanovo Region) also exhibits a small selection of his works.