Sunday, October 9, 2011

MASTER OF THE ‘MOODY’ LANDSCAPE




Isaak Levitan, Self-portrait, 1880
From Olga’s Gallery at abcgallery.com


Isaak Levitan, 1884
From levitan-world.ru


Isaak Levitan, 1898
From levitan-world.ru


What can be more tragic than to feel the boundlessness of the surrounding beauty and to be able to see in it its underlying mystery... and yet to be aware of your own inability to express these large feelings" - Isaak Levitan.
Russian nature is beautiful, poetic, sensitive, sad, stern, unpredictable, mild, cruel, spiritual and breathtaking… Nobody could express these feelings better than the great landscapist Isaac Ilyich Levitan (1860 – 1900), who never looked for exotic and pretentious subjects for his paintings but remained faithful to simple poetic motifs of his native land because his heart was always burning with love for this country…
(stpetersburg-guide.com)


The Lake
From tars.rollins.edu


Levitan was born in Kibarta, near Verzhbolovo Station, in Suvalki province (today Kibartay, Lithuania) on August 30, 1860. He is considered perhaps the greatest landscape painter of Russia. He was born in a poor 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 Vasilii Perov, Aleksei Savrasov and Vasilii 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.
(rollins.edu)
By 1879 the painter 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 artist. 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.
(rollins.edu)


Autumn Landscape, 1880
Source lj.rossia.org
From wikimedia.org


Spring. High water
Source lj.rossia.org
From wikipedia.org


Levitan travelled extensively, if briefly, in Europe, visiting Berlin, Paris, north Italy, Switzerland, Munich and Vienna and was thus, unlike most of his Russian comtemporaries, well aware of the artistic trends in the west. His experience of European painting added considerably to the breadth of his vision in depicting the Russian terrain. In doing this Levitan sought simple but well-loved motifs of the countryside, portraying them in an increasingly laconic and intelligent way. Levitan's scenes of fields and forests at twilight achieve an extraordinary atmospheric veracity, while his joyful evocations of the Russian spring are noted for their expressive lyricism. His work was greatly admired by Diaghilev, the legendary theatre manager Stanislavsky, and the world-famous opera singer Chaliapin.
(indiebound.org)


Seashore, The Crimea
From Olga’s Gallery at abcgallery.com


The Lake
From Olga’s Gallery at abcgallery.com


The Volga, A Calm Day
From Olga’s Gallery at abcgallery.com


On the Volga
From Olga’s Gallery at abcgallery.com


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 traveled extensively through Europe. As he was traveling, 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.
(rollins.edu)


The Vladimirka, 1892
The Vladimirka road
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
From art-pics.ru


The Vladimirka road is the road taken by the exiles to reach Siberia. Levitan often combined his realistic vision with a strong message. In this case, the desolation of the landscape echoes the message conveyed by the road itself. Levitan was probably making reference to his own exile, which occurred in the same period. Like many political prisoners, he had been evicted from Moscow because he was Jewish, and this experience would leave a profound mark on the painter's soul. The sky and the fields are all part of the symbolic message that Levitan wants to render through his painting. Colors are dull and rather unattractive. Levitan chooses browns and dull greens so that nothing would stand out; the sky is blue-gray, cloudy, and unforgiving. There is no sun peeking from behind the clouds, as if the painter wanted to say that there is little hope for those who would take that road. The landscape is flat and, with the exception of the trees in the background, has no other vegetation except some sparse yellowish grass. The road appears to have no end. Perhaps Levitan is trying to say that the prisoners are forever itinerants or that Russia is so vast that human beings "vanish" in its unlimited space. There are no human figures, which seems to be a characteristic feature of realistic landscapes of other painters (Shishkin, for instance) and of Levitan himself. Actually, the tendency to "de-humanize" compositions by excluding human figures would be a recurrent feature in Levitan's work - S.C.
(tars.rollins.edu)


Golden autumn, 1895
Source lj.rossia.org
From wikipedia.org


Silence 1898
From planeteyetraveler.com


“If you see a telega, then paint a telega, if you see a cow, paint what you see, try to paint what you feel, the feeling that you have when seeing a picture of nature”. This is a quote from the greatest landscape masters of the generation of Russian painters to which such masters as Ilya Repin or Viktor Vasnetsov belonged. These are words of Isaak Levitan.
(magazine.istopover.com)


Sunny Day, 1898
Source lj.rossia.org
From wikimedia.org


Haystacks. Twilight. 1899
From Olga’s Gallery at abcgallery.com


In 1897, Levitan felt sick, a severe cardiac disease was revealed. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the permanent menace of death, he worked with a particular intensity and inspiration. His latest works are distinguished by a confident mastership, richness of technical methods, and new stylistic trends. One can feel the influence of ancient Russian art, which attracted him at the period, and that of modern style, and the newest searches in French painting, which Levitan always took a lively interest in. Nevertheless, Levitan did not join modern art and remained true to realism, utterly alien to mythologizing and stylization. Most characteristic in the late 1890s were numerous paintings of quiet twilights, moonlit nights, sleeping villages (Sunny Day, 1898, Haystacks, Twilight, 1899, and many others). To the very end of his life Levitan took an active part in artistic life; he took part in organizing the Moscow Club of Literature and Art, showed his pictures at numerous exhibitions of such associations as World of Art and Munich Secession.
(stpetersburg-guide.com)
In 40 years of his life, Isaak Levitan painted many landscapes which were later recognized to be among the finest masterpieces of Russian art. Levitan never looked for exotic and pretentious subjects for his paintings but remained faithful to simple poetic motifs of his native land. The natural simplicity of motif and composition of Levitan's landscapes is a hallmark of his artistic genius. It was evident from the very outset of Levitan's career that he had an extraordinary ability to awaken deep human feelings by the means of landscape painting. Although people usually are not present on his canvases, his landscapes unfailingly speak of humanity. Levitan's paintings tell us something about ourselves, as they touch the chords of our inner spirit. Nature is always presented in them through the prism of very personal human experience. Therefore Levitan's landscapes are often called philosophical and psychological. The complexity of the human soul and the destiny of man can be rightfully considered the true subjects of his paintings.
(Victor Potoskouev at artsstudio.com)

 

1 comment:

marceline said...

Thanks for bringing mr.Levitan to my attention.