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Isaac Levitan – master of landscapes

Isaac Levitan - master of landscapes. Self-portrait, 1880

Isaac Levitan – master of landscapes. Self-portrait, 1880

Isaac Levitan was a Russian painter, master of landscapes, academician of the Imperial Academy of Arts (1898).
Isaac Levitan was born on October 15, 1860 (or August 30, 1860) in Suwalki province into a Jewish family. His father taught French and German and worked as an interpreter during the construction of the railway bridge, which was conducted by the French company. Levitan’s nephews, sons of his sister Teresa Berchanskaya, are artists Leo Birchansky and Raphael Birchansky.
In the early 1870s the Levitans moved to Moscow. In 1871, Isaac’s elder brother entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In the autumn of 1873 13-year-old Isaac entered the school. His teachers were artists Perov, Savrasov and Polenov. In 1875, Isaac’s mother died and his father was seriously ill. On February 3, 1877 his father died of typhus. In March 1877 two Levitan’s works were exhibited and 16-year-old artist received a small silver medal and 220 rubles “to be able to continue his studies.”

In 1879, after the assassination attempt on Tsar Alexander II, there was a royal decree forbidding Jews to live in the ‘age-old Russian capital’. The Levitans were expelled from Moscow and settled in a small cottage near Moscow.
When Isaac was only 19 years old, he received his first recognition as an artist. At one of the exhibitions, Tretyakov offered 100 roubles for his work ‘Autumn day. Sokolniki’.
In the spring of 1885, at the age of 24, Levitan graduated from college. In 1886 he went to Crimea to strengthen his health. Upon returning Levitan organized an exhibition of fifty landscapes.
About 200 works made by Levitan for three summers in Ples brought him fame and Ples become very popular among landscape painters. It is believed that the painting Eternal Rest is “the most Russian” of all ever painted on the theme of Russia.

Valentin Serov. Portrait of Isaac Levitan, 1893

Valentin Serov. Portrait of Isaac Levitan, 1893

At the end of 1889 Levitan traveled to Western Europe for the first time, he visited France and Italy.
In March 1891, Isaac became a member of the Association of Traveling Art Exhibitions.
In 1895, the artist traveled to Austria and France.
The strong melancholy drove him to the terrible state. On June 21, 1895 Levitan faked suicide attempt.
In 1898, Levitan was awarded the title of academician of landscape painting. He began teaching at the same school in which he studied.
Levitan had never been married.
Isaac Levitan died on July 22 (4 August), 1900. There were about 40 unfinished paintings and 300 sketches in his workshop. His latest work – Lake – remained unfinished.

Wooden chapel in Ples

Wooden chapel in Ples

Isaac Levitan – master of landscapes