Isaac Ilyich Levitan

Isaac Ilyich Levitan

After the rain. Ples. 1889

Isaac Ilyich Levitan. Levitan, Serov, K. Korovin – these three artists, who are very close in their artistic faith, in their approach to nature, in their method of performing a work of art and very different at the same time in temperament, in artistic individuality, in handwriting – not so long ago were united by one hall in the Tretyakov Gallery. Friendship, the closeness of views on the tasks of painting to some extent, mutually colored and enriched their works, especially in landscape painting, opened up new sides of intimate Russian nature. Therefore it is by no means a coincidence that the works of Levitan, K. Korovin, Serov were collected in one room.

I remembered this now, when I write the introductory article, because I loved this room very much. And when I came to the Tretyakov Gallery, first of all I went to this room, so that I could look at my favorite artists with such great perfection, who revealed to us the beauty of nature in the central part of Russia.
Here before me is “March” Levitan. I am struck by this luminous dazzling March sun. I always amazed before this “miracle”. The dazzling white light of the March morning has been brought to the limit. And this is expressed in the play of light on the crust of the “settled” snow, in contrast to the deep blue shadows from the trees, on the sparkling snow, in the dark green, almost black shadow of the pine branches against the background of the illuminated forest of the third scene of the picture.
And most importantly, in the special light of March, the harbinger of spring, when the snow is already interfering with the earth, when the thawed patches alternate with frosts and the branches of trees with the starling-trees waiting for migrants are clearly drawn in the blue sky. Whenever I manage to be in nature in March or to sit in the city on a boulevard on a sunny March morning, then a comic paradox flashes through my mind: “How amazing is nature imitating Marta Levitan.” And every time you go to the suburbs and wander through the fields, forests, along the river stream at any time of the year and day, again and again you remember Levitan.
You move slowly around the hall. All the works in the Tretyakov Gallery are seen an infinite number of times, and still, the longer you look, the more you discover in them new values ​​- a sign of the great richness of the great artist. And here before the eyes of a new masterpiece of painting – “Birch Grove”.
When I saw Levitan’s Birch Grove, I was literally stunned. It seemed to me somehow miraculously. In this small canvas, it seemed as if all my sensations that were left of me from childhood when I was traveling to the New Jerusalem centered and collected the pads in a magnificent birch grove on the banks of Istra.
It was so strikingly accurate that it even seemed to me that I was beginning to feel the aroma of herbs, to listen to the soft noise of the foliage of the birches, traversed by the tender summer wind, that I see this bunny, this sunlight piercing all the foliage and falling on the succulent grass, he now he will take my hand, and I will catch this sunny bunny. I had a feeling that I now go into this forest and will go for a long time and breathe in myself all this forest scent, this sunlight that sparkles, trembles, hides and again arises, as if playing hide and seek, this amazing green sunny a light that creates in the soul some unusual joy, joy, and these white, shining white trunks of birch trees, hiding in verdure and again arising and beckoning to go deeper and deeper, as far as possible into this forest.

Isaac Ilyich Levitan

Sakly in Alupka. Etude. 1886

I must say that the amazing sensation of some direct communication with nature was so acute, so vividly in this work that I suddenly read with unusual astonishment that this small picture – the pearl of Russian art – was created from 1885 to 1889. The very fact of the possibility of working on a landscape so small for several years, with interruptions, again returns to this topic and the preservation of the immediacy of the immediacy of the sensation and the captivating freshness of the painting itself, simply astonished me, and so far I have not ceased be amazed at this perfection, this diamond even in the works of Levitan. At first glance, the picture “Birch Grove” does not captivate us with some special composition, some refinement of the composition order, but if we look deeper and more attentively, we will see that the composition is unusual, unusual.
Everything seems to be accidentally seen, but in fact it is a very well thought out, brilliantly organized and very complex composition: Levitan from the edge of the forest leads our view inward. No, everything here is very thought out, very organized and, from the artist’s point of view, taken not at all by chance, although the trunks of birches standing in the foreground are, as it were, accidentally cut off by the edge of the canvas. Here we meet with the amazing skill of Levitan, the artist of the great life truth and the artist of such passionate love and such a direct relationship to nature that these components are already becoming invisible.
In art, very often the visual means are so accented by the artist that we immediately notice them; We immediately draw attention to the fact that the composition is unusual, which is a very effective decorative solution, an exquisitely graphic solution. Looking at the “Birch Grove”, we least of all think about those artistic parts that have piled this amazing whole. It seems to us that it’s easy: the artist saw it and sang it. And it is very difficult to speak here about some professional analysis: so this small work is an ingot of meaning, content, the essence of the jubilant sunny summer day, dazzling, playing in a birch grove.
It must be said that the very surface of the canvas, the density, the enameliness of this painting, its some unusual saturation, when it glows from within, is achieved not through rough, sharp contrasts. The whole illuminated part of the picture – both white trunks and foliage – is united by some kind of general light as we really see in the birch grove. You will look – and even see how the sunbeam passes through the foliage and illuminates the lower branches and grass of the grass from above, like a searchlight, in which we see separate, as if misty rays, and this light dissipates and unites all.
The same thing we see in the picture of Levitan.
This ability of Levitan, despite very long work, to literally decorate this thing, despite the finest surface design, an unusually thin, precise analysis, the most subtle gradations, close in color relations green, light green, dense green, brownish-golden , that is very close, but very different, the ability to open in such a green range such incredible color variety and richness – all this makes this Levitan’s work a unique masterpiece in the history of Russian art.

Isaac Ilyich Levitan

The first green. May. 1988

Levitan knows how to feel his emotional state directly through a very long process of work, not to dry it. He knows how to not lose the whole behind the details, but leave and embody all the images whole wholeheartedly and directly, as if it were written from the fly, at a glance. In fact, a professional artist knows what an incredibly difficult task, because with the subtlest color decision, you still have to be a magnificent, unsurpassed draftsman. Without an accurate picture of all the interweaving of branches, without the exact graphic image that underlies this work, such an excellent truth of all these laces of light birches, illuminated by the sun, the artist could never achieve.
What quality of the draftsman possessed Levitan, says his picture of 1890 “The Last Ray”, where against the background of the evening sky Levitan with such a fineness of artistic accuracy inscribes the aspen leaves in the evening sky. Who from the landscape painters had to overcome the difficulties of doing this apparent graphic, but in fact a picturesque exquisite, in which the viewer’s eye did not feel monotonous, but, on the contrary, admiring the variety of lace foliage, he knows what difficulties have to be overcome, and, of course, will marvel at the integrity of this motive.
I gave this example in order to show the high quality of Levitan’s drawing. In all cases of creative solutions, Levitan’s drawing was the basis for coloristic decisions. This does not mean that he always lay under painting. Drawing, to be more precise, always accompanied painting, and she herself went hand in hand with the drawing.
However, the soul of Levitan’s paintings, the leading source was always color. In addition, Levitan’s closest assistant was a special visual memory. She helped him in the paintings to find that generalization that characterized the special state of nature.
Levitan wrote etudes from nature, they were his assistants in the studio. First of all, he was a master of the picture. The silence in the studio, caused by sketches from nature, canvases on the easel, and an astonishing visual memory, the ability to delve into a special state, to enter the music of the motive – these hours solved the fate of the picture.

Isaac Ilyich Levitan

Evening after rain. 1879

Of course, this does not mean that little pearls were not created directly from nature and by themselves were not paintings by their completeness. Levitan was an artist in nature and an artist in the studio. He perfectly combined these two principles, which always characterize the classics of painting. He liked to observe, remember, and to think imaginatively, artistically. Levitan in this respect was not like Constantine Korovin. Constantine Korovin had no time to think and remember, but it was the brilliance of painting directly from nature. Everyone has his own temperament. To each his own. But what connected the three artists – Levitan, Serov and K. Korovin? This is the same faith and understanding of the “essence” of painting, which is an indispensable quality, the decisive quality of great artists. In other words, they were colorists.
Isaak Ilyich Levitan for short life created such enduring values ​​that not only in many respects fed his generation, but overstepped the framework of the century and, apparently, for more than one century will excite, disturb, please the hearts and minds of future generations.
On the work of Levitan there is a huge literature. Isaak Ilich Levitan, an artist of the turn of the past and of our 20th century, already received a recognition and deserved the deep love of his contemporaries. But I must say that Levitan’s work was perceived in this era somewhat unilaterally. Levitan was treated most of all as an elegiac artist, an artist of sad moods. His creativity somehow narrowed, and it was deeply wrong, because an objective analysis of all those riches that Levitan had left us clearly demonstrates that his work was very diverse not only in terms of subjects, in the images that he created, but and varied in emotional mood, on the emotional key, in which this or that work was decided.
Levitan is an artist who sang his song about Russian nature so clearly, in such a pure, so captivating voice that we hardly find any contradictory interpretations of his work in literature. And it is difficult even to meet spectators who, while approaching his works with an open heart and soul, will remain indifferent, will not fall under the charming, surprising sincerity and love of Levitan in Russian nature, will not fall under the charm of his rare ability to transmit all shades, all features of characteristic features and features of the nature of the middle belt of Russia.
What is the charm of this amazing artist?
In every person who is able to love, rejoice, suffer, sad, everyone in whom there lives at least a spark of the living, of course, lives an artist. Each of us saw the sunrise, shivered with the dampness of the morning mist, hid in the shadows from the summer heat, saw off the sunsets. I went for mushrooms on the carpet of autumn, I waited for rain under the oak. In a word, he lived impressions of nature. And, of course, from year to year, from the very childhood, the beauty of nature was imprinted in our minds. And the image of nature among the many everyday things lived in our heart. Even in the city, going to work, we admire the satin snow glistening, the deep shadows of the shadows of the March sky; returning from work, we absorb the charm of the moonlight night.
Everywhere we are accompanied by images of nature.

Isaac Ilyich Levitan

Birch Grove. 1885-1889

The thinner, the more sensitive the organization of a person, the more impressively his nature, the more vividly the images of nature of all seasons from morning till late night are imprinted in his consciousness.
And so, imagine, you, an ordinary Soviet worker, in leisure hours, perhaps a hunter, an angler, you have repeatedly stood on the spring “draft”, passed noisy spring streams, wandered through the forest at all seasons, sat by the river and on the dawn, and at noon, and at sunset – got to an art exhibition or an art gallery. Passing various works of art, sometimes interesting, you suddenly stop, amazed. You saw it in nature with your own eyes! Not only that, you have experienced the same feeling. If you were an artist, you would write the same.
This is the reason for the perception of the work of art, and not only by one person, but by the whole people. On this perception of truthful art, folk criticism is based. And truly great works receive love and recognition, and eternal gratitude to the artist who presented his beautiful creations to the Motherland.
Passionate love for Russian nature, fascination with images of nature from the very childhood stood before the mind of Levitan, helped him create works of great generalizing power.
Levitan from the earliest childhood felt a deep need. His life path can not be called successful by the artist, showered with the goodness of fate. Just the opposite: the childhood and youth of Levitan, still in his childhood years left an orphan, early lost his father and mother, were very difficult. Entering the Moscow School of Painting and having studied there for about eleven years, Levitan was always in desperate need.
Contemporaries left us memories that evidenced that Levitan drew the attention of all students and teachers from the very first days of entering the school with his incredible need and his utterly selfless devotion to art. Only a great, irresistible passion for art helped Levitan overcome the incredible difficulties that had fallen to his lot.
And in such a difficult period of childhood and youth Levitan, hungry, ragged, constantly malnourished, who did not have his corner, did not have a permanent roof over his head, another boy, then a young man, never folded his brushes and pencils. Constantly absorbed in one concern – painting, – he really can serve as an example of selfless devotion to art.
From the very first years of his studies at the School of Painting, Levitan got into the liveliest, most interesting environment of young artists and talented progressive teachers who played a very important role in the development and development of his talent. Levitan studied at Savrasov and Polenov. He managed to take a lot from these artists, close to him in spirit, on a creative direction. Levitan by nature was an unusually sympathetic, very sensitive, even vulnerable person, surprisingly receptive, poetic in nature, who absorbed everything beautiful, everything worthy to be noted by talent. And so the years of teaching are at Savrasov, whom Levitan deeply loved and to whom he was very much indebted in the development of his love.

Isaac Ilyich Levitan

The Volga. Gray day

To nature, had a huge importance in the formation of the artist’s personality. And so, of course, he was indebted to Polenov. Polenov – an experienced teacher, alive, who came to teach at the School in 1882, during the heyday of his own creativity, also had a huge impact on the development of the young Levitan.
New trends that Polenov brought with him-the desire to paint fresh air, the desire for a new color decision-enriched the understanding of the meaning of color in painting, which was very important for the formation of the young Levitan.
The whole atmosphere of the School of Painting of those years greatly contributed to the rapid and bright flowering of artistic talents.
Levitan closely mingled with Konstantin Korovin, who still shone in the School as a wonderful, talented colorist, and this friendship enriched Levitan in many ways.
Friendship with Nikolai Chekhov, and then with Anton Chekhov – bright and beautiful pages in the life of Levitan. This friendship contributed to the development of his own creativity, even more demanding of himself, the development of a common horizon.
Finally, friendship with Valentin Serov, a man of a completely different kind than Korovin, a man of immense inner wealth and at the same time of great discipline and very close to Levitan for the goals set by Serov in the field of art, although he was primarily interested in man, and even the state of a person, and Levitan most interested in nature, her mood.
Artists, singers of nature, are different. Some admire the effects of lighting, sunsets, the power of sunlight, the effect of “moon silver”, playing a long path on the immense width of the Dnieper. Such was the remarkable master AI Kuindzhi. Others choose such places or multidimensional panoramas, which build a landscape-picture. For example, an immense field of rye with a spreading oak on a hill, or forest dales with a huge prospect, leaving in blue for “far distance,” or a mast pine forest spreading its bulk. Shishkin loved such subjects. There were Russian artists who admired the waterfalls of Switzerland, the mountain peaks of the Alps or the Caucasus, or the beauties of Italy, such as Sylvester Shchedrin.
All this, of course, is due to the development of the Russian landscape.
But now Savrasov’s picture “The Rooks Arrived” appeared at the exhibition, which played a huge role in the history of the development of Russian art. New opportunities for a new approach to the Russian landscape opened up; everyday, everyday, even sometimes seeming ordinary has found its charm, influenced the feeling of the viewer. In fact, what a deep impression was produced by the loud, majestic “romantic” waterfalls that cascaded through the rocks, which most of the viewers did not see in nature, or the mountain peaks, illuminated by crimson light, which the viewer did not see either. And suddenly the simplest plot, which is annually met, caught, touched the special strings of the heart.
Suddenly the simple became close, dear. Savrasov’s painting “The Rooks Have Arrived” marked the beginning of a new attitude towards the native, Russian. Levitan became the successor of his teacher Savrasov.
The appearance of Levitan was prepared by the entire course of the previous development of Russian landscape painting. Levitan was the continuer of those revelations that Savrasov did, showing that the simplest motif of Russian nature bears in itself a tremendous force of emotional influence and is worthy to be in the way that the artist captures on his canvas.
At the same time Levitan was an innovator in the field of artistic pursuits. And this innovation, of course, was not born immediately, but was the result of tremendous, tireless work and searches aimed at understanding nature in its various states.
Striving to convey as accurately as possible, it is true to convey the state of nature, some special charm of it, its special character in this or that illumination on this or that day, cloudy or sunny, at the hour of sunset, twilight or on a moonlit night, Levitan aspired to absolute coloristic accuracy.
I must say that Levitan possessed a musical perception of nature, and this circumstance, of course, also has very great significance in all his work. Levitan understood that it is possible to convey the soul of nature, if one may so express it, only by very accurately perceiving all the color variety and richness of nature in a particular light, in this state.
Therefore, his search was to a great extent directed towards the development of this subtle coloristic vision, the ability to see the whole landscape in some general tone and at the same time to analyze all that complex interlacing of colors that creates this single, harmonious whole of the overall color solution.
With great interest Levitan studied the works of Barbizon people; the very surface of their canvases, the way of putting smears, that inscription of one smear into another. He learned a lot by copying the canvases of barbizones, copying it for the purpose of studying and penetrating into the very culture of painting the wonderful French landscape painters. I think that very much in this sense gave him and Corot.

Isaac Ilyich Levitan

Bridge. Savvinskaya Sloboda. Etude. 1884

And at the same time, studying the achievements of the French plein airers, Levitan always remained a deeply Russian artist. It seems to me that in general all this pleiad of our wonderful Russian colorist artists – Levitan, Korovin, Serov – clearly shows how artists, striving for the heights of realistic art, for mastering all the complexity of the highest professional skills, thoroughly and thoroughly studied all the best that was in the heritage of Western European painting, our Russian realistic painting, and how such close attention to the best in the heritage helped them to work out their own particular voice, the voice of rus Russian.
Levitan – a singer of Russian nature, deeply national, Russian artist. The works of Levitan in its artistic perfection, in its magnificent artistic completeness, realistic surface finish of the canvas, very accurate thinking of the composition elements, the absolute accuracy of the coloristic decision make him an artist of world significance. And anyone who wants to know the Russian soul, Russian nature, can not pass by the creativity of Levitan.

Levitan later than his close friends – Korovin, Serov – got abroad and was able to get to know closely those treasures that are stored in Western European museums. He first came to Paris in 1890, and then he traveled abroad repeatedly: in 1894, 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899. He visited Paris, Vienna, Nice, Italy, Switzerland, Germany. In many countries, visited Levitan. Many works of Western artists, contemporary and old masters, he saw, and this communication with the art of the West, of course, enriched Levitan. And yet Levitan, infinitely in love with the nature of Russia, soon began to miss abroad. The nature of the Alps nevertheless took little interest in Levitan, and he left us a small number of works in which his foreign impressions were reflected. He was eager for his homeland. Here was his heart, and here were all his artistic thoughts. It is in Russia.
To encourage the fans of painting to some thoughts that they may be born, I, as a student of K. Korovin’s studio, will try to tell something about what Korovin said during the apprenticeship. His creed of painting, of course, shared and Levitan. It is unlikely that Korovin and Levitan knew dialectics, but the essence of philosophical thought was the dialectical situation. The approach to cognition of the essence of painting can be characterized as the unity of opposites. In nature, everything is one and depends on one another and mutually determines each other. In art the same way. The unity of harmony consists in the struggle of opposites and the mutual penetration of one opposition into another and in the struggle between them.
We, the inhabitants of the Earth, are happy that our planet is surrounded by an atmosphere. This not only gives us life, but also creates visual beauty. The presence of the atmosphere makes it possible to build in the painting numerous plans, surrounded by blue air. This creates space and the greatest variety of shades of colors. In the practice of acquiring mastery in order to understand this endless variety, when your eyes run up and you do not know where to start, when everything is so incredibly difficult, of course, you need to have some kind of system that allows you to start somewhere, then proceed, so that there is no nonsense of copying, from which start the amateurs and self-taught. It is necessary that everything has a theoretical basis, sometimes resulting from the very practice of the artist.
A good school gives this theoretical justification. K. Korovin told us: “We worked from life to exhaustion. Of course, they were very hungry, but they did not give lessons to merchant sons and daughters. Especially suffered Levitan. He was not fit for his shy nature to fight life. My sociable and cheerful nature helped me in many ways. We, together, as they say, “made their way”, but worked and worked. The power of youth took its own, and we did not perish. But the practice of daily writing from nature deepened the knowledge of the “essence” of painting, developed skill. ”

Isaac Ilyich Levitan

Overgrown pond. 1887

In the studio K. Korovin pushed us to understand the essence of painting. It is rather difficult to understand this essence. When he said: “It is necessary to write not the forest, but the poetry of the forest”, then it was one sound of a pleasant voice-no more. But when, after the revolution, Konstantin Alekseevich got a workshop where he was the full master of his school and visited the workshop every day, we, his students, mastered this essence of the art in the process of work, so that later on not blindly but consciously become, according to their abilities, masters and go this realistic way, their own way.
This path is not easy, but joyful. K. Korovin, I. Levitan and all the great realist artists went along this path. The source, the inexhaustible spring that feeds the creativity of the artist-realist, was nature. In her, in the surrounding life artists drew their breath innovation. And, of course, Levitan was the first of the first singer-poet in the painting of nature. I here touched on the “credo” of painting, which we mastered in the studio of K. Korovin, because this “credo” was also the method of Levitan’s approach to work from nature.
I already said that everything in nature is complicated and kind of hidden and “written” with such details that go figure it out. And the artist needs to understand so that his sensations from the visible world are adequate to nature. Of course, this is the school of a lifetime. Always an artist, striving for perfection, will change. Professional experience will exacerbate the eye, the eye will be exacerbated physically and educated aesthetically.

What does it mean? Constant, continuous from day to day work. K. Korovin told us that at first, during the work, he did not perceive the violet shades as sharply as in the following time, and explained this to us with the development of the eye. Aesthetically eye is brought up during the artist’s ripening period. During this period, the artist more and more selectively selects the most essential, seeks out the most interesting motifs, and nature, already making friends with the artist in love with her, opens before him more fully in his beauty. An example of Levitan’s work is especially revealing. Take at least such masterpieces as “Early Spring” (1898, Russian Museum) or “Spring – the Great Water” (1897, the Tretyakov Gallery). There are dozens of such examples.
The basis of Levitan’s creativity is the color, that is, the special ability of the artist with a sophisticated eye, to see not only the transitions of warm tones to the cold ones and back, which takes place continuously, but also transfer this artistic truth of nature on canvas. If the artist is a colorist, then he is able to diversify all the colorful combinations of colors into unity.
Levitan’s eye was so gentle that the slightest falsity or inaccuracy in the color was unthinkable for him. This high endowment of the artist with the thinnest “hearing of painting” allowed him to transmit the finest conditions of nature to a greater extent than his contemporaries. His artistic violin sang to us about the unforgettable beauty of a modest Russian nature.

Isaac Ilyich Levitan