Isaac Ilyich Levitan was a classical Russian landscape painter who advanced the genre of the mood landscape. Isaac Levitan was born in a shtetl of Wirballen, Augustów Governorate in Congress Poland, a part of the Russian Empire (present-day Lithuania) into a poor but educated Jewish family. In September 1873, Isaac Levitan entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture where his older brother Avel had already studied for two years. After a year in the copying class Isaac transferred into a naturalistic class, and soon thereafter into a landscape class. Levitans teachers were the famous Alexei Savrasov, Vasily Perov and Vasily Polenov.

In 1877, Isaac Levitans works were first publicly exhibited and earned favorable recognition from the press. After Alexander Solovievs assassination attempt on Alexander II, in May 1879, mass deportations of Jews from big cities of the Russian Empire forced the family to move to the suburb of Saltykovka, but in the fall officials responded to pressure from art devotees, and Levitan was allowed to return. In 1880 his painting Осенний день. Сокольники (Autumn day. Sokolniki) was bought by famous philanthropist and art collector Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov.

In the early 1880s Levitan collaborated with the Chekhov brothers on the illustrated magazine Moscow and illustrated the M. Fabritsius edition Kremlin. Together with Korovin in 1885-1886 he painted scenery for performances of the Private Russian opera of Savva Mamontov. In the 1880s he participated in the drawing and watercolor gatherings at Polenov’s house.

In 1897, already world-famous, he was elected to the Imperial Academy of Arts and in 1898 he was named the head of the Landscape Studio at his alma mater. Levitan spent the last year of his life at Chekhov’s home in Crimea. In spite of the effects of a terminal illness, his last works are increasingly filled with light. They reflect tranquility and the eternal beauty of Russian nature. He was buried in Dorogomilovo Jewish cemetery. In April 1941 Levitans remains were moved to the Novodevichy Cemetery, next to Chekhovs necropolis. Levitan did not have a family or children.


Russian, Jewish




1860 - 1900


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Isaac Levitan paintings: