Levitan, Isaac Ilitch

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LEVITAN, ISAAC ILITCH (1861–1900), Russian painter who has been called the father of Russian landscape painting. Levitan, who was born in Wirballen (Virbalis), Lithuania, studied at the Moscow Art School and in 1889 visited Paris. He was one of the first Russian artists to understand the achievement of the Barbizon painters and the impressionists, and was thus equipped to become the major interpreter of the Russian landscape, with its vastness and its brooding melancholy. Continually seeking to improve his art, Levitan repainted the same subjects many times and altered his techniques. In his later paintings, executed with a thick, soft brush stroke, he succeeded in his aim of combining freedom of expression with solidity of structure. In 1896, Levitan was appointed professor of landscape painting at the Moscow Art Academy, where he taught until his death. His work had a deep influence on Russian painters and won the passionate admiration of his friend Anton Chekhov the dramatist. Examples are "Spring," "After the Rain," "Evening," and "The Hay Harvest."


S.A. Prorokova, Levitan (Rus., 1960); V.A. Prytkov, Levitan (Rus., 1960); Roth, Art, 630–2; A.N. Benua, The Russian School of Painting (1916), 160–3.