In his short life (39 years) Levitan managed to create more than 1,000 works of art.

Levitan lost his parents early, who tried to fix things before their death. His youth was very hungry.

Nevertheless, Levitan enrolled in the Moscow School of Painting, which he successfully completed. But for political reasons Levitan did not receive the diploma of the artist; he was given only a teaching diploma.

First Recognition

In 1880, millionaire Pavel Tretyakov bought a painting by a young Levitan. It was a definite success, because by that time Tretyakov had already received wide acclaim as an avid collector of art, which he was planning to donate to Moscow (Tretyakov’s collection would eventually become the foundation of the famous Tretyakov Gallery).

Levitan was not always able to live in Moscow, so at times he moved to different villages near Moscow. In 1885 in Moscow suburbs Levitan got acquainted with the writer Anton Chekhov, friendship with whom lasted their whole lives.

Interestingly, Anton Chekhov used in his workssome of the events from the personal life of Levitan, which led to some tiffs, but in the end the friendship came out stronger.

Gradually Levitan became known; he sold several paintings, which improved his financial situation.

Malnutrition during youth, anguish of a young artist, chronic heart disease: Levitan’s health rapidly deteriorated.


Not far from Moscow at the confluence of the Shohonka River and the Volga River there is a small town – Plyos. Levitan’s dream of a trip to Volga came true – from 1887 for several years Levitan settled in Plyos. This small townand the nature of the Central Russian upland fascinated Levitan. In those places he created his greatest paintings.

 “I cannot be even a little bit happy, calm, well basically I do not see myself outside of painting. I have never loved nature more or was so in tune with it.”

I. Levitan / Letter to A. Chekhov

Plyos still today remains a fairly quiet, but at the same an atmospheric place. The kind of place, that if you visit it once, you will want to return to it again and again.

Isaak Levitan - Evening. Golden Plyos

Evening. Golden Plyos (1889)

Isaak Levitan - After the rain. Plyos

After the rain. Plyos (1889)

Isaak Levitan - Golden Autumn. Slobodka

Golden Autumn. Slobodka (1889)

“Golden Period” of Levitan Creative Work

The emotional charge that he got from living on the Volga and new experience allowed Levitan to create a series of paintings, which were recognized as the best in the artist’s work.

Isaak Levitan - By whirlpool

By whirlpool (1892)

Isaak Levitan - Vladimirka

Vladimirka (1892)

Isaak Levitan - Above the eternal peace

Above the eternal peace (1894)

  The painting “Vladimirka” Levitan donated to the Tretyakov Gallery.

Refined Period of Levitan Creative Work

From 1895 his heart disease got worse. The treatment was of little help. In addition, according to the memoirs of Tatiana Shchepkina-Kupernik, in the last years Levitan was poisoned by a personal drama – an endless struggle between the new attachment of the artist –a wife of a high standing official – and her eldest daughter, who was madly in love with Levitan.

This turmoil made the Artist very depressed. Levitan even faked suicide, which terrified his friends. Anton Chekhov came for a week to support Levitan.

At the same time in his creative work Levitan continued to seek out and experiment. He tried not to simply reflect the nature, but to catch that “elusive” something in nature, and he created a series of masterpieces.

Isaak Levitan - Twilight

Twilight (1900)

Isaak Levitan - Twilight. Field stacks

Twilight. Field stacks (1899)

In his last work Levitan tried to generalize the image of Russia, but he didn’t have time to complete the painting …

Isaak Levitan - Lake. Russia

Lake. Russia (1899-1900)


Isaak Levitan - Self-portrait

Self-portrait (1880)

Of course, we have only scratched the surface of creative work of the greatest Russian landscape painter Levitan; you should definitely visit the State Russian Museum (St. Petersburg) and the State Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow), which both exhibitthe most significant paintings of the artist.


This article contains some materials by O. Petrova.

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