Isaac Ilyich Levitan (30 August 1860 – 4 August 1900: aged 40) was one of AlexeiSavrasov‘s (1830 – 1897) students. Savrasov created the “lyrical landscape.” As for Levitan, he aimed to produce “mood landscapes,” a form of “lyrical” landscapes.
From Lithuania to Moscow
Levitan was born in Lithuania, now Russia. He was the son of Elyashiv Levitan, and the grandson of a rabbi. In 1870, the Levitan family moved to Moscow and, three years later, Isaac entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Levitan’s mother died in 1875 and his father fell ill and died two years later, in 1877. Levitan’s family was then impoverished.
Alexei Savrasov, Levitan’s mentor, had joined the Peredvizhniki, in 1870. Members of the Peredvizhniki, or wanderers, were a group of landscape painters, wishing to free themselves from the restraints of Academic painting. In Russia, however, artists and writers also wished to avoid government censorship. Levitan joined the movement in 1991. In 1884, Levitan participated in a travelling exhibition by members of the Peredvizhniki and, in 1891, he joined the movement in 1891. This organization would be succeeded by the Association of Travelling Art Exhibits. (See Peredvizhniki, Wiki2.org.)
Russian Jews were the victims of pogroms, massacres. So Levitan had to leave Moscow when Alexander Soloviev attempted to assassinate Tsar Alexander II, in May 1879.The failed attempt triggered a “mass deportation” of Jews living in Russia’s larger cities. Levitan’s family left for Saltykovka, a suburb. (See Isaac Levitan, Wiki2.org.) Levitan was soon returned to cities. In 1898, two years before his death, Levitan, then famous, would be elected to the Imperial Academy of Arts.
Levitan loved the “lyrical charm of the Russian landscape.” (see Levitan, Wiki2.org.) Moreover, as a gifted artist, he befriended élite members of the world of art and literature. In 19th-century Russia, talent was often recognised. Moreover, artists and authors formed communities where ethnicity and creed had little significance, which benefited both artists and authors. Levitan had already met author Anton Chekhovand artist, or future artist, Nikolai Chekhov. In the early 1880s, Levitan provided illustrations for the magazine “Moscow,” published by the Chekhov brothers. (Levitan, Wiki2.org.)
Levitan and Anton Chekhov became very close friends. Isaac Levitan spent his last year and died at Anton Chekhov’s home in Yalta, Crimea. Anton was a medical doctor who died of tuberculosis in 1902, two years after Levitan’s death.
We have seen that Russian musicians composed programmatic” music or music that told a story: words and music. Savrasov’s “lyrical” landscapes and Levitan’s “mood” landscapes were an attempt to unite painting and poetry.
The Symphonic poem can be associated with Symbolism in art as well as French literature. Symbolism was a European rather than national movement. The Symphonic poem is the German Tondichtung, first used by Carl Loewe. Franz Liszt coined the term “Symphonic poem.”
A discussion of Isaac Levitan differs, to a rather large extent, from a dicussion of The Five. Although Pavel Tretiakov wanted to create a Russian Art Gallery and members of the Peredvizhniki painted the Russian landscape, athey did not attempt, at least not primarily, to give their art an Eastern appearance. Orientalism pervades 19th-century art, but in Russia, Orientalism was expressed by composers mainly. I suspect, however, that Russian communities of artists and writers would include composers. All were creative minds. Ilya Repin portrayed the Slavic composers, meeting at the Moscow Conservatory.
As for “mood” and “lyrical landscapes,” these could stimulate more than one sense, as in synesthesia, but they could simply be evocative and melancholic. Romanticism was an important movement. Vanishing points, are a common feature in the visual arts. But when roads and lanes vanish into the distance, we know not where they lead.
I eliminated my post on the Emancipation Reform of 1861. Although the Emancipation Reform of 1861 had deleterious effects on many Russians, Mussorgsky (21 March 1839 – 28 March 1881) became an alcoholic because extreme behaviour was fashionable in his days. (See Modest Mussorgsky, Wiki2.org.)
However, those who turned to the “worship of Bacchus” did not necessarily become alcoholics. Mussorgsky did, and it led to his death.
Repin‘s portrait of Mussorgsky, the eyes in particular, is one of his finest paintings.
We have already seen two paintings by Isaac Levitan’s (August 30, 1860 – August 4 1900). Isaac Levitan, a Jew, was a Lithuanian-Russian artist and he created the “mood landscape,” lyrical landscape paintings. Levitan was associated with the Peredvizhniki(wanderers), a group of artists who sought more freedom than was allowed by academic art. Levitan was a friend of Nikolai Chekhov, a painter, and also befriended Nikolai’s brother, Anton Chekhov.
Nikolai had died of tuberculosis in 1889 and, as mentioned in earlier posts, Levitan spent the last year of his life at Anton Chekhov’s house, in Crimea. Levitan died of a terminal illness at the age of forty. Anton, a medical doctor, died of tubercolusis in 1894.
Despite ill-health, Levitan was extremely productive. According to Wikipedia, “Isaac Levitan‘s hugely influential art heritage consists of more than a thousand paintings, among them watercolors, pastels, graphics, and illustrations.”
The above painting reminds me of Canada where birch trees are plentiful. You probably remember from our voyageurs blogs that canoes were made of birch. If one was destroyed, voyageurs and Amerindians could build a new one quickly by helping themselves to what birch trees provided. Nails were not used in building canoes.
Today, I am sending the news earlier, so my list arrives in other parts of the world closer to the morning. All I will say is that Mitt Romney, who will probably oppose President Obama, is reassuring Israel. Israel and the US must have their arsenal, but…
I hope sincerely that President Obama will be re-elected. He is a man of peace. I left a brief message on Twitter which reads that we have entered “a new age of diplomacy.” The amount of money Israel and the US spend on defense is extremely high. In the US, lowering these expenses may be useful. There has to be money for defense, but the people need jobs and their social programs.
By the way, in Quebec, the demonstrations, called manifestations in French, are continuing. Protest has spread outside Quebec. The group has given itself a name: La Classe.
Isaac Levitan: Spirituality
Levitan is a very important Lithuanian–Russian artist, more important than I first thought. Additionally, spirituality was an important part of his life and it is a characteristic of his work.
The video I am including features, to a certain extent, that aspect of his life. It combines the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1 April 1873 – 28 March 1943) and some of the abundant number of paintings executed by Levitan. In the video the word “lyrical” landscapes is used. That seems fine. “Mood” landscapes could be considered a form of “lyrical” landscapes.