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May 18, 2016

Mid-Morning Open Thread [Y-not]


Isaac Levitan, The (Russian) Lake, unfinished 1900

Read more about the artist here:

One of Russia's greatest landscape painters, Isaac Levitan walked the line between realist and symbolist painting. Living as Russian Jews in the 1800s was anything but easy for the Levitan family. Even though Isaac's father, Ilya Abramovich, was an educated man with a degree from Yeshiva, he was only able to carve out a meager income for his wife and four children as a foreign language tutor in Moscow. The children's artistic interests were encouraged and both sons enrolled in the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture; their oldest child Adolf in 1871 and Isaac in 1873. Their mother died in 1875 when Isaac was fifteen, and two years later their father died after a long battle with typhus. The children became homeless, often sleeping at the Moscow School of Painting. The teacher's council arranged a scholarship with a small stipend in order to keep Isaac in school. One of his professors, Alexei Savrasov, took him on as an apprentice to provide some monetary aid. At the age of seventeen Isaac had lost both parents and knew the sorrows of poverty all too well. Out of this experience Levitan's work took on a distinctive sorrowful quality that garnered his paintings the title of "mood landscapes." Throughout his life he was prone to depression and tried to commit suicide twice. Levitan also had a heart illness that sapped his strength and caused shooting pain throughout his body. It is believed that the sadness he carried in his heart was reflected in his work.

It goes on:

Levitan spent the last year of his life staying at several of his friends' homes in the countryside outside Moscow. He never married, though it is known that he had a number of affairs with married women. In May of 1990 he caught a cold and returned to Moscow where Mrs. Turchaninova took care of him. Levitan died on July 22nd leaving about 40 unfinished paintings and 300 sketches. A starving childhood and a stressful life took their toll on his health in the form of a degenerative heart disease. In spite of the effects of a terminal illness, his last works were increasingly filled with light, reflecting tranquility and the eternal beauty of Russian nature. One of his very last paintings, Lake Russia, is considered unfinished. This painting is a collective image of Russian nature and the artist's last thoughts and feelings of Russia, his Motherland.

I think it's interesting that this artist, whose earlier works were known for being depressive and moody (reflecting his emotional state), was capable of painting such a distinctly not depressing picture near the end of his life. I wonder if he had lived longer might he have found happiness.

Read more about his work here:

Levitan rarely if ever painted urban scenery, preferring instead more rural views of woodland and meadow. It was in these situations that Levitan's intuitive appreciation of nature could best be expressed - witness the profound understanding of light, linear perspective, and sympathetic colours in paintings like Secluded Monastery, Road to Vladimir and Golden Autumn respectively. Nor was Levitan averse to the introduction of symbolism into his compositions: notice for instance the single rickety bridge "connecting" the monastery to the outside world, or the wide straight track to Vladimir, the same track along which convicts were marched to Czarist prison camps in Siberia. Despite this occasional narrative, Levitan was first and foremost a naturalist and "mood landscape painter" in the tradition of Corot. He never looked for complicated subjects but was quite happy with simple scenes typical of his native land. But he retained an extraordinary ability to awaken deep human feelings through his landscapes.

You can view many of his works at this link.

Open thread.

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posted by Open Blogger at 09:55 AM

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