Sunday, February 22, 2015

Isaac Levitan, Boulevard in the Evening

Isaac Levitan, Boulevard in the Evening, 1887

Isaac Levitan (1860-1900) was a Russian landscape painter known for his atmospheric depictions of the Russian countryside, particularly the area around Moscow.  The style he came to be associated with is known as mood landscape.  Levitan was born in present day Lithuania to a poor, well-educated Jewish family.  He attended the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture where he tried  his hand at multiple genres before he transferred into the landscape class.  Levitan had his first public exhibition at age seventeen and was very well-received.  In 1879, mass deportations of Jewish families from major Russian cities forced Levitan and his family to relocate to the suburb of Saltykovka, but pressure from the art world allowed the family to return to Moscow.  Levitan continued to experience professional success and was eventually elected to the Imperial Academy of Arts and named head of the landscape studio at the Moscow School.  Boulevard in the Evening is a beautiful example of Levitan's skill and style.  This winter scene demonstrates the atmosphere he was so known for and his ability to portray a landscape in a realistic manner, while still creating a complex and powerful emotional impact.  In this piece, the white path and grey sky are joined by bare, sharp trees; they stretch over the path and recede far back, dominating the scene.  However, the people walking convey a different sense, with the energy of activity and the warmth of companionship.  Finally, the small lights that dot this stretch of trees also add a touch light and warmth that comes to characterize the whole painting, leading the way through the cold and dark.

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