Dose of Art #142: Isaac Levitan – Over Eternal Peace (1894

Levitan was born in what is now Lithuania. Like so many Russian painters he was inspired by the vast Russian landscapes. About Over Eternal Peace, he said:

“In this picture, all of my self, all of my psyche, all that I consist of is laid bare,”

He was friends with the famous Russian writer Anton Chekhov, and they admired each other’s work. Perhaps the base of the friendship was their shared vision of landscapes. In his 1888 short story ‘Happiness’, Chekhov wrote:

“In the bluish distance where the furthest visible hillock melted into the mist nothing was stirring; the ancient barrows, once watch-mounds and tombs, which rose here and there above the horizon and the boundless steppe had a sullen and deathlike look; there was a feeling of endless time and utter indifference to man in their immobility and silence; another thousand years would pass, myriads of men would die, while they would still stand as they had stood, with no regret for the dead nor interest in the living, and no soul would ever know why they stood there, and what secret of the steppes was hidden under them.”

Now compare this verbal description to Levitan’s painting which visually expresses the same sentiment. In 1891 Levitan wrote in a letter to Chekhov:

“Dear Antosha! I have carefully re-read your ‘Motley Tales’ and ‘In the Twilight’ and was impressed by your landscape craft. I am not even talking about the host of most interesting thoughts, but the landscapes in the stories are perfection itself, for instance, in the story ‘Happiness’ the images of the steppe, barrows, sheep are astonishing.”