Levitan – “In the winter in the forest”

“In the Winter in the Forest” is one of Levitan’s compositions of an etude character, written in the mid-1880s. At this time, in the work of Levitan, who left after 11 years of study from the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, his artistic individuality was increasingly manifested: sensitivity to the elusive movements of nature, emotional charge, the ability to express human experiences through the landscape.

Painting “Winter in the Forest” is especially interesting because Levitan wrote very little during the winter, preferring other seasons. The artist’s biographers claim that winter was his least favorite and most difficult time of the year. Short daylight hours, frequent cloudiness, in which there is a constant lack of light, and the colors go out, not having time to show themselves in full force – all this often drove Levitan, inclined to melancholy, to despair. However, its rare winter landscapes are remarkable and delicate in color.

“With amazing accuracy Levitan captured the softness of a damp thaw on a cloudy day,” art critic Vladimir Petrov writes about the painting “Winter in the Forest”. The moist roughness of the trunks of old trees, the skeletons of dry grass sticking out from under the snow, and the sky on the eve of dusk are shown with great coloristic accuracy. In many languages, the poetic expression “between a dog and a wolf” serves to denote this short period of time, when the sun has already set, but the final darkness has not yet come.

The wolf in this picture was painted by Levitan’s friend Alexei Stepanov. Like Levitan, he was a student at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and a passionate hunter. And immediately after college, both poor artists huddled in cheap rooms next door. It was probably at this time that the wolf was “introduced” by Stepanov into Levitan’s painting. Another friend of theirs, the artist Mikhail Nesterov, recalled: “In the winters he (Levitan – ed.) Wandered around the furniture, filled with all kinds of people. The last of these shaumbra-garni were numbers “England” on Tverskaya. There we often saw him – there in those days he lived, still a bachelor, our common favorite Alexey Stepanovich Stepanov, Styopochka, as everyone called him, was the best animal painter after Serov.

It should be noted that in the last third of the 19th century in Russian painting such a “narrow specialization”, when one artist paints a landscape, and the figures (not only animals, but also people) are trusted to be painted by another, was a phenomenon, if not widespread, then, in every the case is not rare. Bears in Shishkin’s Morning in a Pine Forest were painted by Konstantin Savitsky, a woman in Levitan’s painting Autumn Day. Sokolniki “- Nikolai Chekhov, Repin inscribed the figure of Pushkin in the Aivazovsky Marina, Perov turned to Alexei Savrasov with a request to finish painting the landscape in some of his paintings. However, this practice cannot be called extremely successful: someone else’s hand often brings to the picture a feeling of loss of artistic integrity. In Ivan Evdokimov’s biographical novel “Levitan”, the author puts the following monologue into the mouth of the teacher Levitan Savrasov: “Vasily Grigorievich Perov asked me to paint a landscape in the picture” Birds “and” Hunters at Rest “, and I wrote. He snorted dismissively. – I would be a good master if Vaska Perov wrote to me with a rook, and I would only have azure and clouds.

Year of painting: 1885. Dimensions: 55 x 45 cm. Material: canvas. Writing technique: oil. Genre: landscape. Style: realism. Gallery: State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

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