Itskhok-Leib Pasternak was born into a Jewish family of the innkeeper. In addition, the family had five children. In early childhood showed a love for drawing, even though the parents initially did not approve of this hobby. From 1879 to 1881, Leonid studied at the Odessa drawing school, but ultimately chose a career as an artist immediately. In 1881, he entered Moscow University and two years at the medical faculty. In 1883 he transferred to the Novorossiysk University (Odessa) and studied there at the faculty of law until 1885, in Parallel with University studies, Pasternak continued to paint. In 1882 he studied at the Moscow school-Studio of E. S. Sorokin. In 1921 Pasternak with his wife and daughters left for treatment in Germany.
Elementary art education L. O. Pasternak received in Odessa drawing school. Later, he successfully combined classes at the law faculty of the Odessa University and in classes at the Munich Royal Academy of arts.
The first serious painting "Letter from home" (1889), brought him fame and was bought by P. M. Tretyakov.
In the same year Pasternak married, and in 1890 the family was born the son of Boris (in the future famous Russian writer).
Participation in exhibitions, portraying customers gave the artist a strong reputation as a good painter. It opened in 1889 a private drawing school, one of the first in Moscow, and five years later was invited as a teacher at the school.
The basis of the creative method wizard lay quick, almost instantaneous sketches that capture "the essence of the depicted," he called their school the "real impressionism". The feeling of fixing impressions the artist had managed to save and paintings - due to the choice of the most acute moment, as if the random motion, revealing the way ("Before exams", 1897; ". Tolstoy in the family", 1901; "Student", "reading", both of the 1900's, etc.).
In 1890, Pasternak was done the best work in the field of book graphics: drawings to the collected works of Mikhail Lermontov (1891), four watercolors for the novel "War and peace" (1893). At the personal invitation of L. N. Tolstoy, in constant companionship with the great writer, the artist created in 1898-99. illustrations for the novel "Resurrection" that remain still unsurpassed.
By the beginning of the century, Pasternak is a renowned portrait artist and Illustrator, founding member of CPX, 1905 - academician. In the coming decades, it models were L. N. Tolstoy, Sergei Rachmaninov, Fyodor Chaliapin, Maxim Gorky, after 1917 - Lenin, the members of the government. In 1921, Pasternak went to Germany. Here he made portraits of A. Einstein, R. M. Rilke, D. Osborne. The last years of his life (after 1939) the artist spent in England.