Grigorievich Levitsky

Russia • 1735−1822
Dmitry G. Levitsky (May 1735, Kiev - 4 (16) April 1822, St. Petersburg) - Russian artist of Ukrainian origin, master of front and chamber (intimate) portraits, author of images of famous people of the Russian state, including Empress Catherine II and the “Small Courtyard” (the courtyard of Tsarevich Pavel was called in St. Petersburg), academician, head of portrait class at the Academy of Arts , a member of the Masonic Lodge "Dying Sphinx".

Features of the artist Dmitry Levitsky. A brilliant talent allowed Levitsky to enrich the traditions of painting established in the 18th century in Russia, expanding the scope of classicism and bringing lively immediacy and naturalness into visual art (like Derzhavin did in literature). Starting from the early works, Levitsky appears as a first-class master of a ceremonial portrait (“Portrait of the architect A.F. Kokorinov”), able to find an expressive posture and gesture, catch the natural charm of the portrait, masterly convey material beauty and texture of objects, combine high intensity colors with harmonious tonal unity. In the chamber portraits of Dmitry Levitsky (“Portrait of Pavel Demidov”, “Portrait of Ye.A. Bakunina”, etc.) a special “domesticity”, familiarity of intonation appears. Like the English contemporary and colleague Thomas Gainsborough, Levitsky prefers for his portraits not a deaf, but a translucent background, “illuminated” from the inside, he is also attentive to the subtlest individual characteristics of his characters, and his heroines (Maria Dyakova, Ursula Mnishek, Smolyan girls ) if not always immaculately beautiful, it is always unique.

Famous paintings by Dmitry Levitsky: portrait of Catherine II the legislator in the temple of the goddess of justice, portrait of E.N. Khrushchev and E.N. Khovanskaya("Smolyanka"), portrait of Maria Dyakova, portrait of N.I. Novikov, portrait of Denis Diderot.

Levitsky, the best Russian portrait painter of the 18th century, was already completely forgotten in the 19th century. Own student Kiprensky eclipsed his fame when Levitsky was still alive. And with the advent of Perov, Kramskoy and Repin, it seemed that any portrait of the Catherine epoch was unjustifiably pompous and hopelessly old-fashioned. Only at the beginning of the twentieth century Alexander Benois extracted the name of Levitsky from oblivion. He was convinced and managed to convince others that in all the European art of the Enlightenment, Levitsky could argue in mastery except that German Anton Graff (and that is doubtful) and Englishman Thomas Gainsborough.

Dmitry Levitsky was descended from the Ukrainian noble-priestly kind. His ancestors with the "Gogol" surname Nose in the XVII century, moved from the right-bank Ukraine under Poltava. Grigory Kirillovich, father Levitskywas an educated priest. He was fond of painting and engraving, even went to take lessons "to the Germans", and became the first teacher Dmitry. The father did two more important things for his son and his future: he settled in Kiev and changed the funny name “Nose” to the melodious “Levitsky”.

Kiev at the beginning and the middle of the 18th century, penetrated by Western European cultural influences, was a place far more educated than both Russian capitals. It is with the rotation in a rich cultural environment and training in the Kiev Theological Academy, "this Russian Sorbonne," that Benoit is linked by the appearance of such an amazing talent as Levitsky.

In the early 1750s a painter came to Kiev. Alexey Antropov. He was supposed to paint the newly built by the project of Rastrelli church of Andrew the First Called. Levitsky began to assist Antropov. At the end of the work, the tutor took him with him to Moscow - there was also work to decorate the churches there.

Views Antropov stuck very original. For example, he desperately despised the newly established Art Academy for “spoiling” talents and drying up individuality. Levitsky, in any case, Antropov did not order to study there. Levitsky confined himself to private lessons with a prospectist and set designer Giuseppe Valeriani and painter Louis Jean-François Lagrene, studied in turn Wan Loo, court painter Louis XV.

The first glory Levitsky brought 6 paintings, presented at the annual academic exhibition in 1770th. Of the 6 paintings, only 3 survived, including the famous portrait of architect Kokorinov. For him, Levitsky was awarded the title of academician.

So relatively easily, the Little Russian nugget entered the cultural elite of St. Petersburg. He began to be invited to write graduates of the Smolny Institute of noble maidens, to portray Catherine's nobles and camera-maid of honor. Levitsky was devoid of subservience to the model of his contemporary Rokotov, alien to the sentimentality of the younger colleague -Borovikovsky. His technique is excellent, and the painting techniques are unusual and fresh. It is natural that he reached the highest level of the artistic hierarchy - was allowed to write portraits of the empress herself.

In the last quarter of the XVIII century, Levitsky finally settles in St. Petersburg. He is happily married, his house on Vasilyevsky Island is famous for its hospitality. Bogdanovich and Chemnitzer, Kapnist and Derzhavin are the most educated people of their time.

One of the close friends of Levitsky was the enlightener Nikolai Novikov. He implemented the theoretical ideas of the Enlightenment in practice: he opened a printing house, libraries in Moscow, and established bookstores in 16 Russian cities. However, the "enlightened empress" found a reason to put Novikov in Shbisselburg fortress: in the 1770s he joined the Freemasons and actively criticized serfdom. Upon the death of Catherine, on the very first day of his own ascension to the throne, Paul I will release Novikov. “Portrait of N.I. Novikov”, stored in the Tretyakov Gallery, written by Levitsky shortly after his release. With great psychological precision, the artist depicts a sick and exhausted man, but not broken, not abandoned ideas valuable to him.

Novikov vouched for Levitsky when he decided to join the Masons. In 1800, a prominent mason, Alexander Labzin, just established the box “The Dying Sphynx”. Borovikovsky and Levitsky were taken there, and the portrait painter Rokotov, by the way, became a freemason much earlier: among the “free masons” there was a tradition to order portraits of “brothers”, therefore painters were accepted into masons with particular zeal.

Levitsky will also write several large masons. Portrait of the very same Labzina brush Borovikovsky preserved, but the brush Levitsky - no. This is perhaps symbolic. Borovikovsky remained loyal to Freemasonry to the end. In Levitsky, obviously, Ukrainian pragmatism leaped on him: he not only broke with the Freemasons, but also later avoided mysticism in every possible way, flourishing at the court of Alexander I.

“A certain instinctive irony,” according to Benoit’s remarkable formula, led the artist both in life and in art. In the works Levitsky successfully slipped between Scylla of baroque redundancy and Charibda of classic rigor. He was more important than the person portrayed than his sovereign merit. Portraits Suvorov and Golenishcheva-Kutuzov, Vorontsov and Potyomkin they do not take poses and solemnity of entourage, but an expression of individuality, “Faces with a non-generic expression”. Levitsky will live a long life. However, by the beginning of the new century, the time of its glory and elevation was left behind.

About half-forgotten aging Levitsky suddenly remembered in 1807th. Motivating by the fact that "His pension is very scarce", but “The exercises and knowledge are very extensive”, the artist was invited to teach at the Academy of Arts, where once, in the 1780s, he had already led a portrait class. Then, among his students, a real diamond was really born - Orest Kiprensky.

Konstantin Paustovsky in the essay on Kiprensky cites the most interesting facts about his teacher Levitsky:“Levitsky, then a cunning and good-natured Ukrainian, who had created brilliant portraits of gentlemen and women of the Catherine epoch, ruled over the minds of artists. Everyone tried to imitate the golden warm tone of his paintings. Young artists caught this tone and studied everywhere - in the dusty classes of the Academy, when the setting sun cast oblique rays on the parquet, in the reflections of the domes and the play of bronze shandals, in the pupils of the beauties, glamorous with a candle flame. In the last pictures Levitsky golden tone disappeared. He was replaced by violet and crimson - cold and senile tone. "

Last, "senile", his decade was sad. It is known that Levitsky is almost blind. Soviet art criticism claimed that the artist quit writing because he plunged into the hardest religious obscurantism. However, there is not enough data for such a conclusion: the whole theory is based on a single memoir testimony of a person who allegedly saw Lefitsky crawling to the altar on all fours to get communion.

In any case, the trajectory of the artist’s fate was such that he endured the time of his own triumph for a long time. For half a century Levitsky lived in St. Petersburg, on Vasilyevsky Island. No matter how bad, lonely and cold at times it was in Northern Palmyra, he did not dare to return to either a cozy and well-known Moscow or a small homeland to Kiev. But the Catherine's era of great accomplishments, to which Levitsky himself was fully involved, sank into oblivion with a roar before his eyes.

“I don’t want to choose either the country or the churchyard, I will come to Vasilyevsky Island,” - Brodsky will write in many years. It's funny and sad, but literally, Levitsky did one and a half centuries earlier. In 1822, he died in his home on Vasilyevsky Island in complete obscurity. The grave "Russian Gainsborough" at the Smolensk cemetery in St. Petersburg lost.

Author: Anna Yesterday
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