"Birch grove" (1885-1889) is considered one of the most significant "impressionistic" masterpieces Levitan.
This small-sized (50 to 29 cm) landscape took Levitan for four years, moving with him from one important spatial and biographical milestone to another. He began "Birch grove" in 1885, in the suburban estate of babkino in Istria, where in the close company of the family of Chekhov and their friends Kiselev Levitan spent three fruitful and fun summer, and finished four years later, already in Plyos, a town on the Volga river (almost accidentally "open" Levitan and his girlfriend Sophia Kuvshinnikova during the river trip), which will be an epoch in levitanovskoy painting.
"Birch grove" sounds infrequent in a melancholy painting of Levitan major chord. Everything here in this fertile area of young birch, glows, shimmers and radiates cheerfulness. It would be tempting to draw biographical Parallels: more recently, the artist was poor and lonely and here's to all the years 1885-86, finally, miraculously changed. Levitan earned good money for decorations in Private Opera Savva Mamontov together with Chekhov is staying at babkino, among people with similar perception of the world, appreciating art and sympathetic to Levitan. He works a lot, but a lot of fooling around, almost every day, depicts in amusing performances of the Bedouin, the defendant is a merchant, accused of distillation and the secret of immorality, and, it seems, not so much laughed in my entire life. So, maybe that's why "birch grove" is also laughing and rejoicing? Yes and no. Of course, psychologically it was much more complicated and twisty, and at times, Levitan again fell into a familiar melancholy, telling Chekhov: "Nothing but anguish in Cuba". Anyway, to finish "Birch grove" in grandma's Levitan and failed. Something is still lacking. Some "smallness", without which, as argued by familiar Levitan Feodor Chaliapin, "there is no art."
"The fact that you can work on the landscape, small, for several years, with interruptions, again returns to this theme and the preservation of such a long work, the immediacy of sensations and a captivating freshness to the painting itself, I just astounded, the artist confessed Boris Ioganson, – and still I never cease to marvel at this perfection, this diamond even in the work of Levitan".
Student Levitan Boris Lipkin claimed to the author of "birchwood," it was a favorite practice to leave the picture "maturing", getting back to it after a time. Lipkin reports so he remembered the words of the artist: "To finish the picture sometimes very difficult," said Levitan. Sometimes I'm afraid to mess up one stroke. Here they are, "Mature", turned to the wall... to finish, sometimes you need two or three strokes, but any not immediately decide".
To complete the "Birch grove" Levitan was only able once in Plyos city, which the artist will honor and which will forever be associated with the name Levitan. This Volzhsky town stands on the hills covered with groves of white-trunked birch. One of them, which attracted Levitan, was located on the edge of reach, near the cemetery Church. Here Levitan was able to watch the game of sunlight on birch trunks, foliage, young grass. In the transmission of the vibration of color and light and air Levitan approaching the technique of the Impressionists. Akin to their discoveries and the composition "the Birch grove: trees Levitan cut edge of the canvas. A similar technique like the Impressionists: it promotes the "inclusion" of the viewer in what is happening in the painting, creates the effect of presence and a sense of spontaneity.
Besides the obvious Parallels with the Impressionists based their work Levitan will see later, when you visit Europe, and remain not that indifferent – but in General will accept without much enthusiasm), "birch grove" is almost obligatory Association with three names: Arkhip Kuindzhi, Camille Corot and Anton Chekhov.
Levitan and Kuindzhi: so different "the Birch grove"
Four years before the beginning of work on Levitan "Birch grove", in 1881, the year, a landscape painter and a pioneer Arkhip Kuindzhi put the picture with the same name. And the choice of motif and itself horizontal, slightly elongated format of the two "Birch trees" are similar. In other respects they are strikingly different. Kuindzhi tends to the dramatic, strong contrasts, and the light it has a majestic, unfathomable, cosmic nature. Levitan in his "Birch grove" lyriclee and psychological. Kuindzhi works with rational symmetry (the Creek divides the composition in half), Levitan selecting view achieves a natural asymmetry. Kuindzhi worked from memory – Levitan could not finish the job, don't verify with nature.
Levitan and Corot: "there are strange convergence"
Creating on the topic which has already become famous Kuindzhi, it was not Levitan conscious debate or deliberate creative rivalry: temperament Levitan hardly belonged to competitive natures, and Kuindzhi was not his idol. But who has he really learned a lot and anyone would be honored to inherit in his work – so it's Camille Corot. This French landscape painter, close to Barbizon, called the "poet of the dawn" and "a singer of trees" i.e. all that is being levitanovskoy "Birch grove." Young Levitan paintings Corot raved. France just published the first monograph on Corot authorship Rouge Mille and Levitan, to be able to read, self-taught French. Soon as no one was able to convey the fleeting moods of nature, the flutter of foliage, the subtle air movement and gradations of color. In fact, if we look at how vibrate the leaves in the trees with Corot paintings "Orpheus leading Eurydice from the underworld" or any of its types of Ville d'avray, you'll be we will see that the fluttering green of the birches with Levitan, his small quivering brushstrokes here is akin to the method of Corot.
Chekhovian Parallels in "the Birch grove" by Levitan
Chekhov addressed heartfelt recognition Levitan, written at work on "Birch grove": "I've never loved so nature was not so sensitive to it, I've never felt I divine something spilled all over, but not everyone sees that even can not be called, because it is not amenable to reason, analysis, and attained through love. Without this feeling cannot be a true artist". But Chekhov's heroes and then they will argue: "What beautiful trees and what, in essence, needs to be near them a beautiful life". "Circumcision" of the song "a Birch grove close to the creative method, Chekhov himself, who claimed that when the story is already written, to make it better, you need to discard the beginning and the end. However, more important than the "technical" aspects of affinity in Levitan was emotional support, which he gave friendship with Chekhov. In babkinskaya" period, Chekhov wrote with a friend Levitan, architect Fyodor Schechtel: "In nature as much air and expression, that has no strength to describe... Every bitch screams and begs that it was written by Levitan...".