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Description of the artwork «Portrait of the writer Anton Chekhov. Etude»
Those who are familiar with Chekhov’s appearance since school textbook portrait of Osip Braz, in this profile study of authorship of Levitan, the writer may not recognize. In fact: where is the beard with a wedge, pince-nez and the seal of intellectual longing, with which it is so customary (but hardly right) to associate the author of "The Seagull" and "Jumpers"?
Levitanovsky Chekhov is different - strong-willed, confident, energetic. And the matter is not only in the one and a half decades separating this and this portraits. The portrait of Braz concentrated everything that the "official" contains, cleansed by Soviet censorship of all living Chekhov: mortal consumption, wife of the Moscow Art Theater, "everything should be fine in a man ..." The image of a sort of worldly ascetic, a boring moralist Anton Pavlovich , almost a hypocrite, from the memory of which reduces cheekbones. An image cherished by school and university traditions, but not related to the real Chekhov. And not without reason, seeing the finished portrait of Braz, the real Chekhov only grunted: “They say that I and the tie are very similar, but the expression ... is like I sniffed a horseradish”.
Levitanovsky Chekhov, we repeat, is different. In the year when a sketch with a portrait of his friend Antoshi is sketched by Levitan, both of them are 26. Isaac, his classmate at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and ArchitectureNikolay Chekhov and his younger brother, a medic and humor writer Anton, love to laugh, fool around and compose hilarious fables and scenes. Of these, miniatures of Antoshi Chekhonte will be born, the journal fees for which will feed Chekhov, who came from the provincial Taganrog, in his first Moscow years.
«Once, Anton, Kolya, Levitan and another student artist bought oranges from a shopkeeper and started selling them on the street so cheaply that the shopkeeper called the police and the students were taken to the station"- says the biographer of Chekhov, Donald Rayfield. In this company, each other was given funny nicknames that grew to a person for a long time. Levitan, for example, addressed everyone only as a “crocodile” (“You are such a talented crocodile, and you write trifles!"- addressed to Anton Chekhov). Comrades in revenge for the crocodiles called Levitan - Leviathan. You need to laugh at everything you can, and joke on the verge of a foul - that was the relationship of young Chekhov and Levitan.
It just so happened that the biography of Levitan, with his novels and passions, is known more than the biography of Chekhov. Meanwhile, 1886 in the life of an attractive young man, as Levitan portrayed him, is also full of events. For example, this year he had a secret and brief engagement with his longtime girlfriend Dunya Efros, which, however, was terminated as quickly as it was concluded. Another Chekhov’s amorous affection, Natalia Golden, reprimanded him in the same year in a letter: “You have two diseases, amorousness and hemoptysis, the first is not dangerous, I ask you to report the second in the most detailed way, otherwise I will not correspond with you". And 1886 was a creative turning point for Chekhov: he begins to write not humorous, but serious stories that will make Chekhov great. After burying Antos Chekhonte, he becomes Anton Chekhov. "Hexov learns to be serious", - writes his biographer Rayfield and adds:"At 26, he said goodbye to his outgoing youth. ".
An oil painting on cardboard may have been done by Levitan in the summer, when the artist and writer visited Babkino estate near Moscow (around the same time or a little earlier his version of a profile portrait of Chekhov will fulfill and his brother Nikolai). Much in the relationship between Chekhov and Levitan is yet to come: Chekhov has yet to prevent the Levitan attempt at suicide, to introduce Levitan to the “woman of his life” Sophia Kuvshninnikova and write based on their novel “The Jumper”, and Levitan — challenge Chekhov for a duel for this, reconcile with him after three years of breaking up, write a lot, comprehend, relive, and also become great.