Above Eternal Peace – painting by Isaac Ilyich Levitan

Above Eternal Peace - painting by Isaac Ilyich Levitan

Description of the picture Above Eternal Peace

The painting “Above Eternal Peace” by Isaac Ilyich Levitan (1860-1900) is one of the most expressive landscapes of the outstanding Russian painter. The monumental work depicts a small wooden church at the cemetery, standing on a high river bank. Most of the canvas is occupied by a huge sky, covered with majestic storm clouds.

The masterpiece conveys the emotions and mental attitude of the master – a finely feeling, vulnerable person, prone to depression. In the picture, he seems to reflect on the transience of life, on death, on the infinity of the Universe. Giant clouds, a wide silver flood of the river with a tiny island in the middle – this is a formidable and merciless natural element, Eternity itself.

The tiny church and the graveyard crosses are a symbol of the fragile human soul that opposes it. The picture evokes complex feelings. It simultaneously pacifies and suppresses, frightens and inspires hope, makes you feel helpless and awakens faith in your own strength.

About the artist

Isaac Levitan is an outstanding Russian landscape painter, whose creative period fell on the second half of the 19th century. Despite his origin – Isaac Levitan was from a poor Jewish family – he managed to get an excellent art education. His mentors were the greats Aleksey Savrasov (1830-1897), Vasily Polenov (1844-1927) and Vasily Perov (1833-1882). Levitan did not defend his diploma, but this did not stop him from creating hundreds of works that glorified the Russian school of landscape painting.

One of the master’s most heartfelt works, Above Eternal Peace, is less known to the public than other canvases. Death was already behind Levitan’s shoulder – the artist was seriously ill. And it is not surprising that reflections on the end of the earthly path and on the eternal became a prerequisite for the emergence of a masterpiece. The plot was conceived on Lake Udolmya in the Tver province, where Levitan was staying in 1993. Here the first sketches were made. The master finished the picture already in the studio.

Literally immediately after the painter signed on the masterpiece, Pavel Tretyakov (1832-1898) bought it for his gallery, in which the canvas is exhibited to this day. The Tretyakov Gallery also contains two graphic sketches for this work. The sketches were made in graphite pencil in 1993 and have the general title “Before the Thunderstorm”.

In the same year, several preparatory sketches for the painting appeared – “Cloudy Sky”. “Sky” and “Lake”, as well as a large sketch “Above Eternal Peace”. Interesting fact: the place depicted on the canvas really exists. However, the real church is built of stone.

But the master decided that the wooden building was more in line with the spirit of the painting and its emotional mood. In fact, a wretched chapel made of gray wood, which the artist painted instead of a stone church, is located on Plyos. Levitan captured her in 1988. Three years after the death of the artist, the wooden chapel was destroyed by fire.