The Vladimirka (The Vladimir Highway). 1892
82.5 х 127 Oil on canvas Tretyakov Gallery, Hall 37

The motif of a road, characteristic of the 19th century Russian art, becomes the basis of a genuinely philosophical landscape by Levitan. When working on the canvas, it was important for him to remember that Vladimirsky tract was convicts’ path. However, the artist conveys the multifaceted content of the painting by purely artistic means. The road running into the distance with a dovecote-shaped cross on the side leads the eye into the depths of the picture, and the clouds, as if floating towards us, give rise to a reverse motion fixing the plane of the canvas. The narrative of the world is transformed into the plain of emotional experience, pre-empting the quests of the next generation masters. It is also achieved by the subtlest colour transitions in the depiction of the earth and the sky, by the artist’s small quivering brushstrokes which animate the painting surface. Movement and peace, the brevity of life and the eternal beauty of the world – this is not a full list of associations evoked by the painting.

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