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Name: Dmitry Levitsky

Born in: 1735

Country: Russian Empire

Genre: Portrait

Works

Biography

 

"Every portrait by Levitsky is more similar than the model itself, that is, he tells us more than the face of the model."

S. Diaghilev

 

Dmitry Grigorievich Levitsky (1735-1822) was one of the most important artists of the XVIII century. He was a brilliant master of the chamber and formal portraits. His refined artworks most fully reflected human nature and aesthetic conceptions of the second half of the century.

Levitsky was born in Kiev in a family of clergyman and engraver Hryhoriy Levytsky. His father was his first art teacher. In 1758 young Dmitry Levitsky became Antropov's pupil in St Petersburg. Antropov was one of the leading artists of the century. In 1762 he moved with Antropov to Moscow, where he painted the Triumphal Gates. In 1763 Levitsky began his independent creative career.

In 7 years Levitzky became famous as a portrait painter after the exhibition of six of his portraits in the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. For the portrait of Alexander Kokorinov, Director and First Rector of the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg he was elected an academician and appointed the Professor of the portrait painting class at the Academy of Arts.This portrait underlines the subject's high social standing - the figure in the central position, the attributes surrounding him, the gestures of the model. We can feel attitude of the artist – the face of Kokorinov is painted lovingly with the stress on the human dignity and nobility. Levitsky remained on the Professor position until 1788.

In 1772–1776 Levitzky worked on a series of seven portraits of the pupils of the privileged women establishment Smolny Institute for Young Ladies in St. Petersburg – portraits of E. Nelidova, A. Levshina, N. Borshchova, G. Alimova, E. Molchanova and two double portraits - F. Rzhevskaya and N. Davydova; E. Khrushchova and E. Khovanskaya. These portraits of 'a new kind of woman' - aristocratic and well-educated show the models in action so as best to display their character traits and demonstrate life and naturalness.

Levitsky's mastery is characterized by refined tones and its own distinctive color key for each portrait.

The portrait of Catherine II is a historical painting, in which the content is put across by a system of allegories. Such use of imagery was characteristic of the classical style, which was established at that time in the Academy of Arts.

The portrait of the famous French philosopher D. Diderot is one of the best of Levitsky. The face is drawn with great care, the eyes reflect his mind.

Levitsky painted a series of portraits of the Russian nobility: the writer A. Khrapovitsky, A. Vorontsov, N. Lvov and his wife, M. Diakova, P.Demidov and the representatives of foreign high society - the niece of the Polish king Ursula Mniczeck, Italian singer Anna Devia Bernucci. 

In his works Levitsky gives an objective characterization of his contemporaries emphasising the national type of that period of time. The unusualness of Levitsky's portraits was to show the originality of the subject's personality.

In 1787 Levitsky gave up his teaching post at Academy. He lived in solitude, became a member of freemasonry.
In 1807 Levitsky returned to the Academy as a member of the Council but soon he began to lose his sight and after 1812 he could not paint anymore.

Dmitry Levitsky died in 1822 in St. Petersburg.