Lot 17
  • 17

Isaak Ilich Levitan

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
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  • Isaak Ilich Levitan
  • Summer
  • signed in Cyrillic and dated 91 l.r.
  • oil on canvas
  • 82 by 127cm, 32 1/4 by 50 in.


Andrei Nikolaevich Lyapunov (1880–1923), Moscow, acquired in 1917
Maria Klementievna Tsyunkevich, Moscow, acquired from the above in 1921
Acquired by the grandfather of the present owners


St Petersburg, Moscow et al., XX Itinerant Exhibition, 23 February 1892 - 28 February 1893, no.54
New York, Huntington Hartford Gallery of Modern Art, A Survey of Russian Painting. Fifteenth Century to the Present, 14 June - 17 September 1967


Katalog XX peredvizhnoi vystavki kartin Tovarishchestva peredvizhnykh khudozhestvennykh vystavok, Moscow, 1892, p.2, no.54 listed
Illyustrirovannyi katalog XX-oi peredvizhnoi vystavki Tovarishchestva peredvizhnykh khudozhestvennykh vystavok, St Petersburg, 1892, p.II listed; p.2, no.54 illustrated b/w
A.Fedorov-Davydov, I.I. Levitan. Pis'ma, dokumenty, vospominaniya, Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1956, p.309 listed in the chronology under the year 1892
A.Fedorov-Davydov, Isaak Il'ich Levitan. Dokumenty, materialy, bibliografia, Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1966, p.45 listed in the chronology under the year 1892; p.104, no.358 listed with dimensions
Exhibition catalogue A Survey of Russian Painting. Fifteenth Century to the Present, New York: The Gallery of Modern Art, 1967, p.57 listed as Russian Summer
A.Fedorov-Davydov, Levitan. Zhizn' i tvorchestvo, 1860-1900, Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1976, p.151 mentioned in the text 
G.Romanov (ed.), The Society of Itinerant Art Exhibitions, 1871-1923, An Encyclopaedia, St Petersburg: Sankt-Peterburg Orkestr, 2003, p.147, no.1-105 listed


Structural Condition The canvas is unlined and is securely attached to a keyed wooden stretcher. The tacking and turnover edges have been reinforced with a linen strip-lining. This is ensuring a stable structural support. There is a canvas patch repair to the right of the upper part of the central vertical stretcher member as viewed from the reverse. This is entirely stable. There is also a wax seal with an associated patch below the right part of the upper horizontal stretcher member as viewed from the reverse. Paint Surface The paint surface has an even varnish layer The paint surface has scattered areas of slightly raised lines of craquelure, most notably throughout the sky. These are stable. There are also slightly raised stretcher-bar lines corresponding to the central vertical stretcher member of a previous support. These are also stable. Inspection under ultra-violet light shows scattered retouchings, the most significant of which are: 1) scattered spots and lines of retouching within the sky, most notably in the upper left quadrant towards the left and upper framing edges, above the horizon line, and corresponding to the wax seal and associated patch on the reverse, 2) a vertical line of retouching within the upper part of the central tree which corresponds to the patched repair visible on the reverse, and two further retouchings within the tree to the left of this, 3) a few vertical lines of retouching within the foreground in the lower right quadrant and a few further retouchings above the centre of the lower edge, Other small spots and lines of retouching are also visible. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in good and stable condition.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

The year 1891 proved particularly fruitful in the tragically short career of Levitan. On 9 March he exhibited four pictures at the 19th Itinerant Exhibition. One of which, The Old Yard (1890, Tretyakov Gallery) was purchased directly by Pavel Tretyakov from the exhibition itself, a common practice by this time, while another, The Quiet Refuge (1890, State Tretyakov Gallery), was so popular with the public and art critics that it was included in Alexander Benois's 1902 history of 19th century Russian art. Although Levitan started exhibiting with the Peredvizhniki in 1884, he was not accepted as a full member until March 1891. That same year, after his visit to a Paris salon, Anton Chekhov wrote: 'I take the Russian artists far more seriously than I do the French. Compared with the landscape painters I have seen here, Levitan is a king' (letter to M. Chekhova dated 21 April 1891, Paris).

The present lot was most likely executed in Zatishye in the Volga province of Tver. Levitan visited Zatishye in May 1891 with his companion and fellow landscape painter, Sofia Kuvshinnikova, intending to spend the summer there. Zatishye did not make much of an impression on him at first, but in June he wrote to Chekhov: 'It has become more interesting here with the change in the weather, and it has inspired rather exciting subjects for my work'. During this summer, Levitan and Kuvshinnikova frequently visited the nearby estate of Bernovo, owned by Baroness Wolf, and it was in fact there that Levitan started painting his celebrated By the Whirlpool (fig.2). After Kuvshinnikova's depar­ture for Moscow in the late summer, Levitan was invited to stay at the estate of Nikolay Panafidin, a book dealer and friend whose portrait the artist painted that summer. There he was given space for a temporary studio where he could work on the landscapes he hoped to present at the 20th Itinerant Exhibition in February 1892. These included the present lot and By the Whirlpool, both of which were published on the same page of the illustrated exhibition catalogue (fig.1). Purchased by Pavel Tretyakov directly from the exhibition for 3000 roubles, By the Whirlpool is considered to be one of the artist's most significant works.

Summer was one of 28 paintings by Levitan acquired by the railway industrialist Andrei Lyapunov (1880-1923) in 1917. These also included Tatar Cemetery, Crimea (1886), Golden Autumn (1896), and the artist's last work, Hay Making (1900). Igor Grabar, a friend and art adviser to Lyapunov, described the latter's short but impressive collecting career in April 1923 in the following terms: '[he] joined the close-knit family of Moscow collectors only very recently, in 1916. And yet by spring of the following year he had already risen to become one of its most prominent members thanks to the gleaming aptitude he displayed for collecting art, and to the particular passion which distinguished him' (Sredi Kollektsionerov, May 1923, pp.55-56). The prominent Russian sculptor, Sergei Konenkov (1874-1971), ranked the collection as one of the finest in Moscow. In addition to icons and paintings by Borovikovsky, Venetsianov, Vereshchagin, Somov, and Benois, Lyapunov also owned works by Gainsborough, Corot, Monet, and Cézanne which adorned the walls of his apartment at 7 Solyanka Street, situated within walking distance of Levitan's studio.