Lot 20
  • 20

Isaak Ilich Levitan

450,000 - 650,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Isaak Ilich Levitan
  • Overgrown Pond
  • signed in Cyrillic and dated 88 l.r. 
  • oil on canvas
  • 42 by 66.5cm, 16 1/2 by 26 1/4 in.


Collection of Leo Maskovsky (?-1972), Riga and Munich
Christie's Geneva, Russian Objects and Paintings, 17 May 1994, lot 190


Riga, Riga City Art Museum, Vystavka russkoi zhivopisi dvukh poslednikh stoletii, 4-18 December 1932, no.98


Exhibition catalogue Vystavka russkoi zhivopisi dvukh poslednikh stoletii, Riga, 1932, p.26, no.98 listed as Zarosshy prud

Catalogue Note

Painted at the height of Levitan’s career, Overgrown Pond is one of three known oils bearing this title and dating from 1887-1888. As with many of his most acclaimed works, such as Cool Breeze, The Volga (1895, State Tretyakov Gallery), Levitan occasionally painted more than one finished version to establish the most successful depiction of a scene. Given the similarities in composition, the present lot must be a reworking of the 1887 painting at the State Russian Museum (fig.2). The modest size of the latter (32 by 40.5cm) and the fact that it was painted on paper suggests that it may have been executed en plein air as a study. Although compositionally different, the version at the Vasily Polenov Museum-Reserve, also smaller in size (35 by 51cm), shares the same understated palette of greens and yellow as the present lot. In the 1890s Levitan executed another series on this subject, this time in watercolours and pastels, one of which was sold in these rooms in June 2015.

As a student at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1873-1885), Levitan encountered Vasily Polenov’s magnum opus Overgrown Pond (fig.3) at the 7th Itinerant Exhibition, which went on view at the School in April 1879. Such was Levitan's appreciation for the work that he was inspired to paint Desolate Pond in emulation, exhibiting it at the student exhibition only months later. It is tempting to attribute Levitan’s renewed interest in the subject in 1887 to his visit to Polenov’s dacha in Zhukovka, west of Moscow, in the summer of that year.

Overgrown Pond was one of six paintings by Levitan exhibited at the Vystavka russkoi zhivopisi dvukh poslednikh stoletii in Riga in December 1932. The exhibition was organised by Akropolis, the group founded by Eugene Klimoff (1901 – 1990) with the aim of encouraging the appreciation of Russian art. At least 43 paintings were loaned by Leo Maskovsky, including the present lot and another painting by Levitan from 1888 entitled Watermill, Sunset (fig.4). Maskovsky was a Russian émigré who settled in Riga after the Revolution and acquired an important collection of late-19th and early-20th century Russian paintings in the 1920s. He sold most of his collection in the 1930s before emigrating to Munich with only the smaller canvases. Following Maskovsky's death in 1972, his widow sold the remainder of the collection including the present lot in a series of auctions held at Christie’s London on 5 October 1989 and Christie’s Geneva on 17 May 1994.