Discover the painting “Evening Bells” by Isaac Levitan

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“Evening Bells” (Вечерний звон) is a painting by the Russian painter Isaac Levitan (Исаак Ильич Левитан), who is a recognized master of the lyrical landscape. It is a beautiful oil on canvas of 87 X 107.6 cm which was painted in 1892 and has been in the State Tretyakov Gallery since 1918. This painting is also called “Monastery for the holidays” (Монастырь под праздник). “Evening Bells” is considered by some researchers as a variant of the earlier painting depicting a similar monastery and called ” Quiet Abode ” «Тихая обитель»  (1890).

Art critic Vladimir Petrov said that despite the motif similar to the “Quiet Convent”, the painting “Evening Bells” “nevertheless is devoid of secondariness, and has its own, unique charm, its own” chord “”

According to Sofya Prorokova, Levitan often sand the song “Evening Bells” by composer Alexander Alyabyev and it might be the reason of the title of the painting. Another version given, is that Levitan could have chosen this name under the influence of Yakov Polonsky ‘s collection of poems “Evening Bells”, published in 1890.

“Evening Bells” by Isaac Levitan

In front of the viewer is a wide river which seems to cut the picture diagonally. The water is calm. Pink evening clouds painted in rose-gold hues by the setting sun, float solemnly in the sky and are reflected in the water.

“Evening Bells” by Isaac Levitan part monastery

On the opposite bank which is overgrown with forest, there is a monastery with a high bell tower soaring above the forest. It denotes the metaphysical vertical of life written by the artist: from earth to heaven, from sinfulness to holiness.

The last rays of sun brightly light the snow-white walls of his temple and bell tower, making them seem golden. Thanks to their reflection in the surface of the river, the emphasis on temple buildings is made even brighter. 

“Evening Bells” by Isaac Levitan part reflection

Usually people are a rarity in Levitan’s paintings, but in this work, in order to enhance its realistic features, the artist depicted a man at the crossing on the near bank in a boat, people on a ferry in the center of the river, hurrying to the evening service, and two monks meeting them.


“Evening Bells” by Isaac Levitan part people

Description of the painting on the website of the Tretyakov Gallery:

“The spatial plans of the painting are presented as three different worlds. The near one is a high bank covered with shadow, from which the artist looks around. Across the river, growing out of a mirage game of reflections, in the rays of the setting sun, a wonderful vision appears – a monastery. Finally, the gaze rises into the sky following the clouds melting in a soft golden glow. The artist conveys the desire of the soul to this enchanted world of light and sounds disappearing into the distance. Interrupting the movement towards the sky with transverse rhythms – the line of the shore, bridges, a boat, he creates a feeling of an elusive image. In this alluring distance, one can only endlessly , languidly strive in dreams .

I hope you enjoyed this painting as much as I did.

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