Sunday, July 22, 2012


Isaac Levitan (1860-1900) was a Russian landscape painter, considered one of the best of the 19th Century. His family was of Jewish origin, during a period of organized political animosity under Alexander II. Levitan was able to overcome this based on the strength of his art, achieving support and patronage.

Levitan is recognized for his ability to convey a strong emotional feeling or tone in his works. They are often called "mood" paintings to define this characteristic. This quality of his work is what I connect with most strongly. he has over time become one of my favorite landscape painters.

His paintings are subtle in their language and message. Many works do contain political content, however Levitan never overtly reveals his message, it require knowledge of context.

I have never had the opportunity to see Levitan's work in person. The majority of his paintings reside in various museums and private collections inside of Russia. This has also made it quite hard to find good reproductions and western-published books on him.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


I'm currently trying out a selection of different black pigments, looking for one with just the right properties for my work. Shungite is a unique form of graphite mined in Russia. It shares many qualities with other carbon-blacks and is very intense.

The shungite proved to be surprisingly hard to grind. I suspected that it would not be that difficult, while handling the sample, black easily came off on my fingers. I would recommend purchasing the material in pigment form. Natural Pigments is the only western supplier that I know of that carries shungite.

The image above consists of shungite on my palette, after having been ground and mixed with linseed oil. I have tinted the black with some lead white, to get an idea of its undertones. Shungite appears to have a sightly cool cast.