Dmitry Levitsky – master of ceremonial portrait
Dmitry Levitsky was a Russian artist of Ukrainian origin, master of ceremonial portrait, academician of the Imperial Academy of Arts.
Dmitry Grigorievich Levitsky was born in 1735, Kiev, Russian Empire. His father was a priest and known engraver. The boy studied fine arts with his father and with the painter A.P. Antropov. Together with his father Dmitry participated in the painting of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Kiev (mid-1750s). In 1758, Levitsky moved to St. Petersburg where he studied at the Academy of Arts. After his paintings were exhibited in the Academy of Arts in 1770 Levitsky became famous. In the same year, for a portrait of A.F. Kokorinov, the thirty-five-year-old Levitsky received the title of academician. From 1771 to 1788 he taught at the Academy of Fine Arts and was the head of the portrait class.
Already in his early works he showed himself as a first-class master of the ceremonial portrait, able to find an expressive posture and gesture, to combine the intensity of color with tonal unity and richness of shades.
The peak of Levitsky’s creative work – and the Russian portrait of the 18th century – was a series of portraits of pupils of the Smolny Institute of Noble Maidens, painted in 1773-1776.
In the 1780s, the artist created a unique portrait gallery of figures of Russian culture. In 1773, the master painted a portrait of D. Diderot, which amazed contemporaries with exceptional truthfulness in the appearance of the philosopher. One of Levitsky’s best creations is the portrait of young M. Diakova (1778), poetic, cheerful, painted in a rich range of warm tones.
In 1783, at the request of Chancellor A.A. Bezborodko, the artist painted a large ceremonial portrait of Empress Catherine II. In the late 80’s Levitsky painted portraits of A.I. Vorontsov, P.F. Vorontsova and their daughters, as well as portraits of the great princesses – daughters of Paul I (then heir to the throne).
By the beginning of the XIX century eye disease forced Levitsky to leave painting classes.
Dmitry Levitsky died on April 4 (16), 1822 in St. Petersburg, Russian Empire, and was buried at the Smolensk Orthodox cemetery. The grave was lost in the XIX century.