National Gallery brings Tolstoy's landscapes to Britain

Paintings of the sublime Caucasus landscape that inspired Leo Tolstoy to quit his dissolute city life and become a writer are to be put on show at the National Gallery in London in the biggest Russian exhibition to be staged in the UK.

"Russian Landscape in the Age of Tolstoy" features 70 works by 15 artists, dating from 1820 to the 20th century. Many are being shown outside Russia for the first time. Three rooms in the Sainsbury Wing will be devoted to the master painters - including Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin, Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi, Grigori Soroka and Isaak Il'ich Levitan - with many works captioned with quotes from Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov.

Tolstoy was inspired to write his 1861 novel The Cossacks after travelling in the Caucasus with his brother Nicolas, who had persuaded the young count to leave behind his debauched life in St Petersburg.

One painting in the exhibition, Morning in the Dniepr by Kuindzhi, depicts the meadow scene that captured Tolstoy's imagination. In his diary, Tolstoy wrote: "Wonderful walk across the fields. Came back home and was seized with the desire to write The Cossacks. There are sources of joy that never dry up; the beauty of nature, animals and human beings which is never absent."

Chekhov praised one of the works in the exhibition, Quiet Haven by Levitan, in his short story "Three Years". And in a poetic scene from his short story "The Steppe", Chekhov wrote of the scenery that has been linked to the 19th-century landscape artists.

He wrote: "A wild and boundless plain encircled by a chain of low hills lay stretched before the villagers' eyes. Huddled together and peeping out from behind one another, these hills melted together into rising ground, which stretched right to the horizon and disappeared into the lilac distance."

He was known to be heavily influenced by the artist and the men followed each other's artistic development. Levitan stayed with Chekhov often and there are many references to the painter in the playwright's work. It is believed he is the basis for one of the characters in The Seagull.

Christopher Riopelle, the curator of the show, which opens on 23 June, said landscape played a central role in the Russian imagination.

"In the age of Tolstoy, the landscape simply dominated the lives of most Russians," he said. "Tolstoy is a representative figure of the age and he is one writer whose descriptions of landscapes in many of his novels can be extremely important," he added.

Images range from idyllic meadows and groves to Levitan's obliquely political painting of The Vladimirka Road, which marked the path walked by people exiled to Siberia.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Microsoft Gold Partner for...

Recruitment Genius: Database System Administrator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are based in Doncaster and...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Account Managers - Radio

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a highly successful mu...

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager - New Car / Used Car

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A dynamic Business Manager is required for one...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy