"In Above Eternal Peace Levitan has created an image so
beautiful and so memorable that it would be difficult to dismiss it lightly as just
another landscape painting. As much as painting an image of the Russian land,
Levitan evokes a mood of peace and tranquility that becomes inseparable from the
idea of space and freedom, and from the universal quality of beauty and art. Benois
said that Levitan "felt that Nature lives and praises the Creator," and no painting
expresses this sentiment quite like Above Eternal Peace.
The composition of this painting is both aesthetically
affective (with its irregularly shaped divisions of the picture plane and clear
center of focus) and symbolically effective. While the graveyard (to the left of
the church) may symbolize death, the church itself (as the focal point of the
painting) seems to whisper that there is another way – a way to live – and this way
is through Jesus and the divine plan God implemented through his birth, death, and
resurrection. The still plane of water behind the church emphasizes this idea and
the peace granted to those who accept it. This entire image asserts the strength of
not so much the Russian Orthodox Church, but the beliefs it represents. In this
way, and in the pride of countryside so beautiful and so lyrical, does this
painting express the beliefs and aims of the Russian Revival of the late 19th
century, and serve as a fine example of the "deeply poetic vision" Levitan achieved
in his art." - Alexander Boguslawski - myweb.rollins.edu.
"Isaac Levitan is an outstanding master of the “moody” landscape, in which the
personal, emotional and the lyrical are forcefully emphasized. Levitan’s landscapes
are dominated by an elegiac mood, close to what has come to be known as Chekhovian.
The painter sees nature as endowed with an inner life of its own.
Lurking behind the mirror of a dammed stream is an inexplainable threat, there is
something mysterious in the haunting beauty of the abandoned look, danger seems to
loom in the quiet dusk at nightfall.
The picture “Above the Eternal Peace” is distinguished by a feeling of boundless
expanse, as if the painter has been amazed by the very endlessness of the Earth.
The grey Northern skies are reflected in the empty and cold waters of the lake with
fluffy clouds hanging above it. Nature stands immobile in its primeval majesty.
Time has stopped above the lake and the green promontory with the little church
cemetery and the leaning crosses over the graves and only a twinkling light reminds
one of how transitory human life is. Levitan’s refined palette is equally matched
to the depiction of objectively observable and subjectively perceived nature.
His manner is distinguished by a leading colour key determining the emotional force
of the landscape. Levitan displays a special simplicity of feeling, which, however,
is lacking neither in intimacy nor in depth.
If his earlier works were chiefly of an intimate and lyrical character, his mature
art becomes philosophical, expressing the artist’s meditation about man and the
world. These pictures were particularly loved by the Russian intellectuals of the
time, for they represented the purest specimen of the ‘mood landscape’, most
popular in Russia at the end of the 19th century. In “Above the Eternal Peace”
(1894) the artist’s meditations about the controversies of life, about the
transience of human being, gained almost monumental scale and philosophic
character." - Sergey Esenin.
"An extraordinarily large work, Levitan considered this his best, “embodying my
whole psychic being, the quintessence of myself”. Painted during his
estrangement from his closest friend Chekhov, it shows a small church with a light
in the window, and a derelict graveyard. Above, is “the majestic and
commanding sky.. seemingly angry and uncaring.. moving away into the distance.”
(Averil King, Lyrical Landscape)" - Painter of the Soul: Isaak Levitan -