Born in Kybartai, Lithuania, Levitan studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, living in extreme poverty. In 1874-75 the Board of Teachers awarded him a 'box of paint and brushes' for his progress, who was already showing a preference for landscape paintings; in 1876 he was accepted into the studio of Alexsei Savrasov, and exhibited two canvases at the 5th 'Wanderers' Moscow exhibition.
In 1880, Levitan's entry Sokol'niki Park in his school's second Student's Exhibition was bought by Pavel Tret'iakov, which initiated public recognition of his talent as one of Russia's leading landscape artists and Impressionists. Levitan, the most outstanding Russian landscape painter of the late nineteenth century, enriched the realistic landscape tradition by creating canvases of profound philosophical depth and social significance. His landscapes are extremely diverse and complex: at times fresh, resonant and joyful such as Spring Verdure, (May 1888) and The Birch Grove (1885-89); and at times filled with anxiety and sadness such as Deep Waters (1892) or Eternal Rest (1894) which reflected the artist's mood during the years of political reaction.