On Sunday I visited Levitan’s home and studio off Tryokhsvyatitelny (Three Prelates) Lane. In 1889 Sergei Morozov, a wealthy Moscow entrepreneur, gave Levitan the use of detached building next to his grand mansion located in a fashionable, secluded part of the city. The artist remained there until his death in 1900, living on the ground floor and working in his studio on the second floor. The studio is in disrepair. In December 2020 the Ovcharenko Gallery purchased the building in an auction with the goal of restoring the structure and using it as an exhibition space.
Chekhov always felt distinctly uncomfortable with the milieu of Levitan’s wealthy benefactors. In 1897 when Chekhov had his first serious hemorrhage from tuberculosis, his doctors sent him to the south of Europe to recover. Levitan became deeply concerned about his friend’s health and well-being. Without consulting Chekhov, Levitan arranged for Morozov to lend Chekhov 2,000 rubles and send it to him in Biarritz. This exasperated Chekhov. He told Lika Mizinova: “I didn’t ask for this money; I don’t want it and I asked Levitan to allow me to return it in such a way, of course, that no one would get offended. Levitan doesn’t want this, but just the same I’m sending it back.” This led to a series of awkward exchanges, after which Levitan urged Chekhov to go see Morozov who was visiting Nice. Chekhov eventually did and told Levitan that he liked Morozov, but he might have been just trying to be polite. Levitan responded defensively: “He’s a good man, just too rich, that’s what’s bad, for him especially.”