Levitan arrived at Chekhov’s newly constructed “White Dacha” in Yalta on December 24, 1899 to celebrate Christmas and the dawn of a new century. One day during his visit, Levitan was sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace in the study while Chekhov paced around the room complaining to his friend about how much he missed the landscape of northern Russia. He had said much the same thing to Lika Mizinova during a previous stay in the Crimea. “Our northern nature is sadder, more lyrical, more Levitan-like,” he wrote her. “Here, it’s neither here nor there, like poetry that is good, rich-sounding, but cold.”
Impulsively Levitan decided to bring a bit of northern Russia into Chekhov’s study. He turned to Chekhov’s sister Maria, who was also in the room, and asked her to bring him some cardboard. He cut a piece of the board to fit the dimensions of the cavity in the fireplace, took out his paints and started to draw. Within a half hour he was done and set the painting into the cavity, where it remains today. Levitan left Yalta on January 2nd feeling surprisingly revived. The next and last time the two friends saw each other was in May 1900 in Moscow as Levitan lay dying.