About the Author

At Chekhov's grave in Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow. July 2013

At Chekhov’s grave in Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow. July 2013

Serge Vladimir Gregory holds a PhD in Russian Language and Literature from the University of Washington. As a graduate student, he spent an academic year as a Fulbright scholar at St. Petersburg University, researching his dissertation on “The Literary Milieu of Dostoevsky’s The Possessed” under the direction of G.A. Bialyi. After completing his degree, Gregory spent most of his career outside of academia as a corporate communications manager, occasionally publishing articles and teaching university level courses on Russian literature and culture. His blog “Antosha and Levitasha” is his account of the process of writing a book on the lifelong relationship between Anton Chekhov and the landscape painter Isaac Levitan. He spent June and July 2013 in Moscow completing research on the book.

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10 Responses to About the Author

  1. Dear Serge,

    I was delighted to come upon your website during the course of some recent research into Levitan and Chekhov’s friendship. Don’t worry, I’m not also writing a book about them! I’ve written a novel about Chekhov’s time in Ukraine, one of the rare periods when Levitan actually did not visit Antosha. I’ve admired the painter’s work ever since I first visited the Tretyakov Gallery many years ago, and Chekhov I recently “rediscovered”, rereading nearly everything I had first read when learning Russian. My Russian isn’t very good but it will serve to read Chekhov, fortunately.
    Anyway this was just to say hello and wish you good luck with your project – I’ll be following your blog to watch as it unfolds. I enjoyed researching this period so much, and reading about Chekhov’s vast circle of friends and family, so your blog will only prolong that pleasure. I hope your research in Moscow will go well.
    All best regards,
    Alison Anderson

    • sergegregory says:

      Dear Alison,
      Thanks for your encouragement. Knowing that you’ll be following my progress will motivate me to keep things lively, informative, and intelligent.

      While Levitan and Chekhov didn’t travel together through the Ukraine, I’ve been struck by how Chekhov’s view of nature in “The Steppe,” his great landscape portrait of the south of Russia, so closely reflects Levitan’s–a shared sense of the vastness of the natural world and its utter indifference to humankind.
      Serge

  2. Philip Metres says:

    Dear Serge, I’m intrigued by your book–congratulations! I’m particularly interested in whether you touch upon their time in Korolev. I lived there (when it was still Kaliningrad) and was stunned to learn that this was the country and full of dachas in the late 19th century–and that Chekhov and Levitan would have spent time there. What do you know about their time in Korolev? Did they frequent Losiny Ostrov?

  3. sergegregory says:

    Dear Philip, thanks for your interest in my book. It should be available within the next few weeks. I’m not aware of any time that Chekhov and Levitan shared together in the area around Korolev. However, since it’s likely that some of their prominent friends had dachas in the vicinity, it’s not unlikely that they spent time there. Generally, both Chekhov and Levitan preferred to spend their summers farther away from Moscow. Losiny Ostrov extends from Sokolniki Park, a favorite place for Levitan to paint starting in his student years. His teacher and mentor, Alexei Savrasov, painted a painting called “Losiny Ostrov in Sokolniki” (1869): http://data.photo.sibnet.ru/upload/imggreat/120290737547.jpg

  4. Reid Mitchell says:

    Dear Dr. Gregory: I just found this website today, led to I when I searched on “Levitan” “Chekhov” on yahoo. And why did I search on them. Because I just read Chekhov’s letter of April 8, 1892, describing Levitan and Chekhov killing a bird–you call it woodchuck, the translation I’m reading calls it a snipe–which made me want to learn more about their friendship. And here’s your wonderful site! Thanks so much for creating it.

    By the way, do you know if Levitan was hunting snipe/woodchucks for sport or because he wished to study the bird? I suppose the former, as his landscapes don’t require detailed anatomical study of small birds.

  5. Reid Mitchell says:

    oops. sorry for the typo. Woodcock not woodchuck!

  6. sergegregory says:

    The Russian word for the bird they were hunting is Ва́льдшнеп (Scolopax rusticola), which is commonly called the Eurasian woodcock. Levitan was an avid hunter of woodcocks. He was particularly fascinated by the male air mating dance, once dragging his painting students out to the woods in the dusk in the hopes of seeing one perform. I’m not aware of any detailed sketches of the bird that he might have done.

  7. Eyton Shalom says:

    Never enough Chekhov! By or about. Thank you!

  8. Dear Dr. Gregory:

    Thanks so much for your wonderful book about Chekhov and Levitan. I am a painter and started researching Levitan for his technique and approach. Your book made me interested in him as a person. I’ve been reflecting on the series of pieces he did of rickety primitive bridges over deep water (e.g., http://leomancinihresko.com/tag/isaak-levitan/); in the light of his expulsions from Moscow and continual threats to his livelihood from the authorities, and in light of his Vladimirka Road, these seem to be meditations on the precariousness of his own path. I noted in your book that he enjoyed Pushkin and I just found a passage in _Eugene Onegin_ that may have given Levitan the idea for these works. Chapter V, verses xi–xiii:

    [Tanya] dreams. And wonders are appearing
    Before her now, without a doubt:
    She walks across a snowy clearing,
    There’s gloom and darkness all about;
    Amid the snowdrifts, seething, roaring,
    A torrent gray with foam is pouring,
    Darkly it rushes on amain,
    A thing the winter could not chain;
    By a slim icicle united,
    Two slender boughs are flung across
    The waters, where they boil and toss;
    And by this shaking bridge affrighted,
    The helpless girl can do no more
    Than halt bewildered on the shore.

    She chides the waters that impede her,
    But naught avails her girlish wrath;
    No helping hand is near to lead her
    Across in safety to the path;
    A snowdrift stirs, it falls asunder:
    Just fancy who appears from under!
    A shaggy bear! At Tanya’s cry
    The creature bellows in reply
    as his repellent aid he proffers;
    The frightened maiden gathers strength
    And puts her little hand at length
    Upon the sharp-clawed paw he offers,
    And steps across…

    So first I would note how Pushkin prefigures Chekhov’s use of an emotional landscape, and then note that Levitan almost exactly paints this bridge several times. The bear? The dangers he faces due to anti-Semitism, one might assume. So here we have Levitan identifying with the girl, and essentially rehearsing in his painting how he will have to choose between dangers…

    If only I knew more.

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