Like many of his compatriots, Russian landscape painter Isaac Levitan was interested in the aesthetic movements of western Europe, but he was never completely won over by the notion of ‘art for art’s sake.”
This painting, called “Vladimirka Road” has plenty of abstract beauty. We can appreciate the close values of the clouds in the sky, the rough texture of the road in the foreground, the thin tendrils of the trails, and the small accents of the man-made objects.
But to see this painting only in abstract terms is to miss its deeper resonance. The Vladimirka Road was the route by which exiles and convicts were marched to Siberia.
The title suggests the human suffering without showing it directly. The road is empty, except for a distant figure praying at a roadside shrine.
Levitan said he hoped “to discover in the simplest and most everyday things the intimate, deeply moving characteristics that invoke a mood of melancholy. The spectators should be touched to the very depth of their souls.”
More about the painting and Levitan's own exile.
Wikipedia on Levitan