In 1770, Levitzky became famous as a portrait painter after the exhibition of six of his portraits in the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. For the portrait of Alexander Kokorinov, Director and First Rector of the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg (1769) he was elected an academician and appointed the Professor of the portrait painting class at the Academy of Arts. He remained on this position until 1788.
In 1772–1776 Levitzky worked on a series of portraits of the pupils of the privileged women establishment Smolny Institute for Young Ladies in St. Petersburg commissioned by Catherine II. The girls are depicted performing dances, music, plays.