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Russian Artist: Ivan Aivazovsky

All Russia-related Articles

by Nadia F., a Russian woman living in St Petersburg, Russia

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky
Birth Date: July 17, 1817
Death Date: April, 19, 1900
Place of Birth: Feodosia,Russian Empire

Ivan Aivazovsky was probably one of the most popular of all Russian painters of the nineteenth century. He was famous not only in Russia but was world-renowned. He is still popular nowadays along with other Russian painters: Karl Brullov, Ivan Repin, Issak Levitan, Ivan Shishkin.

Aivazovsky won the international recognition of the best sea-scapes painter rather fast and he kept it during all his 60 year artist career.

The Aivazovsky's works deserved this fame as he had the intuitive sense of the beauty of the sea and could reproduce it on the canvas as no one else. Over the centuries his works still keep their fascination and find emotional response in the spectators. During his life he has made over 6000 pictures. He was awarded the highest prizes of different countries including the French Legion of Honor and the Turkish Order of Osmania.

Ivan Aivazovsky was born on July 17, 1817 in Feodosia. Feodosia was a small town located on the Black see side in the south of Russia (now it is Crimea, Ukraine). He was the third son in the family of a bankrupt merchant in a remote area of the vast Russian Empire and had no bright outlook. His father had a small one-storied house.

Konstantin Gaivazovsky was busy earning money for his family and did not spend much time educating the children. But he was a well-educated person, knew several foreign languages, read a lot, that surely has borne fruits for his children.

At the early age Aivazovsky already showed exceptional abilities in art and music. He learned to play the violin on his own and painted with enthusiasm. He started painting by copying the engravings of the Greek warriors.

In his early childhood the painting became the main sense of Aivazovsky life. He painted everywhere and one of his large soldier painting on the wall has attracted the attention of the Feodosia city chief (governor) Kaznacheev A.I. This painting has changed the fate of Aivazovsky. Kaznacheev has gifted him the water-colors and heaps of drawing paper and offered to Aivazovsky to learn painting together with his own children from the city main architecture.

Later Kaznacheev has helped him to move to Simferopol gymnasium where Aivazovsky talent and progress was noted by influential people who then solicited for Aivazovsky and he was accepted in the Saint-Petersburg Academy of Arts at public expense in 1833 year. The Saint-Petersburg was the capital of the Russian Empire at that time.

Aivazovsky studied the painting there during 7 years as one of the best pupil and got Silver medal for his works. Aivazovsky attended the class of the landscape painter Professor Maksim Vorobiev.

In September 1837 Aivazovsky won the grand Golden medal for his 3 sea-pieces and "Calm Sea" painting and gained the trip abroad to perfect his art for free. He went to Italy, Venice.

In Italy he painted sunrises and sunsets, moonlit landscapes, but the see was his favorite theme. He had an exceptional colorific memory. Rather than plain copying the nature, he improvised based on the vivid impressions he got from watching the sea. He knew the sea well in all states since his childhood in Feodosia.

Ivan Aivazovsky always tried to express the atmosphere and the mood of the scene and filled in his paintings with feelings. He used the "water color" technique of painting when color is placed on canvas in thin layers. The most attractive aspect of Aivazovsky's painting is the transparent light and bright coloration. Aivazovsky tended to compare the depth of the sea and the man. The sea in his perception was the primeval nature chaos.

In Italy the amount of Aivazovsky admirers grew and his paintings were well bought.

Aivazovsky has travelled over Europe: France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, England and other countries. By 1844 year Ivan Aivazovsky had already gained the European fame. In his 27 years he was already a member of 4 Academies of Art: in St.Petersburg, Rome, Paris and Amsterdam.

Then Aivazovsky returned to Saint Petersburg and was so well accepted that even the Russian Tsar Nicholas I visited him in his studio.

Since 1845 year Ivan Aivazovsky lived in his native town Feodosia. Within 2 years he painted 20 pictures including historical marine battles, his most lyrical landscape "Views of Odessa on a Moonlight Night", and his outstanding seascape "the Tenth Wave". In which the artist showed the sea at the peak of the raging storm. The picture is horrifying and delightful, with the huge waves which easily break the mast of the ship.

In 1844-1845 years the siege of Sebastopol took place. It was described by Leo Tolstoy whohad been a participant of it. Aivazovsky visited Sebastopol and conveyed his impressions in several canvas.

In March 1856 Aivazovsky showed his 20 pictures at the International Exhibition in Paris.

The creativeness of Aivazovsky was inexhaustible and he continued to work all his life.

At the age of 72 he made two excellent paitings: "the Wave" and "Clouds over the Sea. Calm". In the following 10 years he made large works like 7-meter long panorama "From Calm to Storm" which demonstrates gradual changes of the sea state. But the main work of this period is undoubtedly "Amidst the Waves", where the 80 year old master showed the brilliance of his talent again.

Even in his very old age Aivazovsky worked hard every day making new paintings at the exceptional master level. He was rather critical to his 6000 works and considered just abour several dozens of outstanding paintings. Time is the best judge and as we see it today his paintings were not forgotten and are still admired all over the world. Even though there was a lot of severe critics of his works, everyone would admit his great artistic talent.

Ivan Aivazovsky died on April, 19, 1900 in the process of the Explosion of the Ship. His studio has become a museum now.

Some of Ivan Aivazovsky's most famous paintings and links to their reproductions on canvas:

Some books about Ivan Aivazovsky and his famous paintings:

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