Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ivan Aivazovsky

View of Constantinople and the Bosphorus
124.5 x 195.5 cm
oil on canvas
location unknown

“The artist who only copies nature becomes a slave to nature. The motions of live elements are imperceptible to a brush: painting lightning, a gust of wind or the splash of a wave. The artist must memorize them. The plot of the pictures is composed in my memory, like that of a poet; after doing a sketch on a scrap of paper, I start to work and stay by the canvas until I’ve said everything on it with my brush.” (Aivazovsky)

Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900) was a famous Russian artist specializing in seascape and landscape portraits. He did most of his painting outside, watching the elements, and only going indoors to put the finishing touches on his masterpieces. His art was greatly influenced by Romanticism. Aivazovsky, although a romantic, was also a very practical man. He was among the first artists to personally exhibit his creations in major cities. He enjoyed a generous income and spent much of his wealth on the welfare of his hometown. Dostoevsky was an admirer of Aivazovsky’s art.

He was born into the family of a destitute Armenian merchant in the Crimean city. At the time of his birth the city was devastated after a recent war and was still suffering from the consequences of a plague epidemic that had affected the region in 1812. His childhood was spent in poverty on the outskirts of the city facing the beautiful Feodosia Bay in the Crimean city and the ruins of an ancient Greek fortress.

Young Ivan was mesmerized by the grandeur of the view and the heroic stories told about the Greeks and the famous battles of the past. His talent was discovered at a very early age. He was taken on as an apprentice by a local architect and later sent to a gymnasium in Simferopol where he showed such amazing artistic skills that influential locals helped him move to St. Petersburg to enter the Academy of Art. He was trusted by the academy to continue his work on his own and moved back to Crimea where he set up a shop and started painting his beloved Black Sea.

His life in the quiet coastal Feodosia was quite uneventful. He spent days in his workshop mixing paints and producing seascapes and in winters went to St. Petersburg to exhibit his works for the sophisticated public of the Russian capital. Although he lead a secluded life, Aivazovsky kept in constant touch with his great contemporaries, welcomed them at his home in Feodosia and arranged meetings with them in St. Petersburg.