Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky

Self-portrait, 1874, oil on canvas, 70.5 × 62.5 cm, Uffizi, Florence Self-portrait, 1874, oil on canvas, 70.5 × 62.5 cm, Uffizi, Florence

Born in 1817 into an Armenian family in the Black Sea port of Feodosia in Crimea, Russian Romantic painter Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, is still today considered one of the greatest marine artists in history.

In 1833, Aivazovsky studied in Saint Petersburg at the Imperial Academy of Arts in famed Russian landscape painter Maxim Vorobiev's landscape class. Two years later, the young artist was awarded with a silver medal and appointed assistant to the French seascape painter Philippe Tanneur.

Primarily a Romantic painter, Aivazovsky used some Realistic elements in his works as well as a variety of colors linked to both epic and romantic painting.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Aivazovsky's distinct transition in Russian art from Romanticism to Realism left some critics cold. However, Aivazovsky was the most influential seascape painter in nineteenth century Russian art.

Navy career

Throughout his career, Aivazovsky had close links with the navy, In the early 1840s, after travels, he returned to Russia where he was appointed the main painter of the Russian Navy. The Russian government were proud of Aivazovsky's work,  he was sponsored by the state and was well-regarded during his lifetime.

The vast majority of his works are seascapes, but he often depicted battle scenes. He rarely drew dry-landscapes and created only a handful of portraits.

In 1845 and 1846, Aivazovsky attended the maneuvers of the Black Sea Fleet and the Baltic Fleet at Petergof. The following year, he was given the title of professor of seascape painting by the Imperial Academy of Arts and elevated to the rank of nobility. He was also elected to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

International success 

Aivazovsky's popularity stretched beyond Russia. During his almost 60-year career, he created around 6 000 paintings, making him one of the most prolific artists of his time.

Most of Aivazovsky's works are kept in Russian, Ukrainian and Armenian museums as well as private collections. The artist held 55 solo exhibitions during his lifetime, in Rome, Naples, Venice,  Paris, Amsterdam, Moscow, Florence, London, Berlin, New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

In the 1840s, he visited Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain, where he met English painter J. M. W. Turner who was reportedly "so struck by Aivazovsky's picture The Bay of Naples on a Moonlit Night that he dedicated a rhymed eulogy in Italian to Aivazovsky."

In 1845, Aivazovsky settled in his hometown of Feodosia, where he built a house and studio. He lived in isolation, which many critics believed had a negative impact on his work.

A proud Armenian

Aivazovsky created paintings of important parts of Armenia's landscape Mount Ararat, the Ararat plain and Lake Sevan as well as creating rare portraits of Armenians, including as his brother Archbishop Gabriel Aivazovsky in 1882.

The Hamidian massacres that took place in the Armenian-inhabited areas of the Ottoman Empire between 1894 and 1896 weighed heavy on Aivazovsky's heart. He painted a number of works on the massacre. It is even alleged that he threw the medals given to him by the Ottoman Sultan into the sea.

Aivazovsky at auction

In the early 2000s, Aivazovsky's paintings began appearing in auctions, mostly in London, where they were largely bought by Russian oligarchs. From 2004 to 2012, the price of his works rose from around the $2 million mark to $5 million. Check out realized prices for Aivazovsky here.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 11.03.40 Aivazovsky's 1886 work Massacre of Armenians in the Sea of Marmara
At auction at Leclere on June 2, 2017

Aivazovsky's 1886 work Massacre of Armenians in the Sea of Marmara is the most important work coming to auction at Leclere's Art arménien auction on June 2. The piece is estimated at $223 770 to 279 715 (€200 000 - 250 000.) The piece has a certificate from the 2005 Krasili State Technical Restoration Institute and in 2017 was authenticated by Ivan Samarine.

Check out Leclere's full catalogue here.

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