Classic Week: Seascapes by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky


Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, famous for his incredibly realistic, exquisitely painted and often dramatic seascapes, lived his whole life on the Black Sea coast of Crimea. The landscape of his homeland is the subject of many of his paintings, including the works offered at Dorotheum on 23 October 2019.

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, Sunrise on the Ayu-Dag on Crimea, 1863, oil on canvas, 59 x 77 cm, estimate € 160,000 – 200,000

Ivan Aivazovsky is regarded as one of the most celebrated and popular Russian Romantic
artists. The sea was the foremost subject of his long and prosperous career as a painter. His work brought him commercial success and he was to find favour during his own lifetime throughout Europe and Russia, not least at the Imperial Court. Aivazovsky grew up in Theodosia, Crimea, on the shores of the Black Sea. He studied at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg under the Romantic artist Maxim Vorobiev (1787–1855). Classical painters such as Jacob van Ruisdael and Claude Lorrain were influences on his early style. After graduating in 1837, Aivazovsky returned to his beloved home city of Theodosia. In 1840, he travelled to Europe with a scholarship from the Academy to study painting, and it was here that he began working en plein air. Upon his return to Russia he produced works from earlier sketches and from memory. In the mid-1860s he resettled in Theodosia, where he built a house that would become the centre of much artistic activity.
It served not only as a studio for the artist, but also as an art school and gallery.

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, Bay of Yalta with the Magobi and Ai Petri mountains, oil on panel, 20 x 24 cm, estimate € 10,000 – 15,000

Aivazovsky felt a great affinity for the Crimean landscape, particularly for the Black Sea, and dedicated numerous paintings to the region, including the present works for sale. “Sunrise on the Ayu-Dag on Crimea” was executed in 1863, in an exceptionally prolific period in the artist’s career between 1862 and 1867, during which he produced more than 200 works. The present seascape depicts the Ayu-Dag Mountain, one of the main symbols of the southern coast of Crimea, located on the shore of the Black Sea, close to Yalta. The sunrise on the village conveys a sense of tranquillity and serenity. The picture is an excellent example of the artist’s ability to depict a calm sea with reflections of the sun on the water. The orange light of the rising sun is symbolic of hope. Aivazovsky executed many works with tranquil seascapes representing harmony between man and nature. The sky and the Ayu-Dag Mountain, for instance, so dominant in this composition, convey a sense of the majesty of nature. The boat in the foreground peacefully skims over the calm surface of the water and is in harmony with the surrounding landscape. In many of his works Aivazovsky depicted the vastness of rough seas, where a man is no longer the master of his wave-tossed boat and is overwhelmed by the force of nature and its power over mankind.

While the world around him progressed, Aivazovsky remained faithful to Romanticism and was very productive throughout his long life. He travelled extensively in search of new subjects for his paintings, which were very much sought-after by collectors, including the European aristocracy, the Russian Imperial family and the American bourgeoisie. The present painting was rediscovered after many years in private hands, during which time it
was hidden from public view.


Auction date: 19th Century Paintings auction, 23rd October 2019, 5 p.m.

Location: Palais Dorotheum, Dorotheergasse 17, 1010 Vienna

Exhibition: 12th October 2019 – 23rd October 2019

Contact: Gautier Gendebien is a specialist for 19th Century Paintings at Dorotheum

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