Ivan Aivazovsky’s shipwreck at Russian Art Week 2019
29.05.2019
Today we’re moving away from the nude and taking a look at the wonderful stormy seascape by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817-1900) painted by the master in the later years of his life, in 1882.

Aivazovsky was a Russian Romantic painter who is considered one of the greatest masters of marine art. Born as Hovhannes Aivazian, he was born into an Armenian family in the Black Sea port of Feodosia in Crimea and was for the most part based there throughout his life. 

He was one of the most prominent Russian artists of his time and was popular even outside Russia — he had numerous solo exhibitions across Europe and the United States. During his almost 60-year long career, he painted around 6,000 pictures, making him one of the most prolific artists of his time.

The 70 by 110cm painting titled “Abandoning Ship” is both incredibly typical as well as highly unusual of the master’s oeuvre. Worried seas, sinking ships and survivors in lifeboats are common themes for the artist, however the absence of a horizon in this picture is a highly unusual element in Aivazovsky’s work.

The cropped composition creates a concentrated effect, drawing in the viewer with the increased drama of the scene. As always, Aivazovsky’s master painter abilities reflect in the translucent waves and the general atmosphere of the painting — the scene seems so incredibly close, as if you could hear the crashing waves and the screaming seagulls.

Important to note is that this enlarged composition is by no means the result of cutting the canvas, the master had indeed intended for the painting to look this way. Mikhail Briansky painted a copy of this work in 1887, just five years after it was originally painted, which sold at Sotheby’s London in May 2004.

This painting, along with other wonderful lots, will be offered at Sotheby’s auction during the Russian Art Week 2019 in London this June.