theodosiaAivazovsky Picture Gallery. Main Exposition.


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Aivazovsky's biography

Master's progenies

  ...My sincere wish is that the building of my art gallery in the city of Theodosia with all its canvases, statues and other pieces of art be the complete property of Theodosia as a memento of me, Aivazovsky. I bequeath this gallery to Theodosia, my home city.  
    From I. Aivazovsky's will  

The exposition starts with the memorial section whose exhibits tell about the main events in the life and work of the painter, as well as the stages of the gallery's development and work.

The pictures displayed in the second, Big Hall, are truly considered to be the pearls of the gallery's collection. Its canvases describe the main stages of Aivazovsky's creative activity following his studies at the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts up till the last years of his life.

The beginning of the artist's creativity is characterized by such works as Seacoast at Night (1837), Yalta (1838), Old Theodosia (1838).

In the work Seacoast at Night, which he painted while still a student of the Academy, Aivazovsky masterfully depicted a silvery-blue sky with low clouds floating over the rough golden-green sea and ships heeling under the blows of the wind.

Skilfully painted, although influenced by S. Shchedrin, is the picture Yalta. The young artist managed to convey the uniqueness and beauty of the landscape. Aivazovsky was not striving to find a complex theme and a well-thought composition. In this case, the artist succeeded in turning a simple tune into a rich melody, similar to a great musician playing a masterpiece on the simplest instrument.

Aivazovsky's years abroad greatly influenced the molding of his talent. His acquaintance with the masterpieces of world art in European museums enriched the painter, while the generous Italian nature inspired him to create such pictures as Bay of Naples on a Moonlit Night (1842), Bay of Naples in the Morning (1843), Shipwreck (1843). These works indicate that, yet in his early years as a painter, Aivazovsky showed an ability to permeate his works with light, a feeling of colour, line and composition. Aivazovsky's beautiful moonlit marines are thought to be the most lyrical page in the art of this outstanding seascape painter. Among these pictures one should list the landscapes Monastery of St. George (1846) and Venice (1849). The latter conveys, with extreme clarity, a feeling of calm, quietude and inspiration; everything is permeated with the beauty of a moonlit night. Outstanding is the centre of the canvas depicting the rays of the moon. Gradually fading, this tender light envelops the horizon and dissolves into the blue thickness of the night sky.

The romantic character of Aivazovsky's art is acutely felt in his work Sea (1853). This canvas attracts art lovers with its cheerfulness and poetic emotion in depicting a crimson dawn over Koktebel Bay.

Aivazovsky was given the honorary title of Painter of the Chief Naval Headquarters. He created canvases dedicated to the history of the Russian Navy. Painted at different times, these canvases depict the valour of Russian sailors. These include Battle in the Strait of Chios (1848), Battle of Chesma (1848), The Siege of Sevastopol (1859), Malakhov Mound (1893), Two Turkish Warships Attacking the Brig Mercury (1892) and The Black Sea Fleet in Theodosia (1890).

Among the canvases displayed in this hall, the picture Sea (1864) stands out by the skill of its execution. Here, the artist managed to recreate the penetrating character of the sea.

Also of interest are the artist's works painted during the last two decades of his life. As before, he liked to paint the free vastness of the sea, sails filled with wind and the high blue sky.

A philosophical theme prevails in the painting Moonrise over Theodosia (1892). The ancient city with its centuries-long history was a source of inspiration for Aivazovsky. He was always concerned with questions pertaining to the city's development. In this respect, the canvas First Train in Theodosia (1892) is of great interest. The dark mass of the coast is well balanced by the greenish flickering of the sea and the moonlit sky.

Aivazovsky dedicated his painting Catherine II Arriving in Theodosia (1883) to the centenary of the unification of the Crimea with Russia.

In the museum's main hall, a monumental canvas From Calm to Hurricane (1895) is exhibited. Here Aivazovsky depicted the calmness of the sea, a storm building and the hurricane itself - three faces of the sea.

Amid the Waves (1898) is Aivazovsky's most perfect creation. It is a real pearl in the gallery's collection. The artist masterfully conveyed the beauty of a stormy sea; he succeeded in depicting the heroic and, at the same time, penetrating and lyrical charm of the sea. Just like a great many of Aivazovsky's other paintings, this picture is an exercise in improvisation.

The artist's versatile talent is corroborated by the works exhibited in the halls on the first floor. The canvas Seacoast. Moonlit Night (1856) is marked by decorative features. Aivazovsky was successful in depicting a typical southern town and a grandiose panorama of mountains in the picture Alushta. This painting looks as if it is woven of sunlight and air; iridescent blue, greenish and golden tints conquer the imagination. A hymn to the sun and the melody of a young day are depicted in the work Sunrise (1878).

This and other works are displayed in the gallery which, during the artist's lifetime, connected the exhibition hall with the dwelling part of the house. Presently, works painted in the 1890s are exhibited here. They are mostly self-portraits dated 1892-1898 and paintings on historic themes, as Napoleon on St. Helene Island (1897), as well as mythological themes like Poseidon Travelling by Sea (1894). In the same hall, one of Aivazovsky's best canvases Surf at the Crimean Coast (1892) is also displayed. In this picture, the horizon symbolically splits the canvas into two almost equal parts. This creates the effect of balance between the sky and the sea. The work has no minor details, it is executed in a free and wide manner in which cool silver-grey and silver-olive tints prevail. This painting marks a turn in Aivazovsky's art which began yet in the 1870s. The early romantic manner, with its effective storms, lightning and beautiful dawns, was transformed into a more objective consideration of nature.

Aivazovsky's former studio displays the works influenced by his numerous travels. Reminiscences of his stay in Italy in the 1840s laid the foundation for his work Italian Landscape. Evening (1858). Thorough detailing and a smooth manner of painting are characteristic of this canvas, as well as the artist's other works of this period. The painting The Niagara Falls (1893) is performed in a completely different manner. The impression of what the artist saw was so great that he expressed his emotions, rather than details, in this work. This picture is also characteristic of the artist's last works.

In his pictures Misty Morning in Italy and Storm in the Arctic Ocean (1864), the artist managed to create unique colouring and to convey peculiarities of the hot South and severe North.

Next to the artist's studio is one of a number of reception rooms. Among the paintings displayed here are canvases depicting the nature of the Ukraine. In the canvas Rushes on the Dnieper (1857) the painter recreated, using delicate nuances of colour, the image of a fading summer day. The unique beauty of the Ukrainian steppe is conveyed in his works Caravan of Chumak Carts (1862) and Harvest Time in the Ukraine (1883). Ukrainian landscapes constitute an interesting period in the painter's work.

The painting Crete Island (1867) features the noble theme of the struggle of Greek insurgents against Turkish oppressors. A dramatic scene- rebels saying good-bye to the island's population - is depicted against a background of beautiful Mediterranean nature.

Aivazovsky's creative activity lasted more than 60 years, during which he created close to six thousand paintings. Not long before his death, the artist started the canvas Explosion of a Ship (1900). The episode depicted in this picture is dedicated to the events of the Greco - Turkish War.

Graphic art occupies a prominent place in the painter's creative activity. More than 270 of his graphic works are kept in the Theodosia Picture Gallery. Many of them are marked by excellent artistic skill and ingenuousness and lyricism in percepting the nature.

The main goal, as understood by the workers of the Theodosia Picture Gallery, is to popularize art among the great many lovers of beauty. The gallery is gaining increasing popularity with each passing year. It has become one of the most important and well-known enlightening cultural establishments in the Crimea.

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