Aivazovsky Picture Gallery. Pages of History.


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  ...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 facade of the gallery.  8 KbThe Theodosia Aivazovsky Picture Gallery is one of the oldest art museums in our country. It is located in the house in which the outstanding painter of seascapes Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900) lived and worked. The house was designed by the painter himself and built in 1845. Thirty-five years later, Aivazovsky ordered a large hall built to adjoin the house. This hall was intended to display his paintings before they were sent to exhibitions in other cities of Russia and abroad. Thus, 1880 is considered to be the year of the gallery's official foundation.
In the 19th century, the picture gallery stood out among other architectural structures in Theodosia, as it does at present. The gallery stands on the very coast and reminds one of an Italian villa. This impression is even stronger when one notices the dark red paint on its walls, sculptures of ancient gods in the bays as well as pilasters of grey marble going around the facade. Such features are unusual in the Crimea. Ornamental ironwork on balconies complete the effect.

In Aivazovsky's times, the gallery was known far beyond the Crimea and was a unique cultural centre in Theodosia. After the artist's death, the gallery continued to exist but this, in fact, was its most unsuccessful period. Although, according to the painter's will, the gallery became the property of the city of Theodosia, local authorities cared little about it. The year 1921 can be truly considered the gallery's second birth. In this year, Aivazovsky's house and collection of paintings were nationalized.

While designing the house, the artist thought out the purpose of each room. That is why reception rooms did not adjoin the dwelling section of the house, while the artist's room and studio were connected with the exhibition hall. High ceilings, parqueted floors in the second storey halls and the panorama of Theodosia bay seen from the windows, create an atmosphere of vastness and romanticism.

The core of Theodosia's Picture Gallery are the 49 paintings bequeathed by the artist to the city. In 1922, when the gallery opened to the first Soviet visitors, the collection had only these 49 canvases. In 1923, the gallery received 523 paintings from the collection of Aivazovsky's grandson, M. Latri. Later arrived the works of artists L. Lagorio and A. Fessler. In 1925, the first folio with Aivazovsky's graphic works was purchased by the gallery while in 1927, the museum's collection was enriched with works by K. Bogayevsky and M. Voloshin. Rooms on the first floor, formerly used as living quarters, were now employed as exhibition halls. In the 1930s, a great number of works by Aivazovsky and his pupils started to come to the gallery from the country's museums. In 1940, few, but very precious, marines by Western European masters of the 17th- 19th centuries were sent from the State Hermitage. In the two post-revolutionary decades, the Theodosia picture gallery's collection of Aivazovsky's paintings and drawings reached 150 works. Compared with 1923, the number of visitors increased 15 times. The popularizing, collecting and research work at the museum greatly improved.

In the first days of the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War, a decision was made to evacuate the collection from Theodosia. On the night of September 30, 1941, the paintings were loaded onto the steamer Kalinin. Within some hours, the vessel safely delivered the precious freight to Novorossiysk from where the paintings were forwarded to Krasnodar. There, a temporary exhibition was opened. The collection's further travels took it to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. The paintings stayed there for two years. Only in the fall of 1944 did the paintings return to Theodosia. Aivazovsky's house was restored and on May 2, 1946, the gallery resumed operations.

In the postwar years, Aivazovsky's paintings were displayed in eight halls. The other four exhibited works by the artist's pupils, contemporaries and grandsons. In conformity with this, the exposition is divided into two sections.

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