Ivan Aivazovsky loved the sea most of all. He painted quickly and easily and, by his own admission, could do with postponing other his affairs. But only those that did not concern his work. Handsome, successful, he held up well in society and seemed — and even was — lucky; he was not a ladies’ man or heartthrob (contrary to the stereotypes about the artists’ bohemian lifestyle), did not abuse alcohol, actively helped the city that gave him start in life and in painting, the latter being even more important. The fashion for plein air widespread at that time did not captivate him. Aivazovsky himself knew how, where and what to paint.
1.2. Self-portrait from the Aivazovsky Feodosia Art Gallery.
Nature is everything for the artist, in its depths is our instruction.
A person who is not gifted with a memory preserving the impressions of living nature can be an excellent copier, a living photographic apparatus, but never a true artist. The movements of the living elements are imperceptible for the brush: you can't paint lightning, a gust of wind, a surge of waves from nature.
There are probably those who have devoted themselves to landscape and marine painting among you, who may be impressed by my paintings. I warn you against much fascination and imitating these pictures. Imitations harm the artist’s independent development. You can adopt the technique of one or another artist, but the rest you must achieve by studying and imitating nature. Try to be real to the full extent, until the accumulated stock of nature study and knowledge gives you the right to freely convey your personal artistic impressions on canvas.
I willingly spend winter in St. Petersburg, but a little spring wind blows, my homesickness attacks me — I am drawn to the Crimea, to the Black Sea.
I always remember my deceased friend who told me more than once: “Why do you, Ivan Konstantinovich, fight for a railway in Feodosia, it would only pollute the coast and block the wonderful view of the bay from your house.” Indeed, if I only took care of myself, then I should do my best to oppose the construction of the Feodosia railway. My estate is located near Feodosia, far from the projected railway line, therefore I am not even supposed to use it. The only house I own in Feodosia, in which I live may become uninhabited with the construction of a railway along the seashore; in any case, it would lose the character of a snug home for me. Those who know how to sacrifice their personal interests for the public good will easily understand the motives I am guided by in defending Feodosia...
While the nature and structure of ocean waves are completely, completely different from those on the Black Sea. Although no, they are the same, but the ocean waves are large, and the effect of their hit on a too sloping coast is somewhat different. Different lighting, of course.
For me, to live is to work.
Really, I cannot point to my best works for the reason that soon after their completion, I see many shortcomings in them, and the only consolation is that I’ll paint better later, which is why I don’t like to have them at my place for a long time.
One of my weaknesses, which is difficult to wean, is to postpone everything. Except for the strong impressions [of] the moments of nature,
All painting is a weak imitation of nature.
The subject of a painting originates from my memory, like the plot of a poem in the poet’s.
All these social successes are nonsense, they please me for just a moment, and my main happiness is my success in improvement.
I got married like a true artist, that is, I fell in love like never before. It was all over in two weeks. Now... I tell you that I am so happy that I could not imagine even half of it. My best paintings are those painted by inspiration, since I got married (about his first wife, Julia Greives — ed.).
I love you, and from your deep eyes a whole mysterious world flickers for me, exposing almost witchcraft power. And when, in the silence of the studio, I cannot remember your look, my picture gets dim... (about his second wife Anna Sarkizova)
Those paintings, in which the main force is the sunlight ... must be considered the best.
Having made a sketch on a piece of paper, I get to work and I do not move away from the canvas, until I express myself with my brush.
Like a bee, I suck honey from a flower garden to bring a grateful tribute to Mother Russia with my labour.
It’s a shame to turn away from your people, especially so small and oppressed.
Ease is a result of hard work.
The idealization of living nature is an extreme, which I have always avoided in my paintings, but I’ve always felt the poetry of nature, I feel it and try to convey it with my brush. The charm of a moonlit night, the bliss of a clear sunset, the horror of a storm or a hurricane — these are the feelings that inspire me when I paint pictures.
I prefer a day in Italy to months in the north.
I can’t tinker with a painting for a long time...
When I move away from the area depicted in my painting, its details appear even more clearly and vividly in my imagination... Inspired by the view of a picturesque area with spectacular lighting, or by some moment of a storm, I retain their memory for many years...
Having studied carefully the atmospheric changes, the play of light and shadow on the sea waves, on the mountain tops, on the trees, I can reproduce them as something familiar to me for a long time, with the speed for which some strict judges reproach me.
My imagination is stronger than the receptivity of actual impressions.
This is a quiet sea
Who have lived
For quarter of a century
Without clouds and worries
Happy and enviable
But, indeed, monotonous and boring.
(a dedication poem that Aivazovsky wrote on a piece of paper — probably in order to transfer it to the back of the picture, which he was going to present to someone close to him – ed.)
Title illustration: Oleg Shupliak. Portrait of Aivazovsky.
Quotes collected by Aliona Esaulova
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