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Night on the Black Sea

Ivan Aivazovsky • Painting, 1879, 58×69 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Marina
Style of art: Romanticism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1879
Size: 58×69 cm
Artwork in selections: 61 selections

Description of the artwork «Night on the Black Sea»

The depiction of seascapes is a kind of cult in the artwork of Ivan Aivazovsky, and his genius has no equal. In all the artist’s canvases, the main focus is always on the sea. Everything else — people, ships, buildings in the background — only serves as a harmonious addition to the subject, creating an entourage. Thus, in the Night on the Black Sea painting by Aivazovsky, all attention is focused on the natural elements.

The sea has attracted the artist since childhood. He admired it for a long time, carefully studied every detail, every cloud or pebble on the shore, in order to display this perfection of nature on canvas as realistically as possible. Aivazovsky was born and raised in Feodosia, where he met his main muse, the Black Sea. It appears in most of the artist’s works, in a variety of forms and states. At the same time, the painter tries to convey not only the naturalism of the natural elements, but also puts psychological meaning in his works. Each canvas by the maestro is filled with philosophy and makes viewer think about life in one way or another. First of all it witnesses about the emotional and dreamy nature of the genius.

Aivazovsky’s Night on the Black Sea is considered one of his most powerful works. The canvas depicts the moon that is partly hidden behind the clouds to illuminate the way for sea travellers. And the restless water that is splashing out from the banks is literally filled with its glow. This light is shed on the clouds, making the seascape more saturated. When Aivazovsky depicted the Black Sea, he loved to play with light, setting the tone for the entire canvas, giving it a certain mood. This technique allowed him to convey the special beauty of the water surface, to outline the volume of waves that are slowly moving across the water.

Despite the fact that Aivazovsky’s Night on the Black Sea painting depicts a small storm, it evokes a feeling of calm and tranquillity. The ship smoothly cuts the water towards its destination. The artist depicted it in the distance to give the effect of infinity to the sea. The moon serves as the main reference point for the ship, directing its movement and accompanying it throughout the journey, like a faithful companion.

Laconic colours create an integral palette of the canvas. The painter chose a restricted palette, which made it possible to recreate the night landscape realistically and convey the state of nature. The restless sea is clearly outlined from the heavenly expanse by the horizon line. The dark firmament looks like a black abyss compared to the brightly lit water surface.

This landscape conveys the great power and beauty of the natural elements, which turn the small boat into a defenseless toy. Any moment, it can become a victim of the rapacious sea. Aivazovsky makes you think about this, feel the full power of nature. And if you look more closely, you can even feel how a light breeze runs over your skin, moving the waves in the picture.