Ivan Aivazovsky

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Portrait of Ivan Aivazovsky by Alexey Tyranov

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (July 29, 1817 - May 5, 1900) (Russian: Иван Константинович Айвазовский, Armenian: Հովհաննես Այվազովսկի - Hovhannes Aivazovsky July 29, 1817 - May 5, 1900) was a Russian painter of Armenian descent, most famous for his seascapes, which constitute more than half of his paintings.

Born in the town of Feodosiya, Crimea, he spent his childhood in poverty. His talent as an artist earned him sponsorship and entry to the Simpheropol gymnasium and later the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, where he graduated with the gold medal. In 1838 he was sent to the Crimea for two years for independent study where he painted the beautiful works Seashore and Moon over Gurzuf. In 1840 he went abroad, returning only in 1844. He was accorded the title of academician and tasked with painting all the major Russian military ports on the Baltic Sea. In the 1840s during his stay in Italy Aivazovsky's painting gained its own individual style, and by 1850 his art was fully mature.

In later life, his paintings of naval scenes earned him a longstanding commission from the Russian Navy. He was also commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan to paint various artworks which are still hang in Turkish museums. His work also hangs in the most renowned museums throughout the world, including New York's Metropolitan Museum and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

His parents family name was Aivazian. Some of artist's paintings bear a signature, in Armenian letters, "Hovhannes Aivazian" (Russian: Ованес Айвазян).

Ivan Aivazovsky Statue in Yerevan.

With funds earned during his successful career as an artist he opened an art school and gallery in his home town of Feodosiya. Aivazovsky himself was accomplished in many areas, played the violin, was an architect, and dabbled in archeology.

Aivazovsky also spent some time working in the Caucasus, sailing to the shores of Asia, visiting Egypt during the opening of the Suez Canal and near the end of his life, in 1892, Aivazovsky even traveled to America, where he visited Washington, DC, and Niagara Falls. He produced paintings as a result of all his travels, including a famous painting of Niagara Falls that hangs in his Teodosia galley.

Due to his long life in art, Aivazovsky became the most prolific Russian painter of his day and he left over 6000 works at his death in 1900. He is reputed to be a favorite among forgers.

Recently, nouveau riche Russians and Armenians (particularly Russian Armenians) have began to buy back many Russian paintings that ended up in the West after the 1917 Communist revolution, including works by Aivazovsky. In London's 2004 fall auction season several Aivazovsky works rated among the 10 highest sales of the week at both Sotheby's and Christie's. One of them "St Isaac on a frosty day" fetched a record 1.1 million pounds (2.1 million dollars or 1.6 million euros).

On May 1, 2003, a 3.5 m tall bronze statue of Ayvazovsky was unveiled near the Yerevan chamber music hall in the Armenian capital. Created by the sculptor Yuri Petrosyan, the maquette was originally the winner of a competition that took place in 1987 to create a public work, but the commission was sidelined when there was not enough money to complete the work. The 2003 monument was funded through the patronage of the President of Armenia's "Prometheus" Company, Senik Gevorgian.