25 - 28 November 2012 Russian Art Auctions

25 November 2012

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

The Survivors

* 25. AIVAZOVSKY, IVAN (1817–1900)

The Survivors, signed twice in Latin and Cyrillic and dated 1876.

Oil on canvas, 47.5 by 64 cm.
250,000–350,000 GBP

Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.

The present work has been examined by Gianni Caffiero and Ivan Samarine and has been entered under number CS-1876-010 into their catalogue raisonné for the artist.

Ivan Aivazovsky made his name as a painter of stormy seascapes and shipwrecks, and he remains unparalleled in his ability to convey the beauty and power of the sea.

By the 1870s Aivazovsky had achieved widespread recognition and held professorships in the academies of Rome, Paris, Amsterdam and St Petersburg. He adhered to the Classical principles of composition and colour, with a relatively restrained, realistic palette and was equally skilled in depicting the raging storm or the calm, placid sea; the shimmer of sun rays reflected on the water’s surface or the ripple created by the rain; the clarity of the deep blue sea or the pristine white foam atop the waves.

Aivazovsky’s unique manner of depicting the sea and the translucent waves crashing into cliffs, as well as his impressive visual memory enabled him to reproduce on canvas the various states of nature he had encountered on his voyages. He would often forsake the accuracy of his compositions, recreating the landscapes from memory in a generalised form, adding imaginary genre scenes and striving to convey the meteorological and light effects.

In other words, Aivazovsky employs both memory and imagination; he explained it thus: “The elements are elusive in their movements: it is impossible to depict lightning, a gust of wind or a splash of wave from life…” Nevertheless, he manages to create remarkably clear seascapes which are striking for their realism and majesty. According to Grigoriy Goldovsky, a prominent Aivazovsky scholar, “Artistic instinct shaped the master’s understanding of the relationship between the primary and the secondary. The primary goal was for him to achieve a dramatic effect of light, a peculiar rhythmical arrangement. The unity of light and air is the foundation of each single one of his compositions.”

Aivazovsky completed The Survivors in 1876, a time when he was experimenting with the subject of crashing waves permeated with sunlight. Although the composition of this painting with its turbulent sea and capsized ship is typical for Aivazovsky, its colouristic focus has been transferred to the group of survivors desperately clinging on for their lives. Devoid of dramatic colour effects and rendered in a range of subdued blue-grey tones, the composition draws the viewer’s gaze towards the shipwreck survivors by attenuating the palette with yellow and white tones.

Notes on symbols:
* Indicates 5% Import Duty Charge applies.
Ω Indicates 20% Import Duty Charge applies.
§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
† Indicates Standard VAT scheme applies, and the rate of 20% VAT will be charged on both hammer price and premium.