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Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (Crimean, 1817-1900)

Pushkin at the Waters Edge
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated to the lower right
31 x 40-1/2 inches (78.7 x 102.9 cm)

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky a master Russian artist was revered and copied world wide for his magnificent seascapes. The British master JMW Turner, upon seeing one of Aivazovsky's seascapes in Italy, composed a poem in honor of his work. Aivazovky has been recognized for his brilliant use of color and his depictions of the sea, in essence creating a new style of work which would make him fast friends with people such as Alexander Pushkin, the father of Russian literature, whom Aivazovsky included in this work, Pushkin at the Water's Edge.

Born in 1817 in the ancient Crimean town of Theodosia, young Ivan's charcoal drawings drew the attention of the town mayor who helped the young man enroll in the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts where he would win the gold medal. Heavily influenced by the work of Karl Briullov, Aivazovsky's works took on a romantic flair, a style that he incorporated with his love of the sea. Indeed in 1836 his instructor at the Academy took him onto the water with the Russian fleet as they conducted exercises on the Baltic Sea, an event that would shape the young artist's life forever. After winning the gold medal he was sponsored by the Academy to continue advanced studies where he chose to sail with the fleet three more times over two summers, honing his skills as a marine artist before landing in Rome to exhibit his skills which already were winning him wide acclaim.

In this painting of Pushkin at the Water's Edge, Aivazovsky incorporates all his skills at age 69 in this dynamic and peaceful scene while honoring a man he had met at the Academy Exhibition in 1836. Aivazovsky would paint several pictures of Pushkin over his lifetime, but few that are as elaborate and detailed as this one. Pushkin, with his trademark long sideburns, rests on a large rock admiring a fair lady who dangles one foot into the sea. She is undoubtedly his beloved wife over whom he was killed in a duel just one year after meeting the young artist Aivazovsky.

But it is the sky and the sea that are featured here. Aivazovsky, in comparison, uses the figures almost as props, giving scale and mass to his panoramic view of the seashore and the mountains, all transformed by the setting sun which has made the scene seem idyllic, a depiction with which the poet Pushkin would have surely agreed. The pinkish tones brought forth by the sun separate the sea foam greens and blues from the foliage of the mountains in a very delicate manner, with Aivazovsky using degrees of paint to achieve the churning of the ocean to the shimmering surf. In a twist, the artist has captured a snapshot of the beautiful, ever-changing environment to which the great poet Pushkin is temporarily oblivious, his eye turned toward the woman he loved.

The provenance for this painting that was printed in the catalogue is incorrect. The following information has been updated:

Sotheby's, London (Bokal sale, February 20, 1985, lot #226)

Heritage regrets any confusion this may have caused.

Condition Report*:

Normal signs of wear as appropriate with age.

*Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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Auction Dates
October, 2007
13th Saturday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 12
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