Lot 12
  • 12

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, 1817-1900

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
513,300 GBP
bidding is closed


  • the wrath of the seas
  • signed in Cyrillic l.r. and dated 1886; further signed in Cyrillic on reverse
  • oil on canvas


Collection of a Princely Family, Germany
Acquired by the current owner from the above in the 1940s

Catalogue Note

The comparison of Aivazovsky to J.M.W.Turner (1775-1851) is perhaps an inevitable one given that both artists painted Romantic seascapes and even met early in the Russian artist's career. Like Turner, Aivazovsky infused topography with a narrative expressiveness through unusual and dramatic light effects; both worked from memory rather than from nature, such that the balance of imagination and reality was always a precarious one. As Aivazovsky said, "A painter who copies nature becomes a slave to it, bound by hand and feet. A man without the gift of memory, gathering his impressions of living nature, can be an excellent copyist, a living photographic camera, but a genuine artist - never". In many cases, the comparison between the two artists does not extend beyond the obvious shared subject matter, but the relatively abstract nature of this work cannot fail to recall the mass of broken colouring so characteristic of Turner's later oeuvre (fig.1) rather than the meticulous detail of the monochrome Dutch seascapes in the Imperial collection which once inspired him. A feeble tinge of scarlet balances the central drama of lightning and the range of tones between the dark thunderclouds and dazzling white areas fulfils Ruskin's definition of breadth, that 'in less than a square inch in every spot of nature, no two tints are of a similar strength and colour. It is then by the subtle union of such a mass and variety of tints that true breadth only can be given'. Although in his sixties, Aivazovsky held no less than thirty four individual exhibitions from 1880 to 1888 and with this picture proves that he had lost none of his skill in depicting the fragility and transience of humanity.