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The Ninth Wave
November 25, 2013 7:31 AM   Subscribe

The late 19th century Armenian-Russian painter Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky created some truly spectacular paintings of seascapes that capture the beautiful, shimmering essence of the tumultuous waters. The marine artist gained recognition for his impeccable ability to recreate the expressive quality of oceans with over half of his 6,000+ paintings from his lifetime being devoted to the subject.
posted by timshel (14 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
These are great! They make me want to write a 19th century adventure novel, just so I can use one as the cover.
posted by fings at 7:44 AM on November 25, 2013


Oof. Unless you actually try to paint figuratively, it's hard to grasp how difficult it is to take a mental snapshot of something as dynamic as waves and then reproduce it on canvas. Even working from photographic reference, it's hard to do something like this with water, which is like painting hair: you have to paint both a solid mass (thus having surface characteristics that define a volume) and something translucent through which light is moving and interacting and radiating in a variety of ways. And Aivazovsky figured all that out without ever having a still subject to just look at and think about how to handle the multiple aspects of the subject.
posted by fatbird at 7:46 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


For someone whose Wikipedia page claims ‘He is in the highest category #1 - an artist of the world fame,’ I’m a bit embarrassed that this is the first I’ve heard of Aivazovsky: many thanks for the links. It's interesting that he & Turner met in 1842. Over 6000 paintings! Even assuming a 60 year career he must have been turning out a couple every week.
posted by misteraitch at 7:47 AM on November 25, 2013


For someone whose Wikipedia page claims ‘He is in the highest category #1 - an artist of the world fame,’ I’m a bit embarrassed that this is the first I’ve heard of Aivazovsky

I think an assertion like "he is in the highest category #1 - an artist of the world fame" is something you would only read in the Wikipedia page of an artist you'd never heard of.
posted by yoink at 9:18 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Spectacular work. He should be world famous.
posted by bearwife at 10:50 AM on November 25, 2013


He should be world famous.

Well, they're very technically proficient, and he clearly figured out a terrific technique for capturing a certain kind of luminosity-within-a-wave that hadn't been fully mastered by artists before him; but the images themselves are a bit "seen one, seen 'em all." I find it hard to imagine any one of them lingering in the mind in the way that the infinitely less photorealistic sea images of Turner do.
posted by yoink at 10:56 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lovely.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:04 AM on November 25, 2013


I had no idea Aivazovsky was anything but Russian. That is interesting.

As to whether he's a major artist or a one-trick pony, he is easily as well-known as J. M. W. Turner in Russian art. With the sole exceptions of Russian Suprematism and Futurism, it seems like all of Russian and Soviet art is considered "minor" in the West, which seems like a rather sad omission.
posted by Nomyte at 12:05 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If that really is his one trick, I really like it. It's stirring. That's all I need.
posted by ignignokt at 1:23 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Oh were it mine with sacred Maro's art
To wake to sympathy the feeling heart,
Then might I, with unrivaled strains deplore
Th' impervious horrors of a leeward shore."
--Patrick O'Brian's Mr. Mowett

Now I have a mental image to go with the poem. :)
posted by Archer25 at 6:05 PM on November 25, 2013


Bilgewater.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:17 PM on November 25, 2013


A pox upon our puny digital flatscreens! Turn them off, visit an art museum instead, and appreciate the sheer scale of artistic masterpieces created by hand and eye. Here is Aivazovsky's The Ninth Wave (1850, 87 in. × 131 in.) at the State Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg.

Impressive frame, too.
posted by cenoxo at 7:18 PM on November 25, 2013


sheer scale.. The Ninth Wave (1850, 87 in. × 131 in.)

You call that a painting? THIS is a painting.

Rubens: The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek

c. 1625

175 1/4 x 224 3/4 in. (445.1 x 570.9 cm)


I remember studying this in an art history textbook, where the dimensions are in tiny print in a footnote, I never noticed it. Then I saw it in the museum and POW it's huge. But it's not nearly the biggest painting I've seen, not even the biggest painting I've seen in a major gallery, done by a painter I know personally (with an idea he ripped off me too).

Anyway, it is easy to churn out bilgewater, it's like painting puffy clouds, it's never wrong. It's a refuge for artists who are too untalented to do proper landscapes.

The reason this guy is unknown is that he was a minor artist working in the shadow of one of the great eras of painting, Dutch Maritime painting of the Golden Age.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:05 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


One-trick sea horse.
posted by pracowity at 1:01 AM on November 26, 2013


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