Like a mighty ocean that consists of an uncountable number of tiny drops, the world of an artist comprises any impressions from his childhood, youth, and whole life. And although it is quite impossible to study the process of creation, one can well try to imagine it on the basis of some facts from the painter's biography.
A boy named Ovanes was born in Feodosia, a seaside Crimean town and former Genoese colony, on July 17, 1817 in the family of Konstantin Gaivazovskiy. And the great Black Sea with tender gentility of its calm mornings and terrible fury of night storms when the small town seemed to be drowned with its gigantic waves had imprinted in the heart of the child forever. And of course the boy believed the Sea to be alive and endowed with a soul similar to that of his own. Much later, asked about the purpose which made him to create only seascapes, the artist said, 'All my life I've painted the soul of a man'.
The first drawings by the future artist have not remained for one simple reason. They were made on the sand on the Black Sea beach. In the whole, in his childhood, Ovanes could hardly find more appropriate instrument than a piece of coal and better materials than white lime-washed walls of neighbouring huts. And soon the number of such works made the local Governor to issue an order to catch the person who turned the decent town into an exhibition of various ships and waves, and only in black-and-white at that. At last, the boy was 'overtaken in a fault' and brought to the Governor. The latter, noting the young age of Ovanes, solved the problem most wisely, presenting him a painting set with real brushes, colours, and paper. It was a crucial moment, and since that time the artist is said to have made 6 thousand pictures.
One of Ovanes' friends happened to be of a noble origin and his mother Natalia Naryshkina was kind enough to send several drawings by Ovanes to the Art Academy in St. Petersburg. Everybody was very amazed when the President of the Academy replied and invited Ovanes to study there on the house.>/p>
At Academy, Gaivazovskiy studied easily and successfully. Due to his great talent (he was awarded with a golden medal at one of the exhibitions arranged by the Academy) it was decided to make him graduate two years earlier than usually. And for summers he had to go to Crimea to exuberant colours of the southern sea, paint as much as he could, and in autumn bring his works back to the Academy. In one of such summers Gaivazovskiy met General Rayevskiy, a hero of the war against Napoleon's invasion of 1812. The General took the young artist to the Caucasus where Ovanes saw battle ships in action for the first time in his life. The Russo-Turkish war impressed the artist greatly and since then a large number of his works depicted various episodes from the long history of the Russian Navy.
In 1840, the Academy sent Gaivazovsky to Italy to practise. Of course, numerous great works by outstanding Italian Renaissance painters had influenced the young artist and boosted his imagination and technic. Like such other Russian famous painters as Karl Brullov and Alexander Ivanov, he studied hard and made good progress in his work.
In Venice, on the island of St. Lazarus there was an Armenian monastery where Ovanes met his brother who had become a monk there. He told Ovanes the history of their family: an Armenian Aivazyan once fled to Poland where people called him Gaivazovskiy. And, rightly considering himself a Russian painter, Ovanes Gaivazovskiy decided to confirm it with the relevant name and since that time he has been known as Ivan Aivazovskiy. In Italy, Aivazovskiy also visited Florence and Rome where he took part in an exhibition. His works "Storm" and "Chaos" (bought by Pope Gregory XVI) made him famous at once. In 1843 authorities of Paris asked him to show his works in the Louvre. After that the artist visited London, Lisbon, Madrid, and some other European cities. In Amsterdam, he was appointed member of the local Art Academy. At the age of 28, having made over 80 worthy works abroad, Aivazovskiy returned to St. Petersburg with great triumph and received the high rank of an Academician in several days.
But joys of the big city had few attractions to him, and the artist left St. Petersburg for his native seaside town of Feodosia. He built a very large house according to his own project, including a spacious studio for his work. In Feodosia, Aivazovskiy organized his own school for young local artists, teaching the next generation of marinists. There he had worked as hard as usually for some time, participating in and organizing exhibitions in St. Petersburg, and in 1847 he became a Professor before he was thirty.
In his sixties, the acknowledged painter visited Italy again. In Florence he was asked to execute his self-portrait to be placed in Pitti palace between those of Leonardo and Michelangelo.
All his life the painter had worked and travelled in search for new impressions as far as to America to see Niagara Falls and to Africa to feel the original beauty of Oriental culture. His works were demonstrated in New-York and Washington. In St. Petersburg alone he took part in more than 120 successful exhibitions. One day somebody asked aged Aivazovskiy, 'Are you pleased with your success and fame?' The artist answered, 'I'm pleased when I can see sunrise over the sea.' In 1900 the great seascape painter died leaving after him about 6 000 beautiful works.