Ivan Aivazovsky, whose real given name was Hovhannes Aivazian, saw the light of day for the first time on 17 July 1817 in Feodosia, Russian Empire. He was the son of an Armenian merchant Konstantin Aivazian from Poland, who moved to Feodosia with his family. He had an older brother and three sisters. His education started in St. Sargis Armenian Church in Feodosia and continued with art lessons from Jacob Koch, who was a local architect. When he was 13, Aivazovsky moved to Simferopol, where he continued his education at Russian gymnasium. Later he moved to Saint Petersburg and enrolled into the Academy of Arts. He showed himself as a talented apprentice and had the honor of receiving silver medal for his diligence. In the Academy, he met famous Russian poet Pushkin. He graduated from the academy with gold medal earlier than planned. After the graduation, he moved back to Feodosia and participated in military training in Crimea.
Imperial Academy of Arts sponsored Aivazovsky’s studies in Europe, where he went in 1840, visiting Berlin, Venice, Florence, Rome Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Britain. When at the time Louvre hosted an International exhibition, he was the only painter representing Russia. This was the time when his works became popular internationally. He received a golden medal from Pope Gregory XVI and later another one from French “Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture”. After his travels and obtained success, he retuned home in 1844.
After he returned in Russia, he was given the status of an academician of the Imperial Academy of Arts. He was commissioned to paint seascapes and naval battles by the Academy. In a couple of years, he settled in Feodosia, where he built a studio and a house. He secluded himself in his house and studio and became isolated from the rest of the world. While Russian art shifted towards Realism, he was still painting Romantic works, which caused severe criticism. Aivazovsky got married in 1848 to Julia Graves. She was a teacher of English language. They lived together long enough to have four daughters, but eventually divorced in 1877 after separation in 1860.
Aivazovsky participated in military exercises in 1851, which took place in Sevastopol, however when the war started, he went to Kharkiv. After the war was over, he returned and started a series of paintings, dedicated to battles. He was awarded a status of Russian Geographical Society member in 1853. He received the Legion of Honour while working in Paris, becoming the first Russian to receive such honor. In 1857, he left Paris for Constantinople, where he was given an Order of the Medjidie. Later the same year Aivazovsky was elected as member of the Moscow Art Society. Imperial Academy of Arts granted him salary after he opened a studio in Feodosia, which later became a gallery.
In 1882, Aivazovsky married Anna Burnazian. He was 40 years her senior, but he claimed that she made him feel closer to his people. On the 50thanniversary of his work there was held an exhibition in St Petersburg. During the following years, he travelled a lot with his wife, visiting all the famous placed for sightseeing in the United States.
Aivazovsky spent his final years in Feodosia, contributing to building of the local railway network, which was linked to the entire network of the Russian Empire. He also made sure to develop reliable sources of supplying fresh water to the whole city. He died in Feodosia on April 19, 1900 and was buried near the St. Sargis Armenian Church.
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