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The Aivazovsky Picture Gallery in Feodosia

My sincere wish is that the building of my art gallery in the city of Feodosia with all its canvases, statues and other pieces of art be the complete property of Feodosia as a memento of me, Aivazovsky, I bequeath this gallery to Feodosia, my home city.

From I. Aivazovsky's will

The Feodosia Picture Gallery is one of the oldest art museums in our country. It is located in the house in which the outstanding painter of seascapes Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900) lived and worked. The house was designed by the painter himself and built in ' 1845. Thirty-five years later, Aivazovsky ordered a large hall built to adjoin the house. This hall was intended to display his paintings before they were sent to exhibitions in other cities of Russia and abroad. Thus, 1880 is considered to be the year of the gallery's official foundation.

In Aivazovsky's times, the gallery was known far beyond the Crimea and was a unique cultural centre in Feodosia. After the artist's death, the gallery continued to exist but this, in fact, was its most unsuccessful period. Although, according to the painter's will, the gallery became the property of the city of Feodosia, local authorities cared little about it. The year 1921 can be truly considered the gallery's second birth. In this year, Aivazovsky's house and collection of paintings were nationalized.

In the 19th century, the picture gallery stood out among other architectural structures in Feodosia, as it does at present. The gallery stands on the very coast and reminds one of an Italian villa. This impression is even stronger when one notices the dark red paint on its walls, sculptures of ancient gods in the bays as well as pilasters of grey marble going around the facade. Such features are unusual in the Crimea. Ornamental ironwork on balconies complete the effect.

While designing the house, the artist thought out the purpose of each room. That is why reception rooms did not adjoin the dwelling section of the house, while the artist's room and studio were connected with the exhibition hall.

High ceilings, parqueted floors in the second storey halls and the panorama of Feodosia bay seen from the windows, create an atmosphere of vastness and romanticism.

The core of Feodosia's Picture Gallery are the 49 paintings bequeathed by the artist to the city. In 1922, when the gallery opened to the first Soviet visitors, the collection had only these 49 canvases. In 1923, the gallerv received 523 paintings from the collection of Aivazovsky's grandson, M. Latri. Later arrived the works of artists L. Lagorio and A. Fessler. In 1925, the first folio with Aivazovsky's graphic works was purchased by the gallery while in 1927, the museum's collection was enriched with works by K. Bogayevsky and M. Voloshin. Rooms on the first floor, formerly used as living quarters, were now employed as exhibition halls. In the 1930s, a great number of works by Aivazovsky and his pupils started to come to the gallery from the country's museums. In 1940, few but very precious, marines by Western European masters of the 17th-19th centuries were sent from the State Hermitage. In the two post-revolutionary decades, the Feodosia picture gallery's collection of Aivazovsky's paintings and drawings reached 150 works. Compared with 1923, the number of visitors increased 15 times. The popularizing, collecting and research work at the museum greatly improved. In the first days of the 1941 - 1945 Great Patriotic War, a decision was made to evacuate the collection from Feodosia. On the night of September 30, 1941, the paintings were loaded into the steamer Kalinin. Within some hours, the vessel safely delivered the precious freight to Novorossiysk from where the paintings were forwarded to Krasnodar. There, a temporary exhibition was opened. The collection's further travels took it to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. The paintings stayed there for two years. Only in the fall of 1944 did the paintings return to Feodosia. Aivazovsky's house was restored and on May 2, 1946, the gallery resumed operations.

In the postwar years, Aivazovsky's paintings were displayed in eight halls. The other four exhibited works by the artist's pupils, contemporaries and grandsons. In conformity with this, the exposition is divided into two sections.

The exposition starts with the memorial section whose exhibits tell about the main events in the life and work of the painter, as well as the stages of the gallery's development and work. The pictures displayed in the second, Big Hall, are truly considered to be the pearls of the gallery's collection. Its canvases describe the main stages of Aivazovsky's creative activity including his studies at the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts up till the last years of his life.

The beginning of the artist's creativity is characterized by such works as Seacoast at Night (1837), Yalta (1838), Old Feodosia (1839).

In the work Seacoast at Might, which he painted while still a student of the Academy, Aivazovsky masterfully depicted a silvery-blue sky with low clouds floating over the rough golden-green sea and ships heeling under the blows of the wind.

Skilfully painted, although influenced by S. Shchedrin, is the picture Yalta. The young artist managed to convey the uniqueness and beauty of the landscape. Aivazovsky was not striving to find a complex theme and a well-thought composition. In this case, the artist succeeded in turning a simple tune into a rich melody, similar to a great musician playing a masterpiece on the simplest instrument.

Aivazovsky's years abroad greatly influenced the molding of his talent. His acquaintance with the masterpieces of world art in European museums enriched the painter, while the generous Italian nature inspired him to create such pictures as Bay of Naples on a Moonlit Night (1842), Bay of Naples in the Morning (1843), Ship-wreck (1843). These works indicate that, yet in his early years as a painter, Aivazovsky showed an ability to permeate his works with light, a feeling of colour, line and composition. Aivazovsky's beautiful moonlit marines are thought to be the most lyrical page in the art of this outstanding seascape painter. Among these pictures one should list the landscapes Monastery of St. George (1846) and Venice (1849). The latter conveys, with extreme clarity, a feeling of calm, quietude and inspiration; everything is permeated with the beauty of a moonlit night. Outstanding is the centre of the canvas depicting the rays of the moon. Gradually fading, this tender light envelops the horizon and dissolves into the blue thickness of the night sky.

The romantic character of Aivazovsky's art is acutely felt in his work Sea (1853). This canvas attracts art lovers with its cheerfulness and poetic emotion in depicting a crimson dawn over Koktebel Bay. Aivazovsky was given the honorary title of Painter of the Chief Naval Headquarters. He created canvases dedicated to the history of the Russian Navy. These include Battle in the Strait of Chios (1848), Battle of Cesme (1848), The Siege of Sevastopol (1859), Malakhov Mound (1893), Two Turkish Warships Attacking the Brig Mercury (1892) and The Black Sea Fleet in Feodosia (1890).

Among the canvases displayed in this hall, the picture Sea (1864) stands out by the skill of its execution. Here, the artist managed to recreate the penetrating character of the sea.

Also of interest are the artist's works painted during the last two decades of his life. As before, he liked to paint the free vastness of the sea, sails filled with wind and the high blue sky. A philosophical theme prevails in the painting Moonrise over Feodosia (1892). The ancient city with its centuries-long history was a source of inspiration for Aivazovsky. He was always concerned with questions pertaining to the city's development. In this respect, the canvas First Train in Feodosia (1892) is of great interest. The dark mass of the coast is well balanced by the greenish flickering of the sea and the moonlit sky. Aivazovsky dedicated his painting Catherine II Arriving in Feodosia (1883) to the centenary of the unification of the Crimea with Russia. In the museum's main hall, a monumental canvas From Calm to Hurricane (1895) is exhibited. Here Aivazovsky depicted the calmness of the sea, a storm building and the hurricane itself - three faces of the sea.

Amid the Waves (1898) is Aivazovsky's most perfect creation. It is a real pearl in the gallery's collection. The artist masterfully conveyed the beauty of a stormy sea; he succeeded in depicting the heroic and, at the same time, penetrating and lyrical charm of the sea. Just like a great many of Aivazovsky's other paintings, this picture is an exercise in improvisation. The artist's versatile talent is corroborated by the works exhibited in the halls on the first floor. The canvas Seacoast. Moonlit Night (1856) is marked by decorative features. Aivazovsky was successful in depicting a typical southern town and a grandiose panorama of mountains in the picture Alushta. This painting looks as if it is woven of sunlight and air; iridescent blue, greenish and golden tints conquer the imagination. A hymn to the sun and the melody of a young day are depicted in the work Sunrise (1878). This and other works are displayed in the gallery which, during the artist's lifetime, connected the exhibition hali with the artist's studio. Presently, works painted in the 1890s are exhibited here. They are mostly self-portraits dated 1892-1898 and paintings on historic themes, as Napoleon on St. Helena (1897), as well as mythological themes like Poseidon Travelling by Sea (1894). In the same hall, one of Aivazovsky's best canvases Surf at the Crimean Coast (1892) is also displayed. In this picture, the horizon symbolically splits the canvas into two almost equal parts. This creates the effect of balance between the sky and the sea. The work has no minor details, it is executed in a free and wide manner in which cool silver-grey and silver-olive tints prevail. This painting marks a turn in Aivazovsky's art which began yet in the 1870s. The early romantic manner, with its effective storms, lightning and beautiful dawns, was transformed into a more objective consideration of nature.

Aivazovsky's former studio displays the works influenced by his numerous travels. Reminiscences of his stay in Italy in the 1840s laid the foundation for his work Italian Landscape. Evening (1858). Thorough detailing and a smooth manner of painting are characteristic of this canvas, as well as of the artist's other works of this period. The painting The Niagara Falls (1893) is performed in a completely different manner. The impression of what the artist saw was so great that he expressed his emotions, rather than details, in this work. This picture is also characteristic of the artist's last works.

In his pictures Misty Morning In Italy and Storm In the Arctic Ocean (1864), the artist managed to create unique colouring and to convey peculiarities of the hot South and severe North. Next to the artist's studio is one of a number of reception rooms. Among the paintings displayed here are canvases depicting the nature of the Ukraine. In the canvas Rushes on the Dnieper (1857) the painter recreated, using delicate nuances of colour, the image of a fading summer day. The unique beauty of the Ukrainian steppe is conveyed in his works Caravan of Chumak Carts (1862) and Harvest-Time In the Ukraine (1883). Ukrainian landscapes constitute an interesting period in the painter's work.

The painting Crete Island (1867) features the noble theme of the struggle of Greek insurgents against Turkish oppressors. A dramatic scene - rebels saying goodbye to the island's population -is depicted against a background of beautiful Mediterranean nature. Aivazovsky's creative activity lasted more than 60 years, during which he created close to six thousand paintings. Not long before his death, the artist started the canvas Explosion of a Ship (1900). The episode depicted in this picture is dedicated to the events of the Greco-Turkish War. Graphic art occupies a prominent place in the painter's creative activity. More than 270 of his graphic works are kept in the Feodosia Picture Gallery. Many of them are marked by excellent artistic skill and ingenuousness and lyricism in percepting the nature. The canvases by Aivazovsky's pupils, contemporaries and grandsons exhibited in the gallery depict an entire epoch in the development of seascape painting. Full of tender lyricism are the works by A. Fessler, one of Aivazovsky's best pupils. Fessler worked in Aivazovsky's studio for many years, making copies of the latter's paintings. That's why Fessler's paintings Feodosia (1866), Yalta (1868) and especially Slmelz. Seacoast (1884) have so many features which make his works similar to the canvases of the great seascape painter.

Reserved, but skilfull and original, are the works by L. Lagorio. They are Vyborg (1848), Seascape (1870) and Alushta (1889). These paintings are executed in dull, somewhat muted colours based on the skilfull combination of greenish, blue and silvery-grey. The art of A. Bogolyubov and E. Magdesyan was formed under the direct influence of I. Aivazovsky.

Being a museum of seascape painting, the Feodosia Picture Gallery named after I. Aivazovsky has many seascapes by A. Kuindzhi, V. Surikov and N. Dubovskoi in its collection.

I. Aivazovsky's grandsons, A. Ganzen and M. Latri, occupy a special place in the gallery. M. Latri's seascapes are, in most cases, skilfully executed studies which sharply depict the impression created by a constantly changing sea with a light surf and a sky with rows of ash-grey clouds. The study Moonlit Night over the Sea is one of the painter's most interesting seascapes. It can be considered a finished work. The sky in the picture is painted in thick, wide strokes, while the way the surface of the sea is rendered is unusual for Latri: the painter put zigzag highlights of greenish-golden moonlight against the grey background of the canvas. The same strokes depict the movement of waves. The dark body of a ship stands out in the moonlit surface of the sea. The picture is very dynamic - the masses of clouds and the smooth movement of the ship in the sparkling water, all this make one sense the nature of movement. The marine Breeze painted in tempera by its mood and manner of execution is very close to works by the French artist Albert Marquet. Here Latri doesn't work out the details; strokes of paint seem to float over the waves, depicting the elusive forms of the sea's nature. The art of K. Bogayevsky, Honoured Art Worker of the Russian Federation, is closely connected with Feodosia. The collection of his graphic works and paintings, housed in the gallery, is one of the most interesting in our country. Grandiose and monumental canvases belonging to the brush of Bogayevsky are Tauric Scythia (1937), Planerskaya Bay (1930s), Mountain Landscape (1940s), Landscape with Pyramids (1940s). Love for his home town and a perfect knowledge of its history helped the artist to create such paintings as Medieval Town (1926), Feodosia (1926), Feodosia (1930). These pictures bear a thorough understanding and feeling by the artist of the peculiarities of Feodosia's ancient architecture. K. Bogayevsky was not only a painter, but also a remarkable graphic artist. His graphic works displayed in the gallery are marked by the excellent work-out of details, skill, and knowledge of various graphic techniques. Among such works are Cloud (1920s), Autumn Evening (1920s),Trees. Baran Eli (1935), Crimean Campagna (1938), Winter (1943). In the 1930s, the artist turned to an industrial theme. K. Bogayevsky created a great number of paintings and graphic works depicting construction sites of the first five-year plan periods. These include Construction of the Dnieper Hydroelectric Power Station (1931), Oil Field (1930s) and Bibi-Eibat (1938). This very series of industrial landscapes brought Bogayevsky the title of Honoured Art Worker of the Russian Federation. The uniqueness of the Feodosia Picture Gallery lies in the fact that it exhibits works by painters who have gone down in history as representatives of the 'Cimmerian' school (Cimmeria is the legendary name for the Crimea). 'Cimmerian' artists had their own feeling of the stern and restrained beauty of Eastern Crimean nature. The solemn quietude of the mountains and the wild beauty of the sea, conveyed by a specific technique, recreate the fascinating features of this land. Bogayevsky was one of the best-known representatives of the 'Cimmerian' school. The epic depth characteristic of Bogayevsky's work was also characteristic of work of another 'Cimmerian' artist - M. Voloshin. The Feodosia Picture Gallery boasts one of the largest collections of this artist's works in our country. Laconism and well-balanced compositions make his creations especially expressive. His prerevolutionary works were done in tempera {Light-Blue Bay, 1912; Blue Bay, 1913). These works helped prepare the artist to create magnificent watercolours in terms of technique and mood. Their lyrical spirit is even stronger due to their poetic names: Brass Tambourine of Night (1925), Sun's Sound from the Depth of Ages (1929), Hills of Marble and Mountains of Glass (1929), Ash Light (1929). Poetry and painting were inseparable for M. Voloshin; they complemented one another, creating an inspired image of the promised land - a bit puzzling and unrepeatable.

"The mighty breathing hums
 In the Ocean's tiny shell. 
 Her tender flesh flickers in the glow 
 Of tints and silver fog. 
 Her bends and curves, compared be with nothing, 
 Are seen in movements and in restless surf,- 
 So like my soul, my Cimmeria, country dark, 
 Is kept transfigured 
 In your fantastic harbours."

The section of the exposition dedicated to the Soviet period is represented by artists of the older generation who continue to develop the best traditions of Russian landscape painting, as well as by the works of young Crimean artists. The epic depth and might of the sea is depicted in canvases by the oldest Soviet landscape painter, V. Meshkov - Storm on the White Sea and The Barents Sea (1950s).

Reserved colouring, clarity and exceptional balance mark the work Harbour on a Quiet Day by artist V. Krainev.

Painter I. Titov can by all rights be considered the follower of the seascape painting traditions founded by I. Aivazovsky. Titov's picture Sail-Cliff exhibited in the gallery magnificently conveys the changeable beauty of the Black Sea on the Crimea's Southern Coast. Lyricism and a narrative character are present in V. Puzirkov's painting Calm. Monochrome colouring strengthens this effect. Among other works by Soviet painters displayed in the gallery, important place is given to the canvas Sea Patrol (1951) by the famous landscape painter G. Nissky. This canvas successfully conveys the austere nature of the Far East.

A visitor's acquaintance with the works of Crimean artists in the section on Soviet art starts with paintings by N. Barsamov whose name and art are inseparable from the history of the gallery and its development. The landscapes exhibited here attract attention by their clarity of composition, delicate colouring and the depth of their themes. The canvas Return (1946) deals with the years of the Great Patriotic War. Cold, dramatic colours strengthen the painting's effect.

In the prewar and first postwar years, a group of artists under N. Barsamov's direct guidance, was formed and developed at the Feodosia Picture Gallery. These painters found their place among representatives of Soviet landscape painting. Among these artists is P. Stolyarenko, Honoured Artist of the Ukrainian SSR. Emotional and expressive are his works Windy Day (1950s) and By the Coast of Kerch (1954). Decorative festivity marks the works of artist S. Mamchich from Feodosia. In his works, he understood and transformed, in his own manner, the traditions of 'true Cimmerian' artists K. Bogayevsky and M. Voloshin. The main goal, as understood by the workers of the Feodosia Picture Gallery, is to popularize art among the great many lovers of beauty. The gallery is gaining increasing popularity with each passing year. It has become one of the most important and well-known enlightening cultural establishments in the Crimea.

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