Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovskii (1817-1900) was born Onik Gaivazovsky in the ancient Crimean town of Theodosia.
Although from humble beginnings, Aivazovskiiís enormous talent was recognized by benefactors who helped him realize his full potential. In 1833, Aivazovskii entered the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts from which he graduated in 1839. Sent abroad for finishing in art, young Aivazovskii traveled extensively. Resisting the lure of the great cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, he eventually returned to his beloved home town of Theodosia where he spent the remainder of his long, incredibly prolific life painting his favorite subjectóthe sea. During his career, the artist produced over 6,000 paintings. On the day he died, Aivazovskii left an unfinished canvas begun that day which is exhibited on its easel in the Aivazovskii Picture Gallery of Theodosia.
Although he did not limit himself exclusively to seascapes, Aivazovskiiís talent for capturing the majesty and power of the sea won him universal acclaim throughout his lifetime. For his close association with the Russian Navy, he was made an honorary Admiral. His many awards included the French Legion of Honor and the Orders of Alexander Nevsky, Vladimir, and the White Eagle.
Aivazovskii worked from memory rather than real life because, in his words, "the movement of the living elements cannot be captured by the hand: to draw lightning, gusts of wind, the shine of the waves from life is unthinkable. For this, the artist must remember them. The painter who copies nature becomes her slave..."