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Karl Brullov, self-portrait.Karl Brullov

The story of Karl Brullov (1799-1852 ) cannot be told without "The Last Day of Pompeii" and the story of Russian fine art cannot be told without Brullov. Not only was he the first Russian painter of world renown, he was also Russia’s first Romantic artist introducing Western art and Romanticism to Russia.

He greatly influenced the painting of the 1840s and 1850s, particularly the artists Ge, Aivazovskii, Fedotov, and Repin.

Karl Brullov. Portrait of the Foster Children of Countess Samoilova. 1832. Oil on canvas. The Tretyakov Gallery.Karl Brullov was born in 1799 in St. Petersburg into the family of painters: his great grand-father, his grand-father, his father and his two elder brothers Fedor and Alexander were artists. In 1809-1821, Karl studied art in the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg.

He displayed such enormous talent that everyone expected him to surpass his teachers by graduation, which he did.

riullov graduated from the Academy with honors and was sent along with his brother Alexander to Italy to study art as pensioners of the Society for the Promotion of artists.

Karl Brullov. Portrait of Princess Z. Volkonskaya. 1842. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum, St-Petersburg.He spent in Italy 13 years, studying art of the ancient Italy, copying the antiques in the museums and making a lot of drawings in the streets of Rome. He painted portraits, both ceremonial and intimate ones, and created series of genre scenes of everyday Roman life. The most important of his genre works was "Italian Midday".

In Italy Brullov created over 120 portraits in various techniques. Among them are portraits of the Russian aristocracy, residing in Italy - "Prince G. Gagarin", "Countess Y. Samoilova and her foster children", "Princess Z. Volkonskaya" etc.

Brullov, Italian Midday.One of the requirements of the Society for the Promotion of artists for its pensioners was to paint a big historical picture. In 1827, Brullov visited the excavation site of Pompeii, a town destroyed and buried in hot lava during an eruption of Volcano Vesuvius on August 24, 79 A.D. Brullov was deeply impressed when he saw the town, preserved under the layer of lava, where a life was suddenly stopped.

Six years were to pass between the first conception and its materialization.

n 1833, Karl Brullov painted the finishing touches on his monumental "The Last Day of Pompeii" and opened his studio door for the world to see.

The large, complex painting was populated by twenty-seven human figures, each of them expressing an emotion on his or her face - alarm, fright, agony, resignation, or the quiet repose of death - as the destruction rained down upon them from the exploding Mount Vesuvius.

The reaction in Italy was one of astonishment and acclaim. Painting was also exhibited in Louvre, Paris. His fame became so great that the academies of art in the city-states of Florence, Milan, and Bologna elected him a membership, the jury at the Paris Art Salon awarded the painting a gold medal, and Tsar Nicholas I summoned him home to do a painting for him.

Karl Brullov. The Last Day of Pompeii. 1830-1833. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum, St-Petersburg, Russia.
Karl Brullov. The Last Day of Pompeii. 1830-1833. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum, St-Petersburg, Russia.

The "Last Day of Pompeii" established Brullov’s reputation, but his greatest legacy is found in his portraiture. In both Italy and Russia, the rich and famous pleaded to sit for him. In his portraits, Brullov succeeded in capturing the heart and spirit of those he painted.

Karl Brullov. Portrait of Countess Julia Samoilova. 1842.In 1849, Brullov had to come to Italy again for his deteriorating health, which was due to his unhappy marriage and his hard work on the paintings of St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, which he was unable to finish. He spent one year on Madeira, the climate of each was believed to be beneficial for the patients with heart diseases, and his last two years in Rome. He created several excellent works during these years, including portraits of members of Tittoni family, with whom he was very close. He died in Rome on June 23, 1852.

Karl Brullov, Portrait of Princess Y. Saltykova. 1841. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum, St-Petersburg.
Karl Brullov, Portrait of Princess Y. Saltykova. 1841. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum, St-Petersburg.

Ivan Aivazovsky

Ivan Aivazovsky. Meeting of the Brig Mercury with the Russian Squadron After the Defeat of Two Turkish Battleships. 1848. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900) was born in the family of a merchant of Armenian origin in the town of Feodosia, Crimea. His parents were under strained circumstances and he spent his childhood in poverty. With the help of people who had noticed the talented youth, he entered the Simpheropol gymnasium, and then the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, where he took the landscape painting course and was especially interested in marine landscapes.

In 1837, Aivazovsky received the Major Gold Medal for Calm in the Gulf of Finland (1836) and The Great Roads at Kronstadt (1836), which allowed him to go on a long study trip abroad. However the artist first went to the Crimea to perfect himself in his chosen genre by painting the sea and views of Crimean coastal towns.

Ivan Aivazovsky. Shipwreck. 1876. Oil on canvas. The Aivazovsky Art Gallery, Feodosia, Ukraine.During the period of 1840-1844 Aivazovsky, as a pensioner of the Academy of Arts, spent time in Italy, traveled to Germany, France, Spain, and Holland. He worked much and had many exhibitions, meeting everywhere with success. He painted a lot of marine landscapes, which became very popular in Italy: The Bay of Naples by Moonlight (1842), Seashore.

In the course of his work, Aivazovsky evolved his own method of depicting the motion of the sea – from memory, without preliminary sketches, limiting himself to rough pencil outlines.

Ivan Aivazovsky. The Bay of Naples by Moonlight. 1842. Oil on canvas. The Aivazovsky Art Gallery, Feodosia, Ukraine.Aivazovsky’s phenomenal memory and romantic imagination allowed him to do all this with incomparable brilliance. The development of this new method reflected the spirit of the age, when the ever-increasing romantic tendencies put an artist's imagination to the front.

Towards the 1850s the romantic features in Aivazovsky’s work became increasingly pronounced. This can be seen quite clearly in one of his best and most famous paintings The Tenth Wave (1850) and also in Moonlit Night (1849), The Sea. Koktebel. (1853), Storm (1854) and others.

Aivazovski - The Tenth Wave, 1850.

The process, which determined the development of Russian art in the second half of the 19th century, also affected Aivazovsky. A new and consistently realistic tendency appeared in his work, although the romantic features still remained.

Aivazovsky left more than 6000 paintings
, which are of very different value. There are masterpieces and there are very timid works. He failed to draw landscapes, could not draw a man.

Aivazovsky got good commissions and became rich. He spent much money for charity, especially for his native town, he opened in Feodosia the first School of Arts (in 1865), then the Art Gallery (in 1889). He was a member of Academies of Stuttgart, Florence, Rome and Amsterdam.

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