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The Rainbow, Ivan Aivazovsky - Description of the Painting

The Rainbow, Ivan Aivazovsky - Description of the Painting


The Rainbow - Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky. 1873. Oil on canvas. 102 x 132 cm


Written back in 1873, "The Rainbow" by Aivazovsky was the start of a new period in his work. Unlike all his previous paintings, done in bright, contrasting colors, in this one the artist applied more muted, pastel hues. At the same time, the play of light and shadow is subtly conveying the emotional mood of the painting, making the viewer empathize with its main characters.

It involves you in the story told by the artist, allowing you to feel the whole range of emotions from despair to the main motive, which is the hope. You feel both the transparency and weightlessness of water droplets in the air, and its crushing sea power.

The painting demonstrated a rocky seacoast, hardly distinguishable in the water fog, looming menacingly over a sinking vessel, flowing onto the reefs. The whole background is in shadow and symbolizes the tragedy, causing pain and fear for the people who remained on board with no more chance to survive.

In the meantime, in the center forward part of the plot is a boat is shown with those who managed to leave the ship, attempting to survive. Most of them are sitting hunched under the rolling waves, trying to keep themselves in the fragile craft.

But amid a formidable sky, the sun peeps out to illuminate these desperate daredevils with the rays of hope. And even though the source of light stays outside the borders of the picture, one can unmistakably guess that salvation is close, looking at the sparkling rainbow, the reflection on the wings of a flying seagull, and on the lightened waves surrounding the craft.

And although one of the sailors is anxiously gazing at the boundaries of the rocks, and the people with oars are aware of the futility of resisting the elements, the viewer still evidentially feels that not everything is lost. One of the sailors, who stood up to his full height and is saluting the sun with his hat in his raised hand, confirms the suggestion.

Gradually, those clinging to the sides of the boat because of the fear of being washed into the abyss, start raising their heads.

“The Rainbow” tells an interesting and intriguing story with an open ending: the sailors have not yet reached the coast, they have not completely survived, but one wants to believe in a successful outcome, since all the hidden symbols point to same.
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