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Storm on the sea at night, Aivazovsky - Description of the Painting

Storm on the sea at night, Aivazovsky - Description of the Painting


Storm on the sea at night - Aivazovsky. 1849. Oil on canvas. 89 x 106 cm


The water element is in the center of the plot: the raging night sea, formidable and at the same time beautiful. Reflections of moonlight are conveying the transparency and radiance of water in the Cimmerian darkness of this storm. And it is only somewhere in the shadow where you can observe the ship, which, contrary to what is expected, is not the center of the painting, but rather emphasizes the strength and power of the sea waves.

Rolling to one side, the sea ship is trying to cope with the elements that have overtaken it. On board ship, there are tiny figures of sailors, desperately fighting for their lives, while huge waves keep washing over the ship’s deck.

The emotional stress of the painting is conveyed by deep dark tones along its edges, forming a vignette and providing the viewer with a feeling of the abyss outside the illuminated space. In the meantime, the bright golden light of the moon, shown almost in the center, symbolizes the hope for salvation, the benevolence of nature towards the human trying to conquer it.

The element is carelessly playing with the seamen, but does not destroy them inevitably and ruthlessly, rather gives them a chance. It is owing to such a warm shade of lighting that the viewer instinctively feels, calm and confident, that people will survive. The wind gusts are going to subside soon, and the sea will calm down: this is evidenced by a gap between the clouds and the very appearance of the moon in the night sky. Gloomy and thick at the edge, the clouds lose their density, become lighter and more transparent closer to the lunar disk.

As always, the great marine painter has managed to convey a deep symbolism that is understandable to everyone: the fight between light and darkness, between hope and despair, a ray of light leading to the goal despite all obstacles. One can feel the infinite beauty and power of nature in every stroke of the master, in every detail of this magnificent painting.
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