Eleven years old he entered a "foreign" student in the Imperial Academy of Arts. Received for excellence in drawing two silver medals were awarded in 1824 by a small gold medal for writing the program picture "Priam begging Achilles for Hector’s corpse". In 1827 he received a gold medal and the title of the artist XIV class. Ivanov in 1830 went to Europe, through Germany, stopping for a time in Dresden, arrived in Rome. Ivanov took up "the appearance of Christ to the people". Work was delayed for twenty years (1836−1857), and only in 1858, Ivanov decided to send a picture in Saint Petersburg.
The son of the painter Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov (1806−1858) was the first professional lessons received from his father, then studied at the Academy of fine arts (AH) (1817−1828). As an auditor student, he, despite the successes, could not claim a foreign pensionerstvo, but the opportunity he was granted the Society for the encouragement of artists (OPKh).
Since 1831 Ivanov settled in Rome. Unlike most Russian artists, who lived there, he wasn’t professionally closed life: traveled to Italy, studying the monuments of art, read a lot, talked with-minded people in search of an outlet for my reflections on the meaning of life and art.
For several years he performed two paintings. The first of these, "Apollo, Hyacinth and Cypress involved in music and singing" (1831−1833), he embodied the idea of harmony of the divine and human in an idyllic world of nature. Second, "the appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene after the resurrection" (1834−1836), used the gospel story to a tangible contrast the sensual and the spiritual. This picture was sent to St. Petersburg as a pensioner of the report and was there greeted approvingly. Appreciating the strict obedience of the artist norms of academism, OH has awarded its author the title of academician. Ivanov could count on teaching at the Academy, but he was in no hurry to go back, captured a new picture — "the appearance of Christ to the people".
The first thought of her story appeared in 1833: he wanted to portray the appearance of Jesus Christ at the moment when John the Baptist performed the rite of baptism in the river Jordan. Gradually, the artist began to become aware of the significance of this watershed event in the history of mankind, and his plan began to acquire the features of grandiosity. In the picture he wanted to connect all spiritual the idea of sensual perception, religion — with accurate knowledge, the old pictorial tradition — with new achievements, Christian mythology — the mythology of ancient. In 1835 he began to paint on a fairly large canvas (172×147 cm) and was close to its completion, but in 1837 he took another canvas, seven times more, and started to work on it. The previous version he used as a working sketch, with meticulously experienced it all something new that appeared on a large canvas.
The picture has consumed the artist entirely. Unexpected and not understandable exception was made for some lovely Christmas songs from contemporary Italian life, which he created in 1839−1842, he years, while remaining a principled opponent of genre. Most likely it was due to his passionate love of Italy, and, may be, communicating with the great realist Nikolai Gogol, communication is so close that Ivanov wrote in two versions: portrait of a writer (1841) and, in addition, gave it the features of one of the characters in his paintings.
Work on the painting was delayed, and Ivanov had sent a letter to the society asking for the delay and promise that will soon finish the job. When pensionerstvo still ended, he lived on benefits, which he was able to procure (or simply beg) from different institutions or patrons. He lived in extreme poverty, saving on every little detail, sometimes to slake the hunger of bread, and thirst — water from street fountain, extracted the money went to the maintenance of a huge workshop, the purchase of art materials and paying the sitters. In order to achieve maximum vital persuasion, Ivanov a lot of effort and time to execution of field studies, finding and refining them in the faces and figures of the characters and the surrounding landscape, including the most seemingly minor details, like the rocks of the river. Scripture sketches, he continued in the 1840s, and in 1850-ies, clearly losing all sense of proportion, worrying not so much about painting, but about solving them before painting tasks. In plein-air sketches, observing and capturing the shades of the interaction of the subject with light and air environment, he anticipated some of the discoveries of the Impressionists, they have already committed in the next decade. This was in the first place, his remarkable cycle of works depicting Nude boys in nature. From sketches grew the series is excellent Italian landscapes, among which particularly impressive are the "Branch", "the Appian way at sunset and Wood in the shadows above the water near Castel Gandolfo" (late 1840s — early 1850s).
The value of preparatory sketches have long outweighed the value of the painting "appearance of Christ to the people." Its located in the State Tretyakov gallery (TG), as well as its smaller version that are stored in the State Russian Museum (RM), cannot be called a complete success: she inspires immense respect, but not touching. The artist himself obviously realized this, because he touched her less and rather out of inertia or obligation, and in 1850-ies almost abandoned it captured the new plan is even more ambitious and is frankly unrealistic. Eternal dreamer, idealist, utopian, and visionary, overwhelmed with the desire to spiritually enrich humanity, it’s a giant series of murals. They are, in his conception, was to be strictly thought-out plan on the walls of a specially constructed buildings, like the temple, and to give the audience a modern interpretation of the Bible, showing him a new and higher stage in the development of art. Keen on the idea, the artist has created an enormous number of paintings — quick sketches, preparatory drawings, layout drawings paintings. The Central place among them belongs to the so-called Biblical sketches. These watercolor compositions (over 200) for a long time after his death remained a nobody slave and caused a sensation when it was suddenly opened. The power of talent and the extent of Ivanov’s thinking manifested in them fully. Created in a fit of unending inspiration, with amazing, almost improvisatory ease, they differ in the scope and richness of imagination and genuine monumentality, which by the mid-nineteenth century European art for a long time already did not own.
Stay in Italy, Ivanov could not be infinite. Going home, he was supposed to get for his picture to any serious amount, to make her journey to the East, and upon returning to settle in Moscow, which he, unlike unloved by him of St. Petersburg, connected high hopes. Nothing materialized. In may 1858 he returned, the painting "the appearance of Christ to the people" was first shown in the Winter Palace, then in AH and did not make strong impressions, and the artist soon died of cholera.