In the second half of the nineteenth century realistic trends became dominant in Russian culture and did not pass by Aivazovsky. The new spirit of conscious and consistent realism had its effect on his work as on that of many others, but his romantic inclinations persisted.
The final third of the nineteenth century witnessed a flowering of realism in all genres of Russian art. It was then that the members of the Society for Circulating Art Exhibitions (the Peredvizhniki) were creating their best works, and names like
Shishkin and Levitan came to the fore. Aivazovsky's talent also took a new direction at the beginning of the 1870s. The somewhat sugary picturesqueness of his early works gave way to a more realist vision of the world. The romantic tension does not leave his pictures but takes on a sterner, more restrained character.
In Rainbow (1873) the artist uses more subtle colouration as if he had begun to look at the sea with new and more discerning eyes. The waves and spray-soaked air are painted more authentically than before.
At first sight there is nothing unusual in the picture
View of the Sea by Moonlight (1878) — the full moon penetrating a light cloud-cover, the line of mountains in the distance, the moon's reflection stretching like a watery pathway, broken by ripples. But all of this is painted in a new way: the movement of the waves is more intense, there is a more imposing sense of space and the beauty of the southern night is more subtly conveyed.
Who's made of stone, who's made of mud,
And I'm made from silver and shine.
My act is betrayal, my name is Marina,
The fragile sea foam am I.
Who is made from mud, who is made from flesh -
There's coffin and coffin plates..
Baptized in a sea font and unceasingly
Broken in my flight!
Through every heart, through every net
Will poke its head my will.
You will not make me the salt of the earth
Can you see these my loose curls?
I resurrect with each wave, pounding
Against your granite knees!
May be well the foam - the high foam -
The high foam of the seas!