Moroz, Mychajlo

Cataskill Mountains, 1961
Oil on canvas
16 x 20 in
Mychajlo Moroz, a prominent Ukrainian artist with an international reputation, is best remembered for his landscapes painted with turbulent strokes and vivid colors.

Moroz was born on July 7, 1904, in the village of Plikhiv in the Ternopil region. In 1923 he became a student in the newly established Novakivskyi School of Art, where he studied until 1927. The next two years were spent studying art in Paris on a scholarship from Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky. In Paris Moroz studied at the Académie Julian and the Conservatoire Nationale des Arts et Métiers.

While in Paris Moroz met such renowned Ukrainian artists as Oleksa Hryshchenko (Alexis Gritchenko), Mykola Hlushchenko and Vasyl Khmeliuk, who were also working in Paris in variations of the expressionist style. In Paris Moroz met the famous French artist and father of the fauvist movement, Henri Matisse. The direct encounter with the Ecole de Paris, particularly the experience of French expressionists, had a strong impact on Moroz. It reaffirmed his interest in Post-Impressionist art, derived from his studies with Novakivski, and validated his affinity for expressive colors and forms.

In 1931 Moroz traveled to Italy accompanied by his former teacher, and in 1932 he became Novakivskyi's assistant. Together they made trips to the picturesque Carpathian Mountains and were inspired to paint numerous works of the land and its people. The events of World War II and the occupation of western Ukraine by the Soviet Union interrupted Moroz's work and forced him to seek asylum for his young wife, Irena, and infant son, Ihor, in Germany.

In 1949 Moroz and his family settled in New York, where he continued to make a living as an artist. In January, 1959 he had his first of five solo exhibitions at the Panoras Gallery in New York. The journal Art News noted that: "Mychajlo Moroz, a Ukrainian, is only a newcomer to New York. The unity of the show as a whole, the fluency, the fast play of brush and color, reveal an experienced painter, a man who sees his scene all of a piece, grasps its details instinctively and with a quick technique lays it out flatly and distinctly." (January 1959).

As a result of the 1962 exhibition, The New York Times wrote that "Mychajlo Moroz is showing lively interpretations of picturesque scenes, some of which tend to go beyond the picturesque to the expressionistic." (January 23, 1962).

Moroz appeared in "Who's Who in America" from 1976 on. In 1979 his name was included in "Men of Achievement" published in Cambridge, England. The Italian Academy of Art awarded Moroz a gold medal for his paintings and made him an honorary member in 1980. An entire room in the Ukrainian Museum in Rome is dedicated to Moroz's work. In 1990 a retrospective exhibition of his work was held at The Ukrainian Museum in New York. The artist died in 1992 on Staten Island, N.Y.

Moroz's body of work includes landscapes of the Carpathian Mountains, the Alps, the Catskills, and such famous landmarks in the U.S. such as the Grand Canyon, Garden of the Gods, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the Delaware River. There are several views of Hunter, N.Y., particularly of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in the changing seasons, and of Staten Island, where Moroz lived. Throughout the years Moroz painted numerous seascapes in France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, the United States and Puerto Rico. Even though views of nature without the imprint of humans predominate, there also are many vistas of famous architectural landmarks, such as St. George Cathedral in Lviv, the Acropolis in Athens, the Coliseum and Arch of Titus in Rome and St. Mark's Square in Venice.

His achievements in terms of Ukrainian art are especially significant since a free development of art in Soviet Ukraine was not possible for nearly 50 years. It remained for émigré artists such as Moroz to carry on the traditions of modernism in Ukrainian art. It is, therefore, fitting that his name and his work are gaining the recognition they deserve in Ukraine.

THE ART SCENE: The late Mychajlo Moroz earns recognition in Ukraine and North America

by Dr. Daria Darewych

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, May 11, 1997, No. 19, Vol. LXV