Novakivsky, Oleksa

Oil on board
9.5 x 13.5 in
Oleksa Novakivsky was the leader of the fine arts community in the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv for many years. Born in the Vinnytsia region of Ukraine, Novakivsky studied art in Odesa from 1888 to 1892, and continued his art education at the Cracow Art Academy, graduating in 1900 with a gold medal. Novakivsky exhibited prolifically from 1901, but it was the major solo exhibition in Cracow in 1911 that marked his arrival as an acclaimed artist, and gained him particular recognition. After settling in Lviv in 1913, Novakisvky became admired for his unique ability to capture the spirit and beauty of this rich city and its surroundings. He soon developed his original manner and was noted for his technique of wide-ranging experimentation. His paintings are full of emotional, vibrant colors, and his canvases gradually gravitate from impressionism to expressionism. Novakivsky’s work reveals a predilection for landscape, as well as ethnographic and allegorical themes. The artist particularly favored the magnificent Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine, which often form the subject matter of his paintings, reflecting his great love of the Ukrainian landscape. 

In 1923, Novakivsky founded a private art school in Lviv, which he headed until his death. The Novakivsky School, as it came to be known, became a major conduit for artistic innovation in this region of Europe. Unfortunately, after the Second World War, when the city of Lviv was taken over by the Soviets, several of his major paintings were destroyed. After the death of Stalin, however, the Soviet government decided to champion Novakivsky in order to win back the favor of the local artistic community, turning his studio into a museum and naming the new state art school in Lviv after Novakivsky. Many aspects of the artist’s personal and creative biography, though, were whitewashed by the Soviets in the process, and it was presented with several jarring gaps and omissions. 

Novakivsky died in 1935 in Lviv, Ukraine. His work is held in many museum and private collections in Ukraine, especially at the National Museum in Lviv (formerly Lviv Museum of Ukrainian Art), and the Novakivsky Museum, also in Lviv.

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