Ukrainian Avant-Garde Art 1910s-1930s

By Dmytro Gorbachev

"ART" Publisher, 1996, Kyiv

Art has never been unchangeable. It is evident that  Ukrainian art could not grow stiff. As far back as the revolution, we had Futurists and Constructivists and Cubists. All that was choked from above. M. Butovych. New York. 1956 In  1963, the destroyer of Ukrainian Avant-garde, art critic Kuriltseva,  complacently summed up the results of her activities: "Where have the once  notorious Bohomazov and the Pastukhov brothers vanished? They disappeared from  art without trace, as if they had never existed."*

Her  generation triumphed: Khrushchev himself headed the struggle against  abstractionism and other 'isms/ They persecuted leftists for decades, killed  the Boichukists, in 1937, in the People's Commissariat for Public Education,  burnt down portraits of 'the enemies of the people' painted by Petrytsky, cut  paintings by Sedlyar, Shekhtman and Hvozdyk in the Kyiv Museum of Russian Art,  in 1952, passed death sentences to canvases by Palmov, Bohomazov and others in  the Museum of Ukrainian Fine Arts, and, in the same year, destroyed works by  Arkhypenko, Kovzhun and Narbut in Lviv, and fired Yermylov and Synyakova from  the Artists Union for their pro-Western moods.

Meanwhile, the youth of the 1960s tried to find  information on Ukrainian Avant-garde art and discovered a hot mainland of  Ukrainian art history. They sought out the survived Boichukists and  Constructivists Pavlenko, Yermylov, Bizyukov, Vrona, Pecharkovska, Kolos, and  the widows and relatives of the deceased Bohomazova, Petrytska, Redko,  Zhdanko, Khvostenko, and Manevych. They searched in the funds, archives and  libraries. They also informed collectors Sigalov, Ivakin, Sveshnikov and  Lobanov-Rostovsky, as well as consulted with researchers from Moscow,  Leningrad, Warsaw, Paris, and the USA. They risked their careers and freedom  to penetrate Ukrainian diaspora 'In search of the time past."

A counter current of interest was from Western art historians, specializing in  Russian art, who told each other "Go to Kyiv, there is Bohomazov." As it  turned out, the roots of Russian Avant-garde could be found in Ukraine. For  example, what was Goncharova's paintings inspired with? ˜ the Polovtsian stone  images on the steppes of Ukraine. Which cities were associated with the life  and work of the Futurist and trans-rationalist Terentyev? ˜ Kherson, Kharkiv,  Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk. Why did Malevych make such frequent mentions of  Pymonenko and "the famous master from Chernihiv, Murashko" in the last years  of his life? What does the title of Exter's painting, Fundukleyivska at Night,  mean? How can you explain why Davyd Burlyuk called himself a  'Tartar-Za-porozhian Futurist'? How did it happen that Matyushin, prohibited  in Leningrad, was readily published in Kharkiv? 

Deciding these questions, some Western historians of  Russian art became historians of Ukrainian Avant-garde as well (the Marcades ˜  France, Boiko ˜ Poland, Bowlt ˜ the USA, Nakov ˜ France, Mudrak ˜ the  USA).

Furthermore, well-known London art collector, Mr.  Lobanov-Rostovsky, collects sketches by stage designers of the Kyiv school,  Exter, Meller, Petrytsky, Khvostov, Rabynovych, Tyshler and Chelishchev. At  the 1988 exhibition of his collection of paintings in Moscow, he told me with  conviction: 'You must write a book on five uniquely gifted Ukrainian artists:  Arkhypenko, Bohomazov, Exter, Yermylov and Petrytsky." I gladly consented to  this proposition adding to the list some more names ˜ Malevych, Palmov,  Tatlin, Burlyuk and Boichuk. These are the great names around which dozens of  students and adherents grouped establishing various art trends, schools and  currents. Through them, Ukrainian culture was rapidly Europeanized, while in  Europe and America it began to breathe with Rus-Ukraine. Unfortunately,  Stalin's terror cut off informatbn of Ukrainian art to the  world.

...The notion 'Ukrainian Avant-garde' was introduced by  Paris art critic, Nakov, in reference to the exhibition, Tatlin's Dream, held  in London in 1973. For the first time ever, the West saw world-class works by  Yermylov and Bohomazov, two obscure Avant-gardists from Ukraine. Their works  brought to mind the names of world-famous masters whose origin, education,  self-perception and national traditions were linked with Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv,  Odessa and with the Ukrainian cultural tradition in general. Among them were  Burlyuk, "the most faithful son of Ukraine," the Pole, Malevych, who  considered himself to be a Ukrainian; Tatlin, professor of the Kyiv Art  Institute and bandura-player; Exter, the founder of the Ukrainian school of  constructivist stage design. And lastly, Arkhypenko, who was inspired by his  indelible impressions of his homeland, the magic of the Tripillya civilizatbn.  the archaic Polovtsian stone images, the resonant contours of mosaics in the  St. Sophia of Kyiv and reliefs of St. Michael's Cathedral of the Golden Domes,  and the colours of folk ceramics.

Dmytro Gorbachev,"Ukrainian Avant-Garde Art  1910s-1930s",
"ART" Publisher, 1996, Kyiv