stolen by Russia Ковчег "Україна"

Stolen by Russia: part 1

Stolen by Russia is a military campaign to win back our cultural heritage. Ukraine has always been a cultural donor of Russia and for centuries it has been supplying the metropolis with its best artistic works, as well as talents. And Russia shamelessly appropriated everything it could get, from toilets to museum treasures. That is why we are starting the process of returning our cultural heritage.

Number 1 on our list of Russian "cultural contraband" is Dmytro Levytskyi (1735-1822). He was a Ukrainian portrait painter who worked in the fashionable aristocratic salons of the Russian Empire. An academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts and the founder of the ceremonial portrait in Russian painting. 

Levytskyi came from the noble priestly family of Nos. He was the son of the famous Kyiv painter and engraver Hryhorii Levytskyi-Nos. Born in a Kyiv regiment in the Hetmanate, Dmytro spent his early years in his parents' house in Podil. He studied at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. During his time in Kyiv, he painted a lot - helped his father create graphics for the publications of the Kyiv Cave Monastery and painted St. Andrew's Church. 

He received an invitation to study in St. Petersburg and quickly made a career, thanks in part to the patronage and commissions of the Chancellor of the Russian Empire, Count Oleksandr Bezborodko, a descendant of a Cossack family, who highly valued the artist's talent. Levytskyi created almost all the prominent representatives of his time, including Empress Catherine II. His çycle of portraits dedicated to the Smolny Institute students  is a true masterpiece of portrait painting. The Geneva Museum houses Levytsky's portrait of Denis Diderot, the only one that the great French encyclopedist recognized as good.

Volodymyr Borovykovskyi (1757 - 1825) 

- Ukrainian painter, iconographer, portraitist. Academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. Master of romantic portraiture. A native of the regimental town of Myrhorod. 

The future painter's father, Lukian Borovyk, was a respected citizen of the town, and like all his relatives - four brothers Vasyl, Petro, Ivan, Demian, and uncle Oleksii - he belonged to the Cossack officers who performed their military service. In peacetime, the family was engaged in painting - they painted images for churches around Myrhorod. 

Borovykovskyi lived in his hometown for more than 30 years, and after completing his military service, he decided to devote his life to painting and went to study art in St. Petersburg. He painted with his left hand, which was not tolerated by the church. Worked under the guidance of the founder of the imperial school of painting, Ukrainian painter Dmytro Levytskyi. In 1802, Borovykovsky was appointed an advisor to the Imperial Academy of Arts, and thus the Ukrainian became a fashionable portraitist, receiving commissions from members of the imperial family. The fees became sky-high - a portrait by Borovykovsky cost as much as a small village. He was equally successful at creating ceremonial portraits as well as paintings in the genre of sentimental pastoral and psychological miniature.

Borovikovsky never lost touch with his native land, even though he lived most of his life in St. Petersburg. He always treated his guests to borsch, and often asked his countrymen to bring him Ukrainian lard. The painter expressed his longing for  homeland with the bandura he inherited from his father, as wistful Ukrainian songs brought comfort to a lonely heart in a foreign land.

Several of his icons are kept in Ukrainian museums, and the only surviving portrait of Ukrainian period is a late 1770s portrait of Pavlo Rudenko, a Cossack, pan-marshal of the Novomoskovsk district, and later Poltava mayor, depicted against the backdrop of the Savior's Church and the monument to the Battle of Poltava, which he built at his expense.

Vasyl Tropinin (1776-1857) 

- Ukrainian-Russian portrait painter, representative of classicism. A serf who became an academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. Tropinin repeatedly admitted that he really learned painting in Ukraine: "I painted from life there without rest, picturing everything and everyone I saw. And these works of mine seem to be the best of all that I have painted so far," the artist recalled. 

He was born a serf. His owner, Count Morkov, wanted to train him as a confectioner, but considering his talent for painting, he agreed to send him as a free student to the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts to study with the famous painter Shchukin. At the Hermitage, the young man copied the works of Dutch and Flemish artists and declared himself a talented artist. His first public recognition - the painting "A Boy Mourning a Dead Bird" - was presented at an academic exhibition in 1804 and received a gold medal, and the young artist got a chance to continue his studies in Italy. 

However, fearing to lose his serf, whose work was noticed even by the Empress herself, the count hastily takes Tropinin from the Academy and sends him to his Ukrainian estate, the village of Kukavka in the Kamianets-Podilskyi province, Mohyliv district, on the Dnister river. There he ordered the talented serf to design a palace and a village church, which would be built under the artist's supervision. 

Among the many works by Tropinin, those that depict the types of Ukrainian peasants and their way of life stand out. This is a kind of "Tropinin's Ukraine" - a land of calm, good weather and peaceful labor. The most famous paintings are "Girl from Podillia" and "Portrait of a Ukrainian". In total, Tropinin created more than three thousand portraits.

Vasyl Sternberg (1818 - 1845) 

- was a Ukrainian-Russian landscape and genre painter, the first illustrator of Shevchenko's Kobzar.

He was born and studied painting in St. Petersburg. Spent his summers in Ukraine, staying at the Kachanivka estate invited by the landowner and philanthropist Hryhorii Tarnovskyi. In the summer of 1836, Sternberg visited his estate in the Chernihiv region for the first time. The beauty of the Ukrainian countryside and the way of life of Ukrainian peasants fascinated the young artist, and for three years he created a series of landscapes and genre paintings on Ukrainian themes.

From his first trip, Sternberg returned to St. Petersburg with his household watercolors "Fair in the Town of Ichne" and "Herd," for which he received a small gold medal of the second degree, and the painting "Fair in the Town of Ichne" was purchased by Emperor Nicholas I himself for his wife's collection.

During his second trip, the artist visited Kyiv and Poltava region, in addition to Kachanivka. He was impressed by the views of Kyiv, Dnipro, folk weddings and fairs. For his paintings, including 7 paintings created in Kyiv and Poltava province, the Academy Council nominated him for an award. One of the best paintings, "The Consecration of Easter Cakes in Ukraine," was bought by the emperor as a gift to his daughter, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna. The artist received a diamond ring, a large gold medal of the first degree, and the title. This gave him the opportunity to travel to Italy at the expense of the Academy of Arts for further study.

In 1838, Sternberg met Taras Shevchenko and became one of his closest friends. In St. Petersburg, he shares an apartment with him and paints his several portraits. In 1840, a book of Shevchenko's poetry was published in Fisher's printing house, for which Sternberg created a frontispiece depicting a lyre player with bandura and a boy guide with a dog, Blind Bandura Player with a Guide. As a sign of gratitude, the poet dedicates the poem "Ivan Pidkova" published in the same edition to Sternberg. Soon Vasyl Sternberg, together with well-known marine painter Ovanis Aivazovsky, left for Italy. Before his departure Taras Shevchenko presents Sternberg with a copy of Kobzar with the dedicatory poem "For Sternberg to remember."

Ilya Repin (1844-1930)

was a prominent Ukrainian-Russian realist painter from Slobozhanshchyna (Eastern Ukraine). He was born in a sloboda (a free town) near the city of Chuhuiv, Kharkiv province, probably with the original surname "Ripyn". Throughout his long life, this St. Petersburg professor of painting, academician, and rector of the Imperial Academy of Arts was keenly interested in the history and culture of Ukraine. 

Repin's magnum opus is the painting "Cossacks Writing a Letter to the Turkish Sultan." For twelve years, the artist worked on the Cossacks, and the emperor himself closely followed his progress, as he immediately paid a large advance, and eventually purchased the painting for 35 thousand rubles. "The Zaporozhians" immediately became legendary, gaining great popularity and were often exhibited. With the money, Repin bought an estate where he settled with his family.

All his life in a foreign land, he missed his native Chuhuiv: "How I wanted to go to Little Russia, to Chuhuiv, and how I wanted to cry... It's good here, very good! But no, I want to see white huts, sun-drenched cherry orchards, lakes, roses of all colors, and hear the ringing voices of tanned girls and rough voices of handsome boys; oxen in a yoke, fairs..." He never broke ties with Ukraine, visited Kyiv, Kachanivka, and Vasyl Tarnovskyi.

Ukraine occupied a large place in the work of Ilya Repin. At the age of 15, he first painted a Cossack, followed by "Ukrainian Peasant Woman," "Vechornytsi" (traditional Ukrainian folk fest) and "Black Sea Freedom." He studied folk art and noted that "it's time to think about the Ukrainian style in art and start developing its folk direct improvisations." He was a member of the jury for the monument to Taras Shevchenko to mark the centenary of his birth.

He was friends with many Ukrainians, including Marko Kropyvnytskyi, Mykola Murashko, Andrian Prakhov, Dmytro Yavornytskyi, and Mykola Ge. Future Ukrainian painters, such as Photii Krasytskyi (grandson of Taras Shevchenko), Oleksandr Murashko (nephew of Mykola Murashko), Mykola Pymonenko, and Semen Prokhorov,  were under his supervision. He was close friends with the Ukrainian historian Dmytro Yavornytskyi, who instructed him on historical painting projects in letters and during numerous trips to the south of Ukraine. Repin illustrated Yavornytskyi's book on Zaporizhzhia antiquities. 

In 1915 Repin visits Chuhuiv, enthusiastic about a grandiose project to create free art workshops in his hometown. The last days of his life he worked on the paintings "Meeting of the Hetman" and "Cossack Bandura Player with a Jura Boy". In 1926, he started his last painting "Hopak" (Ukrainian traditional dance). 

texts by Diana Klochko and Yaryna Vynnytska
posters - Maria Bilinska

Author: Ярина Винницька, Діана Клочко

Фотограф/дизайнер: дизайнер Марія Білінська

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