Women artists remain poorly represented in the field of art. That is why HeForShe Arts Week 2020, launched by UN Women, features a virtual gallery of 10 paintings by 10 female artists from the collections of the National Art Museum of Ukraine. Some of the paintings are stored in NAMU collection and are not part of the permanent exhibition. This means that the viewer has a unique opportunity to see them here.
Three Women Figures (1909-1910) by Oleksandra EksterNational Art Museum of Ukraine
The most prominent artist of Ukrainian avant-garde. Oleksandra Ekster studied in Kyiv and Paris, where she met Picasso, Braque, Apollinaire, Marinetti. Ekster promoted new art, participated in the resonant avant-garde exhibitions Lanka (1908) and Kiltse (1914). Oleksandra Ekster's art studio was an important center of Kyiv's cultural life of the 1918-1920s. The artist educated a whole generation of the theatrical design innovators - Anatol Petrytskyi, Vadym Meller, Isak Rabinovych - who contributed to the development of Ukrainian theatre in the 1920s. On the painting Three Female Figures Ekster portrayed herself with her friends, artists Yevhenia Prybylska and Natalia Davydova. In this work the author has ignored the portrait resemblance by focusing on geometric shapes and active colours. Among the sources of inspiration for Ekster was Ukrainian folk art, which she explored together with Prybylska and Davydova in Kyiv and Poltava regions.
Long Live 8th of March! (1930-1931) by Oksana PavlenkoNational Art Museum of Ukraine
Oksana Pavlenko was the student of the Mykhailo Boichuk’s monumental art workshop. Long live 8th of March! is one of the most famous works by Oksana Pavlenko. The painting, on one hand, tells about revolutionary events at the beginning of 20th century and the women’s fight for their rights, and, on the other, embodies Mykhailo Boichuk’s artistic method. Depicted women are incredibly similar to each other in the same peasant clothing and they act as a united front, thus manifesting the principle of the collective’s dominance over the individual. This is a social group fighting for its rights. In this work one can also see the personal, quite tragic story of Oksana Pavlenko, for whom the changes caused by the revolution opened the opportunities for the professional art, but also brought the loss of almost all the loved ones, colleagues and friends.
Composition (1914) by Maria SyniakovaNational Art Museum of Ukraine
Maria Syniakova belonged to the creative community that emerged in the village Krasna Poliana near Kharkiv in the mid-1910s, the center of the avant-garde movement, uniting the most active creative youth of the time: Burliuk brothers, Vladimir Maiakovskyi, Velimir Khlebnikov, Vasyl Yermilov. This circle of artists professed their own philosophy based on harmony with nature and freedom of expression. Composition, painted in 1914 by Syniakova in a schematic naive manner, depicts flowers, birds, animals, people, using a local color scheme and compositional construction typical for the decorative folk art. This work demonstrates the basic artistic principles of the early 20th century: the love for the rural folk culture and its sensuality, corporeal and vital principles, as well as formal avant-garde searches.
Love (1920s) by Antonina IvanovaNational Art Museum of Ukraine
Among the pinnacles of twentieth-century Ukrainian art is Mykhailo Boichuk’s school whose artists in their work drew from the sacred art of Byzantium and the Proto-Renaissance and folk art. Antonina Ivanova was one of the first Mykhailo Boychuk’s students, after her studies in St. Petersburg. Her monumental works, such as The Peasant Family mural, are, in compositional terms, close to those of Diego Rivera. In the 1930s, she was forced to abandon monumentalism because of illness, so she focused on decorative art, including fabric paintings. The work Love belongs to the Boichukist period of the artist's life, and the distinctive features of icon painting, such as elongated figures or the depiction of the landscape, are noticeable in it. The artist uses her beloved floral motifs.
Kiss (1920s) by Sofia LevytskaNational Art Museum of Ukraine
Sofia Levytska is a Ukrainian artist who worked in Paris. She made her debut at the Paris Independent Salon and the Autumn Salon where she received the critical acclaim. In 1921, together with the poet Roger Allard, Levytska translated into French Mykola Hohol's Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka and illustrated the book with woodcutting. She worked on the design of the French periodicals Revue Musical, the Trésor de la bibliothèque, made woodcuttings for Jean de Juanville's History of Saint Louis, cooperated with Henri Matisse for Montjoie, and illustrated Apollinaire's poetry for the Paris literary and artistic magazine L-ELAN. “Kiss” is one of the most famous Levytskaya's graphic works. The author used the illusion of a double image: depending on the interpretation, the face in the foreground may belong to either man or woman. The work demonstrates a peculiar feature of Levytska's manner: the final form is attained, combined with ornamentation.
Self-portrait in Ukrainian Costume (1946) by Tetiana YablonskaNational Art Museum of Ukraine
One of the most famous Ukrainian artists of the 20th century. She has studied at the Kyiv Art Institute, her mentor was the famous Ukrainian artist Fedir Krychevskyi. Even within the framework of Soviet social realism, she was able to actualize the traditions of the world and Ukrainian art. The artist's early works were criticized for formalism, and official recognition came after the 1949 painting Grain. She was interested in folk art, traveled the countryside, was personally acquainted with Maria Prymachenko. She participated in the 1956 Venice Biennale. Self-portrait in Ukrainian folk costume belongs to early works of Tetiana Yablonska. After the end of World War II she began to paint from nature, because she could not hire a model. The portrait demonstrates a search for the peculiar plastic language, as well as an interest in Ukrainian folk art that would continue in Yablonska's works of 1960s.
Self-portrait with Son (1960) by Alla HorskaNational Art Museum of Ukraine
Artist Alla Horska, a significant figure of the Ukrainian dissident movement of the 1960s, paid a life for her views. She worked in the field of easel and monumental painting. In her work the artist drew from the Ukrainian avant-garde and folk art, which she considered the preservation of Ukrainian cultural memory. Together with her husband, artist Viktor Zaretskyi, she created a series of mosaics and panels. Self-portrait with Son is marked by the influence of the "austere style" with its dramatic outlook and lack of pathos. The artist portrays herself with her 6-year-old son Oleksii on a motley conventional background. Resemblance with the iconography of Our Lady with a Child highlights the dramatic notes of the work, combining it with traditions important to Alla Horska.
In Memory of Oleksii Venetsianov (1979-1980) by Halyna BorodaiNational Art Museum of Ukraine
Daughter of the famous sculptor Vasyl Borodai, the pupil of the monumental workshop of Tetiana Yablonska, Halyna Borodai, despite her short life, left a notable mark on the art. Her works were marked by the features of the 1970s’ art: declarative aesthetism, semantic layers, emphasized attention to the artistic perfection. The painting In Memory of Alexei Venetsianov was created for the 200th anniversary of the artist. Young thoughtful woman in the center of the composition has the portrait features of Borodai herself. The echo of the Russian artist’s style is felt in the interpretation of woman’s figure, as well as the affinity with the world of his simple and poetic peasant images. However, there are books in her hands (including the one about Venetsianov), and her dress fits the fashion of the late 1970s. The group of peasants in the background is a quote from the painting by Venetsianov, and the landscape is taken from the Ukrainian reality - the artist wrote preparatory sketches for painting in Sedniv in Chernihiv region.
Composition with the Figures III (Communion) (1960) by Yelyzaveta KremnytskaNational Art Museum of Ukraine
Yelyzaveta Kremnytska, an impressive disciple of the Zakarpattian non-conformism, has been associated with Uzhgorod all her life. She was a student of the founders of Zakarpattian painting school - Erdeli and Bokshai, Manailo and Kontratovych. She worked in the field of easel painting and graphics, designed bus stops in the Zakarpattia region together with her husband Pavlo Bedzir. The artist's graphic works aren’t numerous, but they represent vivid formal experiments in the field. Yelyzaveta Kremnytska's graphic shows the search for a national form, both at the level of subjects and at the level of plastic language, as well as the references to the European modernist schools of the 20th century. The work Composition with figures III. Communion (1961) is marked by heightened expressiveness, rhythmicity, an attempt to combine reality and illusions. Anthropomorphic figures are dynamic, the drawing line is active. The artist skillfully combines expressive and dynamic principles with a tendency to rhythmic play with lines and a unifying of images.
King-Fish (1989) by Valeria TrubinaNational Art Museum of Ukraine
Valeria Trubina was a participant of the famous squat on The Paris Commune Street in Kyiv (1990-1994). Shortly after its breakup the artist emigrated to the United Kingdom and then to the United States. The composition of the work King-fish, painted in 1989, recreates the legend of the Great Flood that ravaged the whole world. Fish is the one of the incarnations of the god Vishnu, who is to save the first-born man Manu, the forefather of the new human race. The entire upper part of the composition has an active red colour; for instance, the figure of the king-fish is surrounded by a red line. Such technique is often used in other works of the "Paris Commune" artistic group. The upper right corner depicts a multi-headed creature, a scary demon whom Vishnu fights to save the world. This demon has the recognizable features of Lenin, which projects the mythological plot into the present and reflects the hope for large-scale change.
The National Museum of Art of Ukraine is the oldest museum in Kyiv, opened in 1899, with the best collection of works of Ukrainian art from the 12th century to the present. National Art Museum of Ukraine was among the first institutions to support HeForShe movement in Ukraine.
Created by UN Women, the HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality aims to engage men and boys from around the world to become change agents for the achievement of gender equality. In Ukraine, it was launched in 2018 and is enabled by the financial support from Sweden.