The early 20th-century avant-garde movement had a direct impact on Ukrainian painting. Artists born in Ukraine, as well as those who considered themselves Ukrainian by nationality, were in its vanguard and they strongly influenced the development of such avant-garde artistic trends as futurism, cubo-futurism, suprematism, and constructivism. The most prominent of them were Kazimir Malevich (the founder of suprematism), David Burliuk and Vladimir Burliuk (the founders of futurism in the Russian Empire), Alexandra Ekster (whose innovative stage and costume designs gained international renown), Oleksander Bohomazov (a master cubo-futurist), and Vladimir Tatlin (one of the founders of constructivism). The first exhibition of the new art in Ukraine (and in the Russian Empire as well) was organized in Kyiv in 1908 by Davyd and Vladimir Burliuk, Alexandra Ekster, and Oleksander Bohomazov. During the 1910s artists from Ukraine played a crucial role in the development of avant-garde artistic trends in Russia. At the same time, they had close contacts with Western avant-garde artists, particularly in France (Paris) and Germany. In fact, a group of artists from Ukraine who resided in Paris and/or Berlin, such as Alexander Archipenko, Vladimir Baranoff-Rossine, Sonia Delaunay-Terk, and Mykhailo Andriienko-Nechytailo, had a considerable impact on the evolution of the avant-garde art in Western Europe. During the relatively liberal period of the 1920s in Soviet Ukraine, a variety of styles flourished and avant-garde art was taught at Ukrainian art schools, particularly at the Kyiv State Art Institute. Cubo-futurist and constructovist art works were produced in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other cities by such younger artists as Vasyl Yermilov, Vadym Meller, Viktor Palmov, and Anatol Petrytsky. However, in the 1930s all avant-garde activities in Soviet Ukraine came to a halt with the introduction of socialist realism as the only literary and artistic method permitted by the communist regime... Learn more about the early 20th-century Ukrainian avant-garde artists by visiting the following entries:


EKSTER, ALEXANDRA (also Exter; nee Grigorovich), b 6 January 1882 in Bialystok, Hrodna gubernia, d 17 March 1949 in Fontenay-aux-Roses near Paris, France. Avant-garde painter and theatrical set designer and costume designer working within the currents of cubism, cubo-futurism, suprematism, and constructivism. In 1906 she graduated from Kiev Art School where she studied under Mykola Pymonenko together with, among others, Oleksander Bohomazov and Alexander Archipenko. From 1908 to 1924 she intermittently lived in Kyiv, Saint Petersburg, Odesa, Paris, Rome, and Moscow, but she played a particularly important role on the Kyiv art scene. Her painting studio grouped Kyiv’s artistic and intellectual elite. In Paris, Ekster was a personal friend of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Gertrude Stein. In 1914, she participated in the Salon des Independants exhibitions together with Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Archipenko, Vadym Meller, Sonia Delaunay-Terk and other artists. Exter’s early paintings featured elements of cubism, futurism (cubo-futurism), and the Art Deco movement. Later her set designs featured elements of constructivism. In general, her art absorbed influences from a variety of sources and cultures. She was particularly fascinated, however, with the Ukrainian folk art and in 1915-6 she organized the peasant craft cooperatives in the villages Skoptsi and Verbivka which produced, among others, kilims based on Kazimir Malevich's suprematist designs. Ekster brought the colourful palette of the Ukrainian folk art into thus far monochromatic cubist paintings. Proclaiming a close affinity between the avant-garde and folk art, Ekster exhibited her works together with a Ukrainian naive artist Hanna Sobachko-Shostak and other folk painters...

Alexandra Ekster


BOHOMAZOV, OLEKSANDER, b 7 April 1880 in Yampil, Kharkiv gubernia, d 3 June 1930 in Kyiv. Painter. Having completed a zemstvo agricultural school in Kherson, Bohomazov entered the Kyiv Art School, where he studied under Oleksander Murashko and graduated in 1911. Among his classmates were such prominent figures as Alexander Archipenko, Alexandra Ekster, and Abram Manevich. Having begun painting under the influence of symbolism and art moderne, in 1908, together with Ekster, Davyd Burliuk, and other artists, Bohomazov took part in the exhibition Zveno (Link). In 1914 he co-organized an avant-garde artistic group Kiltse (Circle) in Kyiv and exhibited 88 of his paintings at the group's exhibition that year. His work attracted particular attention of art critics and he earned for himself the name of 'a Ukrainian Picasso.' Most notable were his works in the new style of cubo-futurism (such as The Tram, 1914), which combined the carefully structured architectonics of cubism with the dynamic chaos of futurism that undermined any attempt at traditional composition. In 1914 Bohomazov also wrote an unpublished avant-garde treatise, 'Painting and the Elements,' in which he anticipated many ideas later expressed by the abstractionists Vasilii Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich. During the late 1910s, together with Alexandra Ekster, Bohomazov organized avant-garde street paintings and performances. In the 1920s he was a member of the Association of Revolutionary Art of Ukraine and worked as an instructor at the Kyiv State Art Institute from 1922 to 1930. In the late 1920s, Bohomazov painted scenes of people’s everyday life and work, executed in brilliant vivid colors (eg, Sawyers, 1927)...

Oleksander Bohomazov


BURLIUK, DAVYD, b 22 July 1882 in Semyrotivka, Kharkiv gubernia, d 15 January 1967 in Long Island, NY. Painter and poet, founder of futurism in the Russian Empire. He studied at the Odesa and Kazan Art Schools, Munich Royal Academy of Arts (1902-3), and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He began painting in 1904. Between 1907 and 1913 he lived in Chornianka near Kherson where his father supervised an estate which was visited by many noted artists and writers, such as W. Kandinsky, V. Maiakovsky, V. Kamensky, V. Izdebsky, A. Lentulov, M. Larionov, B. Livshitz, A. Kruchenykh, and V. Khlebnikov. It was here that an avant-garde group coalesced, first calling themselves Hylaea (after the Greek name for Scythian lands at the mouth of the Dnieper River) and then futurists. Burliuk was involved in planning and organizing all of their early exhibitions. Together with Alexandra Ekster and Oleksander Bohomazov, he organized the Link exhibition in Kyiv in 1908, and then several avant-garde exhibitions in Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Odesa, and Mykolaiv that announced the arrival of avant-garde art within the Russian Empire. During the Revolution of 1917 and civil war he traveled through Siberia, lived in Vladivostok and Japan, then moved to the United States, where he lived in New York (1922-41) and Hampton Bays (1941-67). As a painter he experimented with a number of styles, but his cult of energy and vitality, and his connection to nature remained constant. Burliuk, who was descended from a family of Zaporozhian Cossacks, began by mythologizing his steppe homeland as the source of a 'primitivism' which he admired and which drew him to the forceful, 'wild,' and direct in art. He took inspiration from Scythian artifacts collected during archeological digs, ancient sculptures called stone baby, and Cossack history...

Davyd Burliuk


MALEVICH, KAZIMIR, b 23 February 1878 in Kyiv, d 15 May 1935 in Leningrad. Painter, designer, and theorist. He studied at the Kyiv Drawing School (1895-7), the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture (1904-5), and F. Rerberg's studio in Moscow (1905-10). Influenced at first by the Impressionists and Fauvists, he participated in avant-garde exhibitions in Moscow, at which he displayed paintings in a neoprimitivist style, cubo-futurist works, and paintings, such as An Englishman in Moscow (1914), which show the influence of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque's synthetic cubism. In 1915 Malevich launched the artistic movement of suprematism in Petrograd. He was the first modern painter to work in a purely geometric, cerebral, nonfigurative manner. In 1916 he published the journal Supremus. In the 1920s he began working in a constructivist style, in which he produced urban architectural models and furniture, textile, and china designs. He was a prolific writer and produced various theoretical works, developed new educational methods, and established original theoretical frameworks for the analysis of paintings. His works and theories influenced a number of Soviet avant-garde artists and later European avant-garde in general. In the late 1920s Malevich returned to Kyiv and taught at the Kyiv State Art Institute (1927-9), but was removed from there because of the growing opposition on the part of the central Soviet government to the avant-garde. In that time he was able to publish only 13 articles of his theories in the Kharkiv journal Nova generatsiia (1928-9). Forced out of the Kyiv State Art Institute, Malevich died in Leningrad in poverty and oblivion...

Kazimir Malevich


TATLIN, VLADIMIR, b 28 December 1885 in Moscow, d 31 May 1953 in Moscow. Painter, designer, and cofounder of constructivism. He grew up in Kharkiv and worked as a merchant marine. He studied art in Penza (1905-10) and at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture (1909-10) and private studios in Moscow. There he took part in avant-garde exhibitions. Around 1914 he shared his studio with Oleksa Hryshchenko and began working on painterly reliefs and 'counterreliefs' inspired at first by Pablo Picasso's relief sculptures. His constructions were entirely abstract combinations of materials (wood, metals, and glass). While heading the Moscow branch of the Division of Visual Arts of the Commissariat of Education (1918-19) and chairing the Department of Material Culture at the Moscow Higher State Artistic and Technical Workshops (1919-29) he worked on his famous model of the Monument to the Third International. He then chaired the Department of Material Culture at the Academy of Arts (1920-2) and the Museum of Artistic Culture (1922-5) in Petrograd. In 1925-7 he chaired the theater, film, and photography department of the Kyiv State Art Institute. While in Kyiv he designed the cover for Mykhailo Semenko, Geo Shkurupii, and Mykola Bazhan's poetry collection (1927) and established ties with the Nova Generatsiia futurist group in Kharkiv, and these ties he maintained after his return to Moscow. He was a major exponent of avant-garde art and design of the 1910s and 1920s. His intuitive constructivism is similar to that of Vasyl Yermilov and of the set designs of Anatol Petrytsky and Vadym Meller...

Vladimir Tatlin


YERMILOV, VASYL, b 22 March 1894 in Kharkiv, d 4 December 1967 in Kharkiv. Painter and graphic designer. He studied art in Kharkiv Art School and Moscow. In 1918 he joined the avant-garde Union of Seven group in Kharkiv. Under Soviet rule Yermilov designed posters, 'agit-trains,' street decorations, billboards, the interiors of public buildings (eg, the murals in the foyer of the Kharkiv Circus and the Red Army Club in Kharkiv), theatrical sets, displays, packaging, and journal and book covers; he also directed the art department of the All-Ukrainian Bureau of the Russian Telegraph Agency (1920-1) and taught at the Kharkiv Art Institute (1922-35). He received several international prizes for his graphic designs, including a gold medal at the 1922 Leipzig International Graphics Exhibition and an award at the 1928 Köln International Press Exhibition. While a member of the Avanhard (Avant-garde) group (1926-9) he was graphic designer of its newspaper and journal and, with Valeriian Polishchuk, the three issues of Biuleten' Avanhardu. From 1927 he was also a member of the Association of Revolutionary Art of Ukraine. Yermilov's synthesis of formalist esthetics, folk designs, and traditional painting methods (including egg tempera) was an important contribution to the development of Ukrainian design of the 1920s. His distinctive style of constructivist collage and typographic design, called constructive-dynamism or spiralism, developed distinctly and in parallel with Russian constructivism. Because of his formalist interests Yermilov was forced out of the Soviet art arena in the late 1930s...

Vasyl Yermilov

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