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. Painting was limited to naturalistically rendered thematic canvases of the Bolshevik October Revolution of 1917 and its champions, glorification of the Soviet state and its leaders, portraits and genre scenes of happy workers and peasants, and romanticized depictions of war and its heroes. Particularly in its first period (1934-41) socialist realism's range in painting was restricted to depictions of industrialization and collectivization and to numerous portraits and monuments to Joseph Stalin. Landscapes and still-life compositions were discouraged and all departures from the socialist-realist canon were condemned as 'formalist.' Sculpture was particularly pompous during the Stalinist period, in which thousands of monuments to Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, Joseph Stalin, and Maxim Gorky were erected. Socialist realism was enforced by means of repressions. Some modernist painters, such as Anatol Petrytsky, survived the terror, but their works were destroyed (an extensive series of Petrytsky's portraits). Many others, including Mykhailo Boichuk, Sofiia Nalepinska, Vasyl Sedliar, and Ivan Padalka, were shot. Departures from the norm were labeled 'formalism,' 'abstractionism,' or 'modernism' and proscribed. The narrow confines of socialist realism were widened somewhat after the death of Joseph Stalin, particularly during Nikita Khrushchev's cultural thaw. But even in its last stages socialist realism was praised for its Party orientation and its 'populism' (narodnist). Those terms continued to be used as synonyms for devoted service to the interests of the Party. Socialist realism also demanded isolation from the art of the West. Among the more prominent socialist-realist artists were Volodymyr Kostetsky, Karpo Trokhymenko, Mykhailo Bozhii, Serhii Hryhoriev, Dmitrii Shavykin, and Oleksii Shovkunenko. The style of socialist realism in graphic art was developed under the influence of Vasyl Kasiian. Notable Ukrainian sculptors who have worked in the socialist-realist manner are Mykhailo Lysenko, Ivan Makohon, Valentyn Znoba, Teodosiia Bryzh, Vasyl Borodai, and others... Learn more about the only officially sanctioned style of socialist realism in the art of Soviet Ukraine by visiting the following entries:


SOCIALIST REALISM. The only officially sanctioned so-called 'creative method' in Soviet art and literature from the early 1930s. The term socialist realism and its theoretical underpinnings were officially adopted by the First Congress of Writers of the USSR in August 1934, when the Soviet Writers' Union was established. Those active in other fields (theater, painting, sculpture, cinema, music) were also organized into single artistic unions, and also adopted socialist realism as the basic creative method. According to the resolution of the first Writers' Union congress: 'socialist realism demands a true, historical, and concrete depiction of reality in its revolutionary development. The realism and historical concreteness of the artistic rendering of reality must be tied to the ideological re-education and training of workers in the spirit of socialism.' As applied, however, those principles had a very narrow meaning. The 'true depiction of reality in its revolutionary development' meant that art and literature were to serve as glorifying illustrations of the policies of the Communist Party, and to portray what was hoped for in such a way that it seemed real. Deviations into truly realistic portrayals of Soviet reality and its deficiencies were attacked as 'slavishness to facts' or 'anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.' Socialist realism's need to hide falsity of content gave rise to certain characteristics of style in all Soviet art and literature. In painting it resulted in excessive pathos, photographism (with gestures and motion depicted as if frozen by photographs), and the tendency to dwell on luxurious uniforms and interiors...

Socialist realism


UNION OF ARTISTS OF UKRAINE. The only official organization of artists and art scholars that existed in Soviet Ukraine after the Party banned all other artistic organizations in 1932 and set up an organizational committee. In 1938 the union was officially founded at its first congress. Subsequent congresses were held every five or six years from 1956. The union was divided into sections (painting, sculpture, poster design, graphic art, large-scale decorative art, applied art, artistic design, stage design) and commissions (art criticism and art scholarship). The Art Fund of the Ukrainian SSR was administered by it. The union was divided into 20 oblast organizations. In 1983 their combined membership was 2,200. The union's official organs have been Maliarstvo i skul'ptura, later Obrazotvorche mystetstvo (1935-41), and then Obrazotvorche mystetstvo (1970-). Its presidents have been I. Boichenko (1938-41), Oleksandr S. Pashchenko (1941-4), Vasyl Kasiian (1944-9), Oleksii Shovkunenko (1949-51), M. Khmelko (1951-5), Mykhailo Derehus (1955-62), Vasyl Borodai (1968-82), Oleksander Skoblykov (1982-3), Oleksandr Lopukhov (1983-89), and Volodymyr Chepelyk (elected in 1990). In the late 1980s the union freed itself of Party control, and it no longer propagates socialist realism as the only artistic approach. Many of Ukraine's talented artists have never been members of the union. In 1998 the union was granted the status of a national union and changed its name to the National Union of Artists of Ukraine...

Union of Artists of Ukraine


TROKHYMENKO, KARPO, b 25 October 1885 in Sushchany, Vasylkiv county, Kyiv gubernia, d 1 October 1979 in Kyiv. Painter. He studied at the Kyiv Art School (1902-10), the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture (1906-7), and under Mykola Samokysh at the Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts (1910-16). He worked in Kyiv as an instructor for the Commission for the Protection of Historical and Artistic Monuments (1918-20) and taught at the Kyiv Art School (1918-19), the Kyiv Artistic-Industrial Professional School and Kyiv Art Tekhnikum (1926-33), and the Kyiv State Art Institute (1933-74). He belonged to the Association of Artists of Red Ukraine (1926-32) and became vice-chairman of the Arts Council of the Ministry of Education of the Ukrainian SSR. Trokhymenko worked in watercolors, oils, and pencil. He painted murals in the church at the Swedish Grave in Poltava; realistic historical scenes, such as Cossacks' Supper at Their Battle Posts (1917); and landscapes such as The Dnipro from Ivanova Mountain (1926). He also created Soviet genre paintings in the style of socialist realism. Taras Shevchenko and his works inspired such of his canvases as Shevchenko on Chernecha Mountain (1954). Books about Trokhymenko have been written by P. Musiienko (1946) and Ivan Vrona (1957), and an album of his works was published in 1969...

Karpo Trokhymenko


SHOVKUNENKO, OLEKSII, b 21 March 1884 in Kherson, d 12 March 1974 in Kyiv. Painter and educator; full member of the USSR Academy of Arts from 1947. A graduate of the Odesa Art School (1908) and the Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts (1917), he took part in the exhibitions of the Society of South Russian Artists (1913-19) and was a member of the Kostandi Society of Artists (1924-9). He taught at the Odesa Art Polytechnic (1926-9) and Odesa Art Institute (1929-35) and at the Kyiv State Art Institute (1936-63). He painted portraits, including ones of prominent Ukrainian cultural figures, such as Yurii Yanovsky, Pavlo Tychyna (1949), Maksym Rylsky (1945), Ivan Le (1943), Leonid Pervomaisky (1943), Mariia Lytvynenko-Volgemut, Volodymyr Zabolotny, Nataliia Uzhvii (1947), Mykhailo Lysenko (1947), and Oleksader Bohomolets (1945), and many natural, urban, and industrial landscapes of Ukraine (such as Flood in Koncha Zaspa, 1954), Caucasia, Moscow, the Urals, Moldavia, and Bashkiria, including series (painted in the style of socialist realism) depicting the Odesa shipyard (1925–35) and the construction of the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station (1930-2) (such as The Construction of the Dniprohes, 1931). For the latter series he was awarded the grand prize at the Art and Technology in Contemporary Life Exhibition in Paris (1937). A volume of recollections about Shovkunenko was published in 1980, and Leonid Vladych's books about him appeared in 1960 and 1983...

Oleksii Shovkunenko


KASIIAN, VASYL, b 1 January 1896 in Mykulyntsi, Stanyslaviv county, Galicia, d 26 June 1976 in Kyiv. Graphic artist of the realist school; from 1947 full member of the USSR Academy of Arts and the Academy of Architecture of the Ukrainian SSR. A graduate of the Prague Academy of Arts (1926), he assumed Soviet citizenship and in 1927 immigrated to the Ukrainian SSR. A prolific and versatile artist, he excelled in all the graphic art techniques--woodcut, copper engraving, linocut, and lithography--as well as pen drawing and watercolors. During his Prague period Kasiian dealt with social themes, depicting the poverty and hard life of the lower classes in Europe. Coming to Ukraine, he created several series of propaganda woodcuts and copper engravings in the socialist-realist style about collective farms, the building of the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station, mining in the Donbas, and the building of the Kyiv Metro. He also devoted a series of engravings to Vladimir Lenin and to Joseph Stalin (almost 50 works). Following Nikita Khrushchev's condemnation of the personality cult, Kasiian destroyed whole portfolios of his engravings of Stalin. The most valuable part of his rich, technically flawless legacy consists of the works on industrial themes, which document the economic transformation of Ukraine, and the illustrations to works by Taras Shevchenko, Lesia Ukrainka, Ivan Franko, Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, Vasyl Stefanyk, and Olha Kobylianska. Socialist realism, which Kasiian defended in his articles, led him to adopt elements of naturalism and had a detrimental effect on his later work...

Vasyl Kasiian


BORODAI, VASYL, b 18 August 1917 in Katerynoslav (present-day Dnipro), d 19 April 2010 in Kyiv. Sculptor. Borodai studied at the Kyiv State Art Institute (1947-53). In 1966 he became lecturer, and in 1971 professor, at the institute. He was a full member of the Academy of Arts of the USSR from 1973 and was chairman of the Union of Artists of Ukraine from 1968 to 1973. Among his sculptures are the following compositions: Youth (1951), Ivan Bohun (1954), Lesia Ukrainka (1957), and Bandura Player (1960). He also sculpted portraits of Petro Panch (1960), Pavlo Tychyna (1963), Lev Revutsky (1963), and Tetiana Yablonska (1974), as well as the series Through Egypt (1961-4) and some monuments--busts of Juliusz Slowacki in Kremianets (1969) and of Taras Shevchenko in Arrow Park, New York State (1970), and Lesia Ukrainka's monument in Kyiv. Borodai's works usually meet the demands of socialist realism; a good example of that is his giant monument Motherland (1981) in Kyiv. His monument depicting the legendary founders of Kyiv, Kyi, Shchek, Khoryv, and Lybid, has become one of the symbols of Kyiv. Borodai's perhaps most interesting sculptures are adaptations of the ancient Egyptian style (eg, Silence). Monographs on Borodai by B. Lobanovsky (Kyiv 1964) and Z. Fogel (Moscow 1968) have been published...

Vasyl Borodai

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