Ernst, Fedir

Image - Fedir Ernst (1910s photo). Image - Fedir Ernst

Ernst, Fedir or Theodor [Ернст, Федір], b 9 November 1891 in Hlukhiv, Chernihiv gubernia, d 17 August 1949 in Ufa, Bashkiria. Art historian. Born into a family of German colonists, Ernst initially studied at Berlin University in 1909–10. He continued his studies of art history under Hryhorii Pavlutsky at Kyiv University and graduated in 1914. At that time he established close contacts with Mykola Biliashivsky, Dmytro Doroshenko, and members of the Hromada of Kyiv. Following the outbreak of the First World War, Ernst, as an ethnic German, was exiled to Siberia, and he returned to Kyiv only in 1917. From 1919 he worked as a librarian and headed an art gallery at the Ukrainian State Academy of Arts. He was one of the founders of several Kyiv museums, including the Kyiv Picture Gallery, the Kyiv Museum of Western and Eastern Art, and the Kyivan Cave Historical-Cultural Preserve. Ernst was a member of the All-Ukrainian Archeological Committee and headed the art department of the Kyiv City Museum of Antiquities and Art. He taught at Kyiv Archeological Institute and Kyiv Architecture Institute and was professor at Kyiv State Art Institute (from 1923). Arrested in 1933, Ernst was sentenced in 1934 and and sent to a GULAG labor camp. For a short period after his release he worked in the museums of Alma-Ata in Kazakhstan and Ufa in RSFSR.

Ernst wrote important books on the history of Ukrainian architecture and painting, including Kyïvs'ki arkhitekty XVIII viku (Kyiv Architects of the 18th Century, 1918), Ukraïns'ke mystetstvo XVII–XVIII vikiv (Ukrainian Art of the 17th–18th Century, 1919), Kontrakty i kontraktovyi budynok v Kyievi (1924), and a monograph on Heorhii Narbut: Heorhii Narbut. Posmertna vystavka tvoriv (Heorhii Narbut: A Posthumous Exhibit of His Works, 1926), and edited a guide of Kyiv Kyïv: Providnyk (1930). His monographs on Taras Shevchenko, Ilia Repin, and Mykola I. Murashko. With Danylo Shcherbakivsky, Ernst organized the first large exhibits of Ukrainian art, and, in particular, portraiture, the contents of which were published in Ukraïns'kyi portret XVII–XX st. Vystavka ukraïns'koho portreta (Ukrainian Portraits of the 17th–20th Century: An Exhibit of Ukrainian Portraits, 1925) and Ukraïns'ke maliarstvo XVII–XX st. (Ukrainian Painting of the 17th–20th Century, 1929). Ernst raised the issue of returning to Ukraine the art treasures that had been exported to the central Russian museums.

Marko Robert Stech

[This article was updated in 2021.]

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