Kharkiv Art Museum

Image - Antin Losenko: Abel (1769).

Kharkiv Art Museum (Харківський художній музей; Kharkivskyi khudozhnii muzei). One of the most important museums in Ukraine. Founded in 1920, it has been reorganized and renamed several times since then. At first known as the Kharkiv Museum of Church History, it consisted basically of the antiquarian collections of Kharkiv eparchy and Volhynia eparchy and the art collection of Kharkiv University. Its holdings were enriched with precious religious articles that were acquired in the course of registering historical objects belonging to the churches and monasteries of the Kharkiv region. In 1922 the museum was renamed the Kharkiv Museum of Ukrainian Art. It consisted of three departments: architecture, sculpture, and painting. The last encompassed medieval mural paintings, 16th-19th-century icons, portraits, folk paintings, and 19th-20th-century paintings. In 1931 the plastic arts collection was separated from the museum to form the National Ukrainian Painting Gallery. During the 1930s the museum was closed to the public. After the war it resumed operations in 1944. From 1949 to 1965 it was known as the Kharkiv State Museum of Fine Art, and since 1965 by its present name. The exhibits, which occupy 25 halls, are divided into five sections: prerevolutionary Ukrainian and Russian art, Soviet art, foreign art (very meager), and decorative and applied art. The works of noted Ukrainian masters such as Volodymyr Borovykovsky, Dmytro H. Levytsky, Antin Losenko, and Ivan Aivazovsky are displayed in the Russian art section. A collection of Serhii Vasylkivsky's works, as well as paintings by Dmytro Bezperchy, Petro Levchenko, Porfyrii Martynovych, Mykhailo Berkos, Mykhailo Tkachenko, and Taras Shevchenko (a self-portrait), forms an important part of the Ukrainian art section. A separate hall is devoted to Illia Repin's works, including one version of his famous painting The Zaporozhian Cossacks Writing a Letter to the Sultan. In the Soviet art section, Ukrainian and Russian artists are exhibited side by side, including such noted Ukrainian artists as Mykola Samokysh, Mykola Burachek, Opanas Slastion, Fedir Krychevsky, Oleksander Murashko, Mykhailo Derehus, Ivan Izhakevych, Heorhii Narbut, Mykola Pymonenko, and Tetiana Yablonska. In the 1980s, the museum possessed nearly 20,000 art works. The Kharkiv Art Museum organizes one-man, thematic, and touring exhibitions. The museum building was designed by Oleksii Beketov. An album of the museum with a Ukrainian, Russian, and English text was published in 1983.

Sviatoslav Hordynsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]

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