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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Art as a joy of life: Mykola Pymonenko

The exhibit “Art as a Joy of Life,” now on at the National Art Museum of Ukraine, is dedicated to the artist’s 150th birth anniversary
27 December, 2012 - 10:07
IDYLL (1908), A LATE-PERIOD PICTURE BY MYKOLA PYMONENKO / Photo replica provided by the National Art Museum

The exhibit “Art as a Joy of Life,” now on at the National Art Museum of Ukraine, is dedicated to the artist’s 150th birth anniversary. As the organizers told The Day, it is Mykola Pymonenko’s biggest solo exhibit in the past 50 years. In addition to the collection of the National Art Museum itself, the exposition displays the artist’s canvases from the museum collections of Kharkiv, Lviv, Donetsk, Zaporizhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Sumy, Luhansk, Simferopol, and Alupka, as well as works from Kyiv private collections. The exposition comprises a total 100 paintings and more than 40 graphics. Visitors can also see some “folk art,” i.e., pictures reproduced by amateur artists from the famous painter’s works, which were furnished by the Ivan Honchar Museum. There is also a “living” component: clothing and everyday-life items from the Mykola Pymonenko Museum in the village of Maliutianka, which will help feel the spirit of the era when the artist created his oeuvre.

The artist enjoyed respect and popularity still in his lifetime. He was an academician and a member of various art societies in Paris, Munich, and Berlin – the cities where the artist’s works were successfully displayed. The young people who dreamed of art were reaching out for him. One of them was Kazimir Malevich, the future founder of Suprematism. “I am leaving for Kyiv to meet Pymonenko. His works made a great impression on me… A lot of easels, each with a picture that depicts the life of Ukraine…,” he wrote.

Pymonenko was one of the most gifted pupils at the famous Kyiv Painting School. A second-year student, he began to teach drawing in a junior group. In 1900 Pymonenko becomes a founder of and a teacher at the Kyiv Art School. Concurrently, the artist teaches at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute (1900-12). In 1893 he joins the Itinerants (“Peredvizhniki”) society on the invitation of Ilya Repin.

The artist created a lyrical image of Ukraine, its marvelous landscapes and joyous people. Pymonenko was called “master of everyday-life painting.” He would find his characters in the neighboring houses and noisy marketplaces, and bring home a “living model,” such as a calf or a sheep. He would make young people don a festive apparel and watch them play, dance, and joke. That was the way he created his Idyll, Rival Women, Hopak, the numerous scenes of dates and fairs. He would paint small children who graze geese and cattle and women who work in the field… Mykola Pymonenko passed away in the prime of his artistic life in 1912. “Pymonenko is dead. What a loss for the Itinerants! He was a true Ukrainian. This country will remember him for his true-to-life and sweet, like Ukraine itself, pictures,” Ilya Repin wrote in anguish.