Volodymyr Vynnychenko died a little over 60 years ago. Analyzing his artistic and epistolary oeuvre, reading his diaries, we are able to see Vynnychenko from an absolutely different angle. During his life he painted over 100 paintings. Last year marked the third stage of transferring the canvases from the US to Ukraine. Thus, all the paintings of the author of The Sunny Machine have returned to our state and are kept at the Shevchenko Institute of Literature. The pictures have been on display in a number of museums, notably in Vynnychenko’s homeland, Kirovohrad, and are currently exhibited at Kyiv’s Hrushevsky Museum (till April 3).
“It is known that as a youth Volodymyr Vynnychenko had a talent for painting,” head of the Shevchenko Institute of Literature at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, doctor of philology Mykola Zhulynsky said, “His inner passion may have been somewhat quelled when he became an active political figure and litterateur.”
Says Volodymyr Panchenko, professor at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, doctor of philology, expert in history of literature and renowned connoisseur of Vynnychenko’s life and creative work: “Kirovohrad local ethnographers, Vynnychenko’s fellow townsmen, say that he could attend a drawing course at the Zemstvo Real College, while he was studying in another institution, the Elizavetgrad Male Gymnasium. But this is a mere hypothesis.”
In the 1920s he started to create the works that are now on display, and continued to do so until he died. He painted for several reasons: he mixed in with the French artistic milieu, communicated with many artists, and remained in political and literary isolation. Roughly in this period he painted The Portrait of the Author’s Wife, Self-Portrait, and drew several sketches. Close communication with the outstanding artist Mykola Hlushchenko had a crucial effect on the development of his artistic talent. In the period between 1927 and 1934 Vynnychenko was part of the Paris school, Ecole de Paris, which was famous for its high painting culture and was represented by such Ukrainian artists as Hordynsky, Khmeliuk, Hryshchenko, Butovych, and Andriienko (in addition to Hlushchenko). In Paris, in 1929, Vynnychenko co-founded the Artistic Section in the Ukrainian Community. His interest for painting gradually increased, and his diaries carry interesting reviews of some artists’ pictures and various exhibits, which is proof of his specific vision of art.
“Vynnychenko’s achievements in painting were astonishing from the very onset,” Hlushchenko said.
At first Vynnychenko worked in the genre of landscape painting, later he moved to painting portraits and standstills, not only in oils, but watercolors too, as well as pencils and ink. But landscapes make up the larger part of Vynnychenko’s paintings. The author’s memories of Ukrainian landscapes are reflected in Velyka Bastyda Farmstead, Ukrainian Landscape. Vynnychenko also depicted French landscapes.
“As an artist, Vynnychenko is an important character that was deleted from the history of Ukrainian art,” Oleksandr Fedoruk, an academician of Ukraine’s Academy of Arts, writes in his article “Volodymyr Vynnychenko as an artist.”
As for the specifics of Vynnychenko’s paintings, they are quite distinct from his literary or political activity.
“He was not promoting his literary or political views through painting,” said the artist Stanislav Hordynsky, who thought that Vynnychenko was “far from being an amateur artist.”
It was no accident that Vynnychenko’s works were preserved in the US for a long time.
“Clearly, the question arises of why Vynnychenko’s paintings were kept in the US, though he lived in France. We can find the answer in his diaries and correspondence. The thing is that Vynnychenko had many admirers in the US, he planned to send his works there (and he managed to do so) and then go there to organize an exhibit of his works and profess concordism,” Panchenko explained, “Concordism was his philosophical-ethical doctrine, on which he worked for the last 25 years of his life. This is Vynnychenko’s theory of happiness, which referred to aspects of people’s self-perfection and the moral side of interpersonal relationships. So, Vynnychenko did send his works, but never followed them.”
It should be admitted that Vynnychenko worked on the development of his philosophical theory with the same inspiration as on his pictures. Like painting, creation of his own “recipe of happiness” took up a great part of his life after he moved to Mougins.
“The idea of concordism is a result of long contemplations, research, study of different religions, and moral principles and foundations that formed humanity for many centuries,” Zhulynsky told The Day. “Vynnychenko came up with this idea as he was seeking a formula to improve people and life, and form a ‘moral’ world. This may seem naive and unreal to some people. Indisputably, it is hard to believe that it would be possible to realize this idea. Humanity’s entire will is needed for this. But concordism as Vynnychenko’s system of beliefs and views is extremely interesting. I am sure that sooner or later humankind will have to pay attention to guidelines for lifestyle, interpersonal relations, treatment of nature, of people, and whether they live in harmony with themselves and their surroundings. Vynnychenko felt the need for harmonization of the people’s inner world with the surrounding world. He wrote his work Concordism for many years with this particular aim. I think today it is time to turn to it.”