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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

“United Ukraine”: artistic reflections

The Taras Shevchenko National Museum celebrates its 65th anniversary with an exhibition symbolic for the country
27 May, 2014 - 10:33
OLEKSII POLIAKOV. ROAD TO VILLAGE / Photo of painting courtesy of the curator and the press center of the museum

In honor of Taras Shevchenko’s anniversary, the museum named after him was not only repaired, but significantly expanded: now it is complemented by an adjacent courtyard under a glass roof, where music evenings are held and documentary photos illustrating the museum’s long history are displayed. The storerooms, research department, and press center are housed in the newly built annex.

On April 24, the staff and guests solemnly celebrated the 65th anniversary of the museum’s foundation. Let us remind that during all previous years its funds were formed and supplemented from various sources. In particular, we should mention Vasyl Tarnovsky’s private collection, the Museum of Ukrainian Antiques in Chernihiv, the Shevchenko Gallery in Kharkiv, the Republican Shevchenko’s Jubilee Exhibition, and of course, the Taras Shevchenko Central State Museum in Kyiv.

The path to the creation of the museum was long and thorny. Today’s viewers see the reconstruction of the poet’s artistic life without thinking about how these documents, paintings, drawings, and books were collected in one place bit by bit, with efforts of those who selflessly strove to preserve the Kobzar’s heritage for the generations to come. Among the sponsors of the collection were eminent Ukrainian cultural figures: Pavlo Tychyna (people’s commissar for education of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic), Mykola Bazhan (head of the government commission), academician Oleksandr Biletsky, expert in Shevchenko studies Yevhen Kyryliuk, artists Vasyl Krychevsky, Mykola Burachek, and many others who cared about Shevchenko’s heritage.

The decree on opening of the Taras Shevchenko State Museum in Kyiv was adopted on June 22, 1948. In early March 1949 the exhibition was viewed by a special commission, and on April 23, the Council of People’s Commissars of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic passed a resolution on the opening of the museum. Mykola Matsapura was appointed the first director of the museum.

In 1989, in honor of Shevchenko’s 175th anniversary, after extensive repairs and expert restoration of the building, the second entrance to the exhibition was opened. The exhibition itself was renewed in 2006. In late March, 2001, the museum was given a national status.

In 2014, in honor of the poet’s 200th anniversary, repairs and restoration works were carried out in the museum, a new exhibition was prepared and opened, which allowed to permanently display Shevchenko’s heritage, including his paintings and graphic works. The way the museum staff enhanced the everlasting meaning of Shevchenko’s personality is extremely important: they unfolded a captivating story about the poet’s place in the world culture: how and why a Saint Petersburg artist, who had brilliant future before him, chose another path for the sake of building a decent future for his native country, using the word as a tool. Today we can learn about all milestones of Shevchenko’s biography by visiting the museum, which will always remain a must-see for every Ukrainian.

On the occasion of the museum’s 65th anniversary, visitors will be able to view art exhibition “United Ukraine” in several halls of the museum. It is a sort of its artistic manifesto, directed at the most acute topic for all of us today: the integrity of our country.

The most beautiful and precious in nature and in the people of our country, genuine Ukrainian prosperity and generosity are reflected in landscapes, still life paintings, plots, and abstractions. “United Ukraine” has brought together Yevhen Leshchenko’s fantastic, bright paradise and Borys Rappoport’s strictly realistic landscape, steep Carpathian mountains by Anton Kashai and blossoming lilacs in Kyiv by Serhii Shapovalov.

“We opened ‘United Ukraine’ in the format of an annual exhibition project ‘Our time, our space,’ which was initiated by the museum in 2008. One can see now a large part of the paintings that were displayed during the first exhibition. These works belong to Maksym Melnyk, collector and director general of ‘Sofia A’ Publishing House,” says Liudmyla DAVYDOVSKA, curator of the exhibition “United Ukraine.” “The viewers can find it interesting to see about a hundred paintings that depict western and eastern, northern and southern Ukraine as a single and indivisible country. It is for a reason we indicated the hometown of the author under each painting. This exhibition is extremely relevant in the current situation, and I will quote the famous Ukrainian cultural figure Mykola Marychevsky, who said about Ukraine’s face in the 21st century: “The space must be ours, and Ukraine must be Ukrainian, art is and will be national. The time we   live in is our time, there will be no other, and we have to fill it with highly ethical spirituality.”

By Olena SHAPIRO, art expert