Mykola Pymonenko – the Artist of Choice


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There are some texts that are best illustrated with the works of classical artists. Looking back at the books we have already published, it is interesting to see that the Ukrainian painter, whose works we use most often is Mykola Pymonenko. In fact, images of his “Yuletide Fortune Tellers” (1888) and “Easter Morning Prayer” (1891) have appeared in our debut book “Taste of Ukraine” (2013).

Mykola Pymonenko’s works appear in three books of “Tradition on a Plate” series: “Ukrainian Christmas Eve Supper: Traditional Village Recipes for Sviata Vecheria”, “Traditional Velykden: Ukrainian Easter Recipes” and “Ancient Grains: Ukrainian Recipes”. Our latest non-fiction publication “The Story of Pysanka: A Collection of Articles on Ukrainian Easter Eggs” also includes the images of paintings of the talented Ukrainian artist.

Finally, our “The Witches of Kyiv and Other Gothic Tales”, a collection of Orest Somov’s short stories, also contains images of two of Mykola Pymonenko’s works

(The following passages are excerpted from “Painting Ukrainian Life: the Captivating Art of Mykola Pymonenko”, an article previously published on Sova’s old website.)

Mykola Pymonenko was born in March 1862, according to the old style Julian calendar, and died fifty years later at the height of his artistic powers. He dedicated many of his 700 works to his motherland, Ukraine. Like ‘freeze-frame’ episodes from the lives of Ukrainian villagers, his paintings depict in depth daily life in Ukraine at the end of 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The artist’s major works include: Idyll (1908); Off to War (1902); Ukrainian Night (1905); A Seller of Cloth (1901) and A Ford (1901).

The son of an icon painter, Pymonenko grew up in Kyiv and studied at the Kyiv Drawing School. Later he studied at the St Petersburg Academy of Arts and joined the Peredvizhniki Society in 1899. This St Petersburg group worked in the realist and naturalist styles and organised travelling exhibitions in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, focusing on landscape art, portraiture and genre painting. Like the earlier Pre-Raphaelites in Britain and the Realists in France, the Peredvizhniki artists rejected the prevailing academic conventions of the art world. Their art revealed both the poverty and beauty of everyday life.

Pymonenko’s main subjects were Ukrainian peasants and he portrayed their daily chores and their celebrations, their sufferings and joys with great empathy.

His oil on canvas works glow with light and colour. Pymonenko studied the effects of sunlight on colours and in nature. He was a master of painting scenes set in twilight and evening light. He employed plein-air techniques for his landscapes.

From 1888 to 1911 Pymonenko lived in the attractive village of Maliutianka, Kyiv region, which today hosts the Pymonenko Museum. Local natural features inspired his landscapes and the village inhabitants appeared as the characters in his paintings.

Pymonenko’s works were widely admired and one of his paintings hangs in the Louvre Museum. He was a member of art societies in Paris, Munich and Berlin and in Kyiv he taught a new generation of painters who included Kazimir Melevich.

(The featured copies of Mykola Pymonenko’s artworks were supplied by the National Art Museum of Ukraine.)

At the River (1893), Mykola Pymonenko
Yuletide Fortune Tellers (1888), Mykola Pymonenko