BOYCHUKISM. Great style projectExhibitions

BOYCHUKISM. Great style project

BOYCHUKISM. Great style project
Мистецький Арсенал
вул. Лаврська, 10-12
Київ, Київська область 01010

This is a project about dreamers who wanted to change the world. About reformers of art, who abandoned the traditional format. This project is about the creators of utopia, who themselves became victims of this utopia…

Mykhailo Boychuk was a young man from Ternopil region, who in 1910 surprised pernickety Paris, having exhibited his works in the Salon des Indépendants. Tempera instead of oil, collective creation instead of individual one, return to historical heritage instead of its negation, condensation of artistic form instead of realistic reproduction. The French named these innovations ‘Renovation Byzantine’, known among scholars as the school of Ukrainian monumentalism or boychukism. This was the last attempt to realize the great style in Ukraine. The rebellion by nature, Mykhailo Boychuk saw a clearly defined goal – reforming Ukrainian art. The new Ukrainian style was to become truly national and to enter deeply into the everyday life of a person.

In the 1920s, Boychuk followers at the Kyiv State Art Institute created a medieval workshop, where the process of creation was collaborative – from the manufacture of paints and brushes to finished works. They ambitiously called themselves the ‘architects of the universe’, who create a great national style. Boychukists sincerely believed that their art is serving the building up of an ideal society, where the farmers among the lush meadows, smiling women near the apple-tree are in perfect harmony. Everyday life of the Ukrainian village is transformed to the sacred action in the works of the Boychukists. However, the Bolshevik ideologists quickly put an end to various artistic searches. After existence of a universal method of socialist realism in Ukraine, a great terror reigned.

The monumental works of the Boychukists were destroyed following their authors. Until now, only a few sketch or chamber works have survived from the heritage of their projected ‘great style’. Behind each of them – some personal courage: museum workers who ignored the directives on the destruction of ideologically hostile works; students of Mykhailo Boychuk, who, turning into ‘socialist realists’, hid their early work; collectors who understood the value of prohibited art.

We tried to collect a puzzle from these surviving fragments that would give a comprehensive picture of the Ukrainian monumentalism as an artistic direction that reflected the essence of its epoch. At the ruins of the empires, young political nations appeared, which vigorously started to develop new countries and their own culture. It is not by chance that the most impressive is the proximity between the works of the Boychukists and the Mexican Muralists, which is generated by similar historical circumstances. By the way, thanks to the massive passion for muralism that has captured our cities over the past few years, society has already learned something about Mexican artists. But little is known about the Ukrainian monumentalists, whose first monumental works appeared in 1919, even chronologically ahead of the world-famous masterpieces of Diego Rivera. So it is time to start a conversation about the Ukrainian experience of such artistic practice. Perhaps, through this knowledge, we will be able to get closer to realizing the self-sufficiency of Ukrainian art.

More than 300 paintings, graphic, mosaic works by Mykhailo and Tymofiy Boychuk, Vasyl Sedlyar, Ivan Padalka, Sofiia Nalepinska, Oksana Pavlenko, Antonina Ivanova, Mykola Rokytskyi, Serhiy Kolos, Okhrim Kravchenko are presented at the exhibition. Among them – a unique iconography by early Boychuk from a period of his studies at the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts and his masterpiece – the so-called secular icon ‘Two under the tree’. It was amazingly preserved thanks to artist from Lviv Yaroslava Muzyka, who hid them at a time when the heritage of the artist from the funds of the Lviv State Museum of Ukrainian Art, according to an official order, was simply burned down in 1952 as ‘anti-Soviet and nationalistic’.

There are unique works of students of monumental painting in the 1920s preserved in the funds of the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine. Pottery dishes created after sketches by the Boychukists. In particular, the plate of 1919 ‘The glorious fighter for the freedom of Ukraine Hetman Ivan Mazepa’. The original of the first edition of ‘Kobzar’ by Taras Shevchenko with illustrations by artist Vasyl Sedlyar (1931) will be presented. Little is known about the achievements of the Boychukists in the field of scenography – projects of scenic scenery, sketches of costumes for theatrical performances and even the puppets for the puppet theater.

Olga Melnyk

project co-curator

There are several stereotypes in relation to Boychukism. Firstly, it is believed that it is necessarily a large format mural. In fact, monumentalism is a special organization of the image, in the process of creation of which random and immaterial are rejected, making it possible to transform even small artistic forms into monumental ones. In our exposition, for example, we will present completely ‘monumental’ exlibrises. The second stereotype is that Boychukism is only the manifestation of proletarian propaganda. In fact, the peasant theme dominates in the works of Boychukists, and their model of harmonious life is constructed, so to speak, on the peasant ground. When in the 1930s, under the pressure of political circumstances, they began to propagate new senses associated with industrialization, the ‘hegemony of the proletariat’ and proletarian internationalism – degradation of style happened. The paintings of the Chervonozavodsk Theater in Kharkiv from 1933-1935 on artistic levels cannot be compared with the decorations of the Lutsk barracks in Kyiv in 1919 and the peasant sanatorium in Odesa in 1928. This was the genetic programmed national originality of the school of Mykhailo Boychuk. This was well understood by the Bolsheviks, hence the unprecedented (even for the time of great terror) decimation of the Boychukists along with their artistic heritage. Hence, such a difficult return, even after political rehabilitation. The first precedent of the public display of the works of the Boychukists after their political rehabilitation took place only in 1967 and was rather strange – one (!) work by Ivan Padalka was included in the exposition of the State Museum of Ukrainian Fine Arts. The first retrospective exhibition ‘Boychuk and Boychukists, Boychukism’ took place in the Lviv National Art Gallery and the State Museum of Ukrainian Fine Arts. Her curator Olena Ripko made a kind of museum rehabilitation of Boychukism. During the following years, individual exhibitions of individual representatives of the school of Mykhailo Boychuk take place in separate museums. We tried to consider Boychukizm as an all-in-one artistic direction in the context of world art trends of that time, and to investigate its evolution in the course of almost thirty years.


  • Curators of the project

    Olga Melnyk
    Head of Museum Development department in Mystetskyi Arsenal

    Victoria Velychko
    Leading Specialist of Museum Development department in Mystetskyi Arsenal

    Igor Oksametnyi
    Leading Specialist of Museum Development department in Mystetskyi Arsenal

  • Scientific consultants

    Serhiy Bilokin

    Yaroslav Kravchenko
    Art scholar

    Lyudmila Sokolyuk

    Art scholar, professor, head of the Department of Theory and Art History of the Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Fine Arts; a researcher of Ukrainian monumentalism, Boychukism