Amis de Valentine et Jean-Claude Marcadé (1990) (suite)
Extraits des archives de Valentine Marcadé
HARVARD UKRAINIAN STUDIES
VOL. 36, NUMBER 3-4 2019
Kyiv, the Capital of “Modernity” in the Turn of the Twentieth Century
Throughout its long history Kyiv experienced many ups and downs, from the early tenth century, when it was the capital of the Kyivan Principality, to our own times, when it became the capital of an independent Ukrainian state.
It was not until the very end of the nineteenth century that the “gubernatorial center” of Kyiv once again once again began to play a role more prominent than that of a provincial capital. Between 1884 and 1889 Mikhail Vrubel´ worked in Kyiv; it was there that he completed his visionary frescoes in St. Cyril’s Church, prepared designs for painting the interiors of St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral that were never executed, and created drawings and studies for still lifes that proved to be influential for Russian and Ukrainian art.
Under the influence of Byzantine art, coupled with Venetian painting, Vrubel´ transformed the heritage of Aleksandr Ivanov’s “Biblical Sketches” into a completely new synthesis which contained the seeds of the future achievements of “left art,” the so-called “avant-garde.” At the same time, he shattered the traditional canons of Orthodox icon painting.
During his Kyiv period Vrubel´ taught at the Kyiv Drawing School, which was founded amidst great difficulties by the Ukrainian realist painter Mykola Murashko. The school was financed by the entrepreneur and patron of the arts Ivan Tereshchenko. When Tereshchenko died in 1901, the Drawing School closed down, and was soon replaced by the Kyiv Art School in the capital. The genre painter Mykola Pymonenko (1862–1912), creator of idyllic paintings of Ukrainian peasant life, taught there until 1905. Among his pupils were Aristarkh Lentulov, Oleksandr Bohomazov, Aleksandra Ekster, Abram Manevich, and Volodymyr Burliuk, that is, the leading representatives of the future avant-garde. In one of his autobiographies Kazimir Malevich writes that he became acquainted with Pymonenko at the beginning of his career:
“His paintings made a great impression on me. He showed me the painting Hopak. I was overwhelmed by everything I saw in his studio. There were a great many easels with paintings depicting the life of Ukraine.
I show him my own works, nature studies. I’m in the Kyiv Art School. [очень двусмысленное ( а ля Малевич) утверждение, так как художник никогда не поступил в Киевскую художественную школу, значит надо понять глагол “попадал” как “наткулся”]”
We see no evidence that Malevich had any connection with the art works produced in the Kyiv Art School, but the influence of Pymonenko, even if not attested in Malevich’s output before 1905 (for which period there is no reliable information), is nevertheless obvious. To my mind, for instance, Malevich’s gouache Floor Polishers (1911) exhibits the rythme of the Hopak dance. Dmytro Horbachov has pointed out his influence on Malevich’s postsuprematist works—for example, in The Reapers (1928-1929) or Flower Girl (1930) from the Russian Museum.
Here is what Malevich recounts about his impressions of the Ukrainian capital:
“Every year a great fair was held in the city of Kyiv, which was attended by merchants from all over the world.…
I felt a great attraction for the city of Kyiv. I always had the sense that Kyiv was remarkable. Houses built out of colored bricks, the steep hills, the Dnieper, the distant horizon, steamboats. Everything about its life affected me more and more. Peasant women crossed the Dnieper in skiffs, bringing butter, milk, sour cream, filling the banks and streets of Kyiv, infusing it with special color.”
After the first Russian revolution of 1905 and Tsar Nicholas II’s manifesto of October 17 that same year, which permitted street demonstrations, Kyiv became the site of clashes between extreme-right monarchists and socialists.
“Pogroms began: peasants bringing food to sell in the city robbed and beat Jews. The school [Art School—J-C. M] was outraged by the inaction of the authorities, and the students joined a street demonstration.…The school administration decided to get rid of the dissidents and expelled 45 students under the pretext of nonpayment of tuition fees.”
Among these dissidents were two artists, Alexander Archipenko and Oleksandr Bohomazov, who “lost their deferment from military service.” They were rescued from this unhappy fate (what a stint in the Russian army meant was well known) thanks to the painter and follower of the Barbizon school Serhii Svitoslavs´kyi (1857–1931). Many painters passed through Svitoslavs´kyi’s studio, including Vadim Falileev, Bohomazov, Manevіch, Sofiia Levyts´ka, and Ekster.
An exhibition of paintings by the pupils of Svitoslavs´kyi’s studio took place in April 1906. Archipenko displayed five of his sculptures, which elicited the following commentary in a Kyiv newspaper: “Archipenko’s sculptures demonstrate that there is a ‘divine spark’ in the young sculptor.” Archipenko was nineteen at the time. He spent five years at the Kyiv Art School, and in 1908 left Ukraine permanently and settled in France. There is no doubt that those five years in Kyiv served as an indispensable foundation for the future development of Archipenko’s innovative sculptural techniques between 1912 and 1920. His teacher in Kyiv was the Italian-born sculptor Elia (Emilio) Sala, whose 1902 Chimaera sculptures decorated a famous Kyiv home (House with Chimaeras) designed in the art nouveau style by the architect Władysław Horodecki, which, to a certain degree and making due allowances, was the equivalent of Antoni Gaudí’s plant-like phantasmagoria in Barcelona. At the same time, Archipenko’s work was deeply saturated with all the forms and colors of folk art and the geography of his native land—as is also true of the work of Sonia Delaunay (née Sof´ia Il´inichna Shtern). The Ukrainian critic Dmytro Horbachov emphasizes this point: “Archipenko frequently reminds us of Ukrainian craftsmen with their impeccable taste in the decoration of toys and ceramic dishes, and in the carving of small chests.”
The founding of the Kyiv Museum of Art, Industry, and Science dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II in 1904 had a paramount influence on the development of folk handicraft art, the repository of unprecedented richness since time immemorial: pottery, ceramics, articles fashioned from bone, horn, and metal, embroidery, women’s costumes, beadwork, and the like. On 19 February 1909 the museum held an exhibition in which Aleksandra Ekster and her friend Nataliia Davydova (1875–1933) took an active part. Both of these artists’ homes were gathering places for Kyiv’s intellectual and artistic elite. One of the frequenters of Davydova’s house was the famous Polish composer and pianist Karol Szymanowski, who brought along such celebrities as the pianists Arthur Rubinstein (whose memoirs feature a description of the Davydov home), Heinrich Neuhaus, and Felix Blumenfeld, as well as conductors such as Grzegorz Fitelberg. It was said that if there was a domain in which Kyiv had never been provincial, it was the field of music. In addition to Szymanowski’s circle, there was a circle associated with the Kyiv Music Society, under whose auspices performed such distinguished musicians as Pablo Casals, Jascha Heifetz, Aleksandr Glazunov, and Sergei Rachmaninoff.
The handicrafts exhibition enjoyed great success and spurred the founding of the Kyiv Handicraft Society under the chairmanship of Nataliia Davydova. Davydova played an indispensable role in helping innovative painters become aware of new forms and colors that could replace realistic and naturalistic banality or mediocre imitations of the French impressionists. Thus, after 1916 the peasant women of the Ukrainian villages of Verbivka, near Kharkiv, and Skoptsi, not far from Poltava, began to use suprematist motifs for their pillows, handbags, and other items. This was the result of the tireless efforts of Ekster, Davydova, and Ievheniia Prybyl´s´ka under the aegis of the Kyiv Handicraft Society. Art critic Evgenii Kuz´min, wrote in 1912 that thanks to the handicraft society, “there emerged…many centers producing folk arts and crafts that find a ready market not only locally but also in Moscow, Petersburg, Paris, London, and even far-off Chicago—for example, the carpet-weaving ateliers established by V. N. Khanenko, Princess N. G. Iashvil´, and A. V. Semyhradova. In the homes of the latter two and also on the estate of Mrs. Davydova the production of embroideries based on designs both ancient and modern (but still in the same ancient style) has become very widespread.”
In 1906–1908 cultural life in Kyiv, although provincial, was enhanced by guest appearances of the celebrated Russian bass Fedor Shaliapin (Feodor Chaliapin), the actress Vera Komissarzhevskaia and her theater, and the actor and director Vsevolod Meierhold and his Society of New Drama. Aleksandr Blok’s Balaganchik (The Fairground Booth) was staged. In 1908 the great Sarah Bernhardt also performed in Kyiv. Literary evenings were organized featuring such Russian writers as Ivan Bunin, Aleksei Remizov, Blok, Andrei Belyi, Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, and others. The literary-artistic journal V mire iskusstva, financed by the Davydov family, Ekster, and Princess Iashvil´, appeared in 1907. Its editor and publisher in 1908 was the Ukrainian composer and music theoretician Borys Ianovs´kyi (1876–1933). The goal of the journal was to carry forward, in the Ukrainian capital, the principles of Diaghilev’s St. Petersburg-based journal Mir iskusstva, which had stopped publishing in 1904. V mire iskusstva published articles about art, reproductions of art works, literary prose, and poetry.
This brief survey of Kyiv’s intellectual and artistic life cannot overlook the Religious-Philosophical Society, which was something of a counterpart to the St. Petersburg and Moscow societies of the same name. This was the setting for the philosophical work of the great thinkers of the twentieth century, the Kyivites Nikolai Berdiaev and Lev Shestov. At the beginning of his philosophical memoirs Samopoznanie (opyt filosofskoi avtobiografii) (Self-Knowledge: An Essay in Philosophical Autobiography), Berdiaev describes Kyiv at the very end of the nineteenth century, offering a characterization that also remained true of Kyiv at the beginning of the twentieth century up to the First World War:
“Kyiv is one of the most beautiful cities not only in Russia but indeed in all of Europe. It is sits up on the hills, on the banks of the Dnieper, with an extraordinarily broad vista, with a marvelous Tsar’s garden and the St. Sophia Cathedral, one of the finest churches in Russia. Adjacent to Pechersk are Lypky, also in the upper part of Kyiv. This is the part of the city where the nobility and high officials live; it consists of large private homes with gardens.…Throughout my entire life I have had a special love of gardens. But I felt myself to have been born in the forest, and I loved the forest most of all. My whole childhood and adolescence are connected to Lypky. This was a world somewhat different from that of Pechersk, a world of the nobility and officials, more influenced by contemporary civilization, a world more inclined to gaiety, which Pechersk did not permit. On the other side of Khreshchatyk, the main thoroughfare with shops that was situated between two hills, lived the bourgeoisie. At the very bottom, by the Dnieper, lay Podil, inhabited mainly by Jews, but the Kyiv Theological Academy was also there.…In Kyiv one always sensed a link with Western Europe.”
The distinguished twentieth-century artist Antoine Pevsner (Natan Abramovich Pevzner), who was born in the Belarusian town of Klimavichy, spent five years at the Kyiv Art School. Before becoming a master of Russian constructivism after 1920, he was a painter and sketch artist influenced by Vrubel´. Of course, Kyiv was still a somewhat provincial city, but, as Dmytro Horbachov writes, “There was much to take comfort in: the Tereshchenko collection (which rivaled that of Tret´iakov and Alexander III), the collection of Western European paintings belonging to Varvara and Bohdan Khanenko (a descendant of a hetman of Ukraine)…; a European standard of book printing—Vasyl´ Kul´zhenko’s journals Iskusstvo and V mire iskusstva; the intellectualism of the Kyivan school of philosophy—Berdiaev, Shestov, Aleksandr Zakrzhevskii; and, most important for Pevsner, the ‘avant-garde’ exhibitions Zveno (The Link) and the Izdebski Salon.”
Zveno was one of the important exhibitions of the “pre–avant-garde,” which in Ukraine and Russia was called “left art” or “Russian futurism,” that is, the innovative art that would overturn, between 1907 and 1927, all the centuries-old artistic and aesthetic foundations that had held since the Renaissance. In 1907 the Russian symbolist exhibitions Golubaia Roza (Blue Rose) and Στέφανος (Stephanos, the Wreath) took place in Moscow, where the first signs of primitivism appeared in the works of the brothers Volodymyr and David Burliuk, Mikhail Larionov, and Natalia Goncharova. In 1908, however, Kyiv became a city of “modernity” with the mounting of the Zveno exhibition. The main organizer, David Burliuk, describes this event that shook up the artistic scene of the Ukrainian capital in the following way: “In early January [of 1908] A. Ekster and Davydova stopped by the Stephanos. At the time Ekster ‘apparently’ took a liking to me. She was young and beautiful. That is how the Kyiv exhibition was born. First, I traveled to Moscow and through Larionov brought the Muscovites’ paintings from there.…The exhibition opened in Jindrich Jindřišek’s shop [a Czech-owned musical instruments store on Khreshchatyk—J-C. M] in Kyiv and was named ‘Zveno.’ Aleksandra Aleksandrovna [Ekster] displayed her Switzerland. There was a green chill in her canvases.” Burliuk adds, “The works of my brother Volodymyr were blows of an ax hacking at the old. The puzzled Kyiv critics heaped abuse [on them].” The magazine Iskusstvo i pechatnoe delo wrote, “‘Zveno’ gave us unsuccessful imitations of foreign models.” And for his part the elderly professor Mykola Murashko expressed his opinion in these words: “To be fair, I will say that in the work of the main organizer of ‘Zveno,’ Mrs. Ekster, in her paintings Ocean and The Breton Shore there is much that is fine—there is depth, there are forms and style. However, she did not raise those around her to her level of understanding, but rather made concessions; like them, she abandoned conveying her subject matter, so that if there is a rock, then it should resemble a rock, because otherwise we look and become confused, not understanding what it is. In Polenov’s [painting] Sea of Galilee the rocks are beautiful and alive. But these—Larionov, Goncharova, and others—are hooligans! This is not art but the vexation of our simple-hearted society.”
To mark the occasion, David Burliuk issued a manifesto entitled “Golos impressionista v zashchitu zhivopisi” (The Voice of an Impressionist in Defense of Painting). The leaflet was published in V mire iskusstva and the newspaper Kievlianin. This was a pioneering “gesture” heralding the rise of a multitude of proclamations issued by European futurists, including Ukrainians and Russians, which proliferated with increasing frequency after 1909. The impressionism of artists from the Russian Empire that was practiced, for example, by Larionov, derived from French impressionism, but it transformed it by imbuing it with pantheistic and primitivist ideas.
Kyiv became the center of the European avant-garde yet again when an exhibition from Odesa arrived in 1910—the famous first Izdebski Salon. It showcased 776 works of art, including paintings, watercolors, graphic art, sculpture, and children’s drawings. Participating in the exhibition were members of Les Nabis (Maurice Denis, Édouard Vuillard), impressionists (Paul Signac, Pierre Bonnard, Larionov, Nikolai Tarkhov), symbolists (Odilon Redon), early cubists (Georges Braque, Henri le Fauconnier, Jean Metzinger), and the Fauves (the Parisians Kees van Dongen, Henri Matisse, Maurice de Vlaminck, Georges Roualt, Albert Marquet; the Russians Aristarkh Lentulov, Il´ia Mashkov; the Kyivite Ekster; and the Munich-based Russians Wassily Kandinsky, Marianne von Werefkin, Vladimir Bekhteev, Alexej von Jawlensky). In the manifesto published in the exhibition’s catalog and entitled “Novaia zhivopis´” (New Painting), the organizer of the Salon, the sculptor and painter Vladimir Izdebskii (Włodzimierz Izdebski), asserted that the art was but a small part of an immense psychological wave and that it corresponded to the general trend in innovative arts in the period around 1910 in Europe and also among artists who came from the Russian Empire—not to depict the world but to reveal it. The Kyivite Benedikt Livshits, a poet, erudite theoretician, and brilliant memoirist, declared: “Izdebsky’s exhibition was a turning-point in the development of my artistic tastes and views.…“This was a new vision of the world in all its sensual splendour and outstanding diversity…; it was also a new philosophy of art, a heroic aesthetics which overthrew all the established canons of art and revealed distances which took my breath away.” Livshits was a close friend of Ekster’s, who, incidentally, illustrated his collection of poetry Volch´e solntse (Wolf’s Sun) in 1914.
Ekster is one of the pillars of twentieth-century art. Without a doubt, she belongs to the Kyivan, if not Ukrainian, school of art, which left such a strong imprint on that century’s quests for innovation. In everything she did in her creative life, in her outstanding theater sets and costumes, and, above all, in her paintings, one can sense all that she drew upon in the Ukrainian city whose dominant aesthetic was the baroque, but with an addition of more archaic visual elements. Ekster’s entire body of work, with the exception, perhaps, of her short-lived constructivist period (1921–1922) and her turn to cubistic neoclassicism in France in the 1930s, bears the mark of the baroque: the profusion and generosity of forms and colors and the swirling motion of spirals. Here I would like to cite a few lines from her biographer, Georgii Kovalenko: “The majority of Aleksandra Ekster’s life is bound up with Kyiv, with Ukraine. She traveled a lot, she lived for long periods in Paris and Moscow, in Rome and St. Petersburg, but she would always return: her house, her atelier, her celebrated studio were all in Kyiv. And when she would have to leave Kyiv forever, she would set up her Paris house just like the one in Kyiv. It would have many bright Ukrainian rugs, embroideries, Ukrainian ceramics, and Ukrainian icons.”
At the same time, Ekster was an exceptional “conduit” of innovative artistic ideas. She moved between Kyiv, Moscow, Paris, and Italy. There is a passage in Livshits’s “Polutoraglazyi strelets” (The One and a Half-Eyed Archer), where David Burliuk turns to his brother Volodymyr with these words:
“My child, look, […] what Alexandra Alexandrovna gave me…”
It’s a photograph of Picasso’s latest painting. Exter had just brought it from Paris.
The last word in French painting. Pronounced over there, in the avant-garde, it will be passed on like a slogan. It is already being passed on—along the entire left front. It will occasion a thousand responses and imitations and will lay the foundation of a new movement.
Like conspirators huddled over the captured plan of an enemy fortress, the brothers bend over the valuable photograph—the first experiment in disintegrating the body into planes.
They raise their hands up to their eyes. While examining the composition they mentally break up the picture into parts.
A woman’s skull split open, the back of her head transparent, reveals dazzling perspectives…
“Jolly good…,” mutters Vladimir, “curtains for Larionov and Goncharova!”
This took place in the winter of 1909–1910 at the Burliuks’ Ukrainian estate in Taurida gubernia. Kyiv had reassembled there, and there arose the so-called “Russian futurism,” whose source must be sought in Kyiv and in Ukraine.
But Kyiv, in a most unfortunate way, also became the site of a most odious form of “modernity.” The city had its own “Dreyfus affair,” the Beilis trial, which had international repercussions. Benedikt Livshits, who himself was of Jewish background, recounted in his reminiscences the various aspects of anti-Semitism in the Russian Empire and the atmosphere that reigned in Kyiv in 1912. It was no surprise that in these conditions the charge against the Jew Beilis of the ritual murder of a young Christian would have a far-reaching scope. But the most extravagant and tragicomic aspect of this tense atmosphere was the fact that futurism was invoked in order to introduce arguments for and against. According to Livshits,
“[The lawyer] Shulgin claimed that [the detective] Krasovsky’s testimony…was related to the data contained in the indictment in the same way that a work by a skillful artist is related to a piece of Futurist daubing; in Petersburg the police carefully studied Khlebnikov’s Bobeobi before the evening in the Tenishev Hall because they suspected an anagram for Beiliss in it; and finally they forbad us to appear at Chukovsky’s lecture for fear that we would organize a pro-Jewish demonstration.”
Fortunately, Kyiv’s notorious reputation did not last long, and artistic life soon reappeared with its customary brilliance. In February–March 1914 the Kol´tso (Kil´tse, The Ring) exhibition was organized by Oleksandr Bohomazov, one of the most important representatives of Ukrainian cubo-futurism not only in painting but also in theoretical writing. Bohomazov was a friend of Ekster, and like her, he was deeply attached to Kyiv. He describes the Ukrainian capital thus: “Kyiv,…across its entire three-dimensional space is filled with a beautiful, varied, and profound dynamism. Here the streets reach to the sky, forms are full of tension, lines are energetic and powerful, they fall, shatter, sing, and play. The general pace of life emphasizes this dynamism even more; it endows it, so to speak, with legitimate foundation, and spills out broadly all around, until it calms down on the quiet shores of the Dnieper’s left bank.”
The Kol´tso exhibition featured 21 artists and 306 works of art, 88 of which were Bohomazov’s (paintings, watercolors, graphics, and drawings). The principles espoused by the Kol´tso group were formulated in the introduction to the catalog. They supplanted an architectural perspective with one of rhythmical vibrations of lines that was more closely related to sensibility and expressed more aesthetic emotions. The connection between Bohomazov’s aesthetic and that of Izdebski and, above all, Kandinsky, is evident. In his treatise entitled “Zhivopis´ i elementy” (Painting and Elements), written in Russian in 1914, Bohomazov maintains that a painting is a living organism, not a frozen illustration. Painting is connected to nature in the dialectical (as in Plato!) movement between the two. Bohomazov’s text is extraordinarily rich. It is one of the most profound essays in the literature on Ukrainian and Russian avant-garde art of the 1910s and 1920s, on par with the essays of Kandinsky, von Werefkin, Vladimir Markov, Ol´ga Rozanova, Larionov, Malevich, Georgii Iakulov, or Mikhail Matiushin.
In parallel with these trends, which functioned within the dominant Russian culture and language there developed a movement of Ukrainian identity and language. This was Ukrainian futurism, whose brilliant spokesman was the poet Mykhail´ Semenko (1892–1937), the future editor of the Kharkiv avant-garde journal Nova Generatsiia (1928–1930]). In late 1913 Semenko, his brother Vasyl´ (d. 1915), and the painter Pavlo Kovzhun (1896–1939) founded Ukraine’s first futurist group in Kyiv called Kvero, from the Latin word quaero, meaning “I seek.” In February 1914 the Kvero group published the first futurist publication in the Ukrainian language, an eight-page brochure entitled Derzannia (Daring), which mocked the official celebration of the centenary of the birth of Ukraine’s national poet Taras Shevchenko. At the same time and in the same way Russian cubo-futurist poets were jettisoning Pushkin and the nineteenth-century classics from the “steamboat of modernity.” The Kvero group invoked Italian futurism, not Russian, and in April 1914 it published a collection of Semenko’s poems entitled Kvero-futuryzm. However, owing to the outbreak of the First World War, this first effort was never continued. Despite the relatively isolated nature of this movement, Ukrainian futurism, as it emerged briefly in 1914, did not die. Opportunities opened up not only for creating experimental Ukrainian poetry, but also for publishing in Kyiv in 1919, under Semenko’s editorship, four issues of the magazine Mystetstvo, the first journal of its kind to appear in the Ukrainian language.
The event of the utmost importance occurred in March 1917, when the Central Rada, the central Ukrainian council, was formed, which would proclaim Ukraine’s independence. However, the October Revolution in Russia was followed by a savage civil war in Kyiv and Ukraine as a whole among the Whites, Reds, and Greens, which lasted until 1923. Before the situation worsened, it was still possible, in October 1917, to found the State Ukrainian Academy of Fine Arts (Ukrainian Academy of Art), which became the national center of art education. One of its professors was Mykhailo Boichuk (1882–1937), whose “neo-Byzantinism” was noted by Guillaume Apollinaire in Paris as early as 1910–1911. Boichuk was the leader of a movement known as Boichukism, which aimed to portray contemporary subjects in the Byzantine-Ukrainian style. Among the other professors of the Academy were Mykola Burachek (1876–1942), a master of the lyrical landscape, Vasyl´ Krychevs´kyi (1872–1952), who derived his subject matter from ancient Ukrainian art ornament, and his brother Fedir Krychevs´kyi (1879–1947), who created paintings in the spirit of Far Eastern art. There was also Abram Manevich, who gained renown in Paris as a fauvist and expressionist. Heorhii Narbut (1886–1920) achieved a fusion of the Ukrainian graphic tradition with the mastery of illustration that he acquired through his contact with the St. Petersburg-based magazine Mir iskusstva (his teachers were Ivan Bilibin and Mstislav Dobuzhinskii). Finally, high-quality Munich realism was representated by Oleksandr Murashko (1875–1919). There was obviously no single direction in the in the academy’s teaching program, but its very existence was a major milestone on the way to Kyiv’s cultural autonomy. The academy was short-lived, closed down during the 1922–1923 academic year, and the Institute of Visual Art was founded in its place, becoming the Kyiv Art Institute in 1927 after its merger with the Institute of Architecture. Vladimir Tatlin and Malevich came to teach there in the second half of the 1920s, when repressions against avant-garde artists, which began with the closure of the State Institute of Artistic Culture (GINKhUK) in 1927 in Leningrad, intensified in Russia.
In 1918, during the chaotic revolutionary period, Aleksandra Ekster was able to open a studio which took in a number of painters who later would gain fame, such as her assistant Isaak Rabynovych (Rabinovich), Oleksandr (Aleksandr) Tyshler, Nison Shyfryn (Nisson Shifrin), Pavel Chelishchev (Tchelitchew), Vadym Meller, Klyment (Kliment) Red´ko, Solomon Nikritin, André Lanskoy, and others. Ekster brought with her the entirety of cubo-suprematist-futurist knowledge, which she employed in painting, the theater, and applied art.
Performing arts enjoyed great favor in Kyiv, where Les´ Kurbas founded his Young Theater (Molodyi teatr) in 1916, which subsequently became the celebrated Berezil´ Theater in Kharkiv, and where some of the boldest art quests of the twentieth century were realized.
Kyiv was also the city where the great Bronislava Nijinska established her ballet studio; it was here that her career as a choreographer began in 1919–1921 and where she developed her theory of movement.
One cannot speak about Kyiv as one of the centers of “modernity” in the first quarter of the twentieth century without mentioning the Kultur-Lige, which was founded in late 1917 by members of the Jewish intelligentsia who devoted their efforts to Yiddish culture: Nakhman Maisel (Nachman Meisel), David Bergelson (Davyd Bergel´son), and Moshe Litvakov. The Kultur-Lige championed three principal causes: the education of the Jewish people, the production of literature in the Yiddish language, and the creation of Jewish art.
In Kyiv, as in Odesa, a quarter of the population was Jewish. Before the 1917 revolution the Jewish community was exposed to a variety of movements and their spokesmen: assimilationists, acculturationists, socialists, Zionists, “Yiddishists,” and orthodox traditionalists. The goal of the Kultur-Lige was to secure the Jewish population’s access to knowledge and art by creating public universities, gymnasia, libraries, drama circles, choirs, and the like. The Kultur-Lige issued its own Yiddish-language publications, which it disseminated throughout Ukraine and Russia.
With respect to art, there were artists in the Kultur-Lige who had started out as primitivists and cubo-futurists, such as the painters Issachar Rybak (1897–1935) and Oleksandr Tyshler (1898–1980), the sculptor Iosyf (Iosif) Chaikov (1888–1980), and the artist El Lissitzky (1890–1941).
Jewish artists like Rybak and Boris Aronson (1898–1980) wanted “to create a modern Jewish plastic art which seeks its own organic national form, color and rhythm.” In their 1919 manifesto in the publication Oyfgang (Sunrise) Rybak and Aronson repudiated the realism and naturalism of Jewish artists like Iurii (Yehuda) Pen and genre scenes “in the Jewish style.” They accepted the primitivism of folk forms and futurism, but rejected pure abstraction because, as they claimed, “the modern Jewish artist…in such an art painting cannot reveal living emotions.” Rybak and Aronson adopted a position identical to one we observe in the Jewish school in Paris in the twentieth century, where the expressionist element predominated.
On the other hand, El Lissitzky, whose marvelous primitivist-style illustrations to the traditional Passover song “Khad gadye” (One Kid) were issued by the Kultur-Lige publishing house in 1919, turned to a cubo-futurism that verged on total abstraction while still in Kyiv. In 1920 he moved to Vitebsk, where he ultimately sided with Malevich (not with Chagall), and where he created his celebrated series of drawings and lithographs Prouns (Project for the Affirmation of the New, 1919–1923).
Other artists of Jewish background, such as Antoine Pevsner and Naum Gabo, neither of whom was steeped in the Kultur-Lige aesthetic, created their own distinctive art that was part of the international modernist movement.
In April 1920 the Kultur-Lige organized the first and only exhibition of Jewish art in Kyiv. Among the eleven participating artists were El Lissitzky, Chaikov, Tyshler, and Shyfryn. But by 1921 the Kultur-Lige’s prospects in Kyiv came to an end. In 1927 the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kyiv opened a department of Jewish culture.
I will dwell briefly here on the magazine Semafor u maibutnie: Aparat panfuturystiv (Semaphore to the Future: The Panfuturists’ Apparatus), which Mykhail´ Semenko issued in Kyiv in 1922 (only one issue ever appeared). It contains a random mixture of European futurist and Dadaist influences: the most important thing was to establish a distance from Moscow. The cover of the magazine presents a composition featuring a mix of Cyrillic and Latin letters. By suggesting that the Ukrainian language could be written in the Latin alphabet, the Ukrainian Futurists also declared their desire to separate themselves from Russian influence. Semenko looked to Berlin and Paris, the German and French Dadaists (Richard Hülsenbeck, Tristan Tzara, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Arp, and others). Nonetheless, Semenko’s “poetry-painting” would not have been possible without, for example, Vasilii Kamenskii’s “ferro-concrete poems” or El Lissitzky’s typographical experiments and the arrangement of letters in his book designs.
All these attempts were short-lived. Tatlin and Malevich’s teaching stints in Kyiv (1925 and 1929–1930, respectively) were the last “flash” of innovation in the Ukrainian capital, as was Malevich’s retrospective exhibition in 1930, which was the Polish/Ukrainian/Russian artist’s last before the retrospective that took place in 1978 at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
In conclusion, I would like to provide a brief analysis of Malevich’s exemplary painting The Carpenter, which was exhibited in Kyiv in the spring of 1930. This painting is part of a series of postsuprematist works that were a return to the painter’s pre-1914 cubo-futurist village motifs. We see the same aesthetic of the icon, the popular print (lubok), and signboard with their hieratism of poses and almond-shaped “strabismus.” In The Carpenter, as in this entire late series, the distinctive feature is a Ukrainian polychromy. What remains of cubo-futurism is the geometrization and “metallic” colors. The artist builds the background of the painting with horizontal bands that delineate broad, monochromatic surfaces. The intersecting paths recall works exploring suprematist space created by the UNOVIS (Champions of New Art) movement at the VitebskVitebsk Art School. The wood element is accentuated. The color yellow is used for the pile of girders ready to be used in construction, the fence, the house (a church?), and the handle of the hatchet and the cutter-bit held by the carpenter. Both the hatchet and the cutter-bit are painted blue and yellow; they comprise the main color element of the whole surface. These “Ukrainian” colors coexist alongside the “Russian” colors of white, blue, and red, as often occurs the works of Ekster, who loved to play with the colors of various national flags (French, Italian, Russian, and Ukrainian). The green-and-red color combination was present in Malevich’s cubo-futurist period. In particular, it is seen in the Perfected Portrait of Ivan Vasil´evich Kliunkov, a representation of a painter-constructor, the artist Kliunkov (Kliun). Thus, The Carpenter constitutes a new image of a peasant/Orthodox believer/builder/painter—as well as of a martyr condemned to silence. Christ was a carpenter, and here in camouflaged form one can see an allegory of the crucified artist under the horrific conditions of the Stalinist terror. In addition to the tragic nature of the image, an aesthetic polemic with two important Ukrainian trends of the 1920s is detectable in this painting: Bohomazov’s spectralism (for example, his triptich Sawyers) and the neo-Byzantinism of the Boichukists. Postsuprematist polychromy reveals, despite the symbolic aspects, the non-objective nature of the world, and it is not associated with variations of light and color as seen through the retina. This is internal vision, like in an icon. At the same time, Malevich does not clothe contemporary reality in the garments of an icon; he creates his own “icons” and a reality that did not at all exist until then.
In the early 1930s Stalinist terror once again reduced Kyiv to the role of satellite, and this status continued until the rebirth of an independent Ukraine in the 1990s.
Translated from the Russian by Marta D. Olynyk with the assistance of Mary Ann Szporluk and Yevgeniy Runkevich.
Не исключено, что Малевич мог видеть “Гопака” Пымоненко около 1909 года, когда картина нашумела из-за золотой медали в Парижском салоне французских художников. Возможно, что мужской танцор на этой картине повлиял на примитивитсксие и кубофутуристические вещи Малевича(преувеличение,”разбухание” фигур).
See N. M. Tarabukin, Mikhail Aleksandrovich Vrubel´ (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1974).
N. I. Khardzhiev, “K. Malevich: Glavy iz avtobiografii khudozhnika,” in Stat´i ob avangarde: V dvukh tomakh (Moscow: RA, 1997), 1:118.
Dmytro Horbatchov, “La vie à Kiev au temps de Pevsner (1902–1909),” in Pevsner (1884 –1962): Colloque international Antoine Pevsner tenu au musée Rodin en décembre 1992 sous la direction de Jean-Claude Marcadé ([Villeurbanne]: Art édition, Association “Les Amis d’Antoine Pevsner”, 1995), 9–10.
On Svitoslavs´kyi’s Saturday “open houses,” see Georgii Kovalenko, “Aleksandra Ekster: Pervyie kievskie gody,” Iskusstvoznanie, 2005, no. 1, 557 and subsequent pages.
“Скульптура д. Архипенка досить ясно свідчить, що в молодого скульптора є “искра божа.” “Vystavka kartyn khudozhnyka Svitoslavs´koho ta ioho uchniv,” Hromads´ka dumka, no 96, 28 April 1906, 3. Cited in Horbatchov, “La vie à Kiev,” 10.
Dmytro Gorbatchev, “Avant-propos,” trans. Jean-Claude Marcadé, in L’Art en Ukraine (Toulouse: Musée des Augustins de Toulouse, 1993), 23; see also Dimitri Horbachov, “Ein Überblick über die ukrainische Avantgarde,” in Avantgarde & Ukraine, ed. Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker (Munich: Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1993), 55–72, published in conjunction with the exhibition “Avantgarde & Ukraine” held at the Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany.
For а more detailed study of this artistic, philosophical, and musical Kyiv circle, see Kovalenko’s outstanding article, “Aleksandra Ekster: Pervyie kievskie gody,” 547 and subsequent pages.
Evgenii Kuz´min, “Pis´mo iz Kishineva,” Russkaia Khudozhestvennaia Letopis´, 1912, no. 8–9, 132. Cited in Kovalenko, “Aleksandra Ekster: Pervyie kievskie gody,” 556.
For discussion of this magazine, see Kovalenko, “Aleksandra Ekster: Pervyie kievskie gody,” 559–62.
On the Religious-Philosophical Society in Kyiv, see Jutta Scherrer, Die Petersburger Religiös-Philosophischen Vereinigungen: Die Entwicklung des religiösen Selbstverständnisses ihrer Intelligencija-Mitglieder (1901–1917),, Forschungen zur osteuropäischen Geschichte 19 (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1973), 226–34.
Nikolai Berdiaev, “Samopoznanie (opyt filosofskoi avtobiografii),” in Sobranie sochinenii, 2nd rev. ed. (Paris: YMCA Press, 1983), 1:14.
See biography of Pevsner by Pierre Brullé, in Antoine Pevsner: Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre sculpté, by Elisabeth Lebon and Pierre Brullé (Paris: Association “Les amis d´Antoine Pevsner,” Galerie-éditions Pierre Brullé , 2002), 222–64.
Horbatchov, “La vie à Kiev,” 11.
David Burliuk, “Fragmenty iz vospominanii futurista,” cited in G. F. Kovalenko, Aleksandra Ekster (Moscow: Galart, 1993), 181.
Burliuk, “Fragmenty iz vospominanii futurista.” Cited in Horbatchov, “La vie à Kiev,” 11.
“Khudozhestvennaia Khronika,” Iskusstvo i pechatnoe delo (Kyiv), 1909, no. 1–2, 18. Cited in Kovalenko, Aleksandra Ekster, 181.
Mykola Murashko, Public lecture in the Kyiv Society of Antiquities and Arts (November, 1908). Archive of the National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kyiv, fond 17, no. 25, pp. 15¬–16. Cited in Horbatchov, “La vie à Kiev,” 11. See also Kovalenko, Aleksandra Ekster, 181; Kovalenko, “Aleksandra Ekster: Po napravleniiu k kubizmu,” Iskusstvoznanie, 2005, no. 2, 499, 518nn20–21.
Benedikt Livshits, The One and a Half-Eyed Archer, trans. and ed. John E. Bowlt (Newtonville, MA: Oriental Research Partners, 1977), 36.
Kovalenko, “Aleksandra Ekster: Pervyie kievskie gody,” 537.
Livshits, The One and a Half-Eyed Archer, 43–44.
See the catalog of the exhibition organized in Toulouse with the assistance of Dmytro Horbachov and Mikhail Kolesnikov, Alexandre Bogomazov, Jampol, 1880–Kiev, 1930: Musée d´Art Moderne, Réfectoire des Jacobins, Toulouse; Exposition du 21 juin au 28 août 1991 (Toulouse: éditions ARPAP, 1991).
Aleksandr Bogomazov, “Doklad na Vseukrainskom s″ezde khudozhnikov, Kiev, 1918: Osnovnye zadachi razvitiia iskusstva zhivopisi na Ukraine,” in Ukraïns´ki avanhardysty iak teoretyky i publitsysty, ed. Dmytro Horbachov, Olena Papeta, and Serhii Papeta (Kyiv: Triumf, 2005), 81.
On the Kvero movement, see Myroslava M. Mudrak, The New Generation and Artistic Modernism in the Ukraine (Ann Arbor: UMI, 1986), 9–13; Mudrak, Nova generatsia i mystets’yi modernizm v Ukraïni (Kyïv : Rodovid, 20128); Oleh Ilnytzkyj, Ukrainian Futurism, 1914–1930: A Historical and Critical Study (Cambridge, MA: Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University. 1997), 3–10.
Cf. Guillaume Apollinaire, Chroniques d’art (1902–1918) (Paris: Gallimard, 1960), 79, 167.
See Vadym Pavlovs´kyi, Vasyl´ Hryhorovych Krychevs´kyi: Zhyttia i tvorchist´ (New York: Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U.S., 1974).
For new documents on this period, seeTetiana Filevs’ka, ed, Kazymyr Malevych: Kyivs’kyi period, 1928-1930 (Kyïv : Rodovid, 2016); for the English Language edition, see Tetyana Filevska, ed., Kazimir Malevich: Kyïv Period, 1928-1930; Articles, Documents and Letters, trans. Marta Skorupsky and Wendy Salmond (Kyïv : Rodovid, 2017
Kultur-Lige Zamlung (Kyiv: Central Committee of the Kultur-Lige, November 1919), 38. Translation quoted in Seth L. Wolitz, “The Jewish National Art Renaissance in Russia,” in Tradition and Revolution: The Jewish Renaissance in Russian Avant-Garde Art, 1912–1928, ed. Ruth Apter-Gabriel (Jerusalem: The Israel Museum, 1987), 35.
Issachar Rybak and Boris Aronson, “Di Vegn Fun der Yidisher Moleray,” in Oyfgang, bk. 1 (Kyiv: Kultur-Lige, 1919), 124. Trans. Reuben Szklowin and quoted in Wolitz, “The Jewish National Art Renaissance in Russia,” 35.
See El Lissitzky’s 1919 canvas entitled Composition, housed in the National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kyiv, in the catalog Die grosse Utopie: Die russische Avantgarde 1915–1932 (Frankfurt am Main: Schirn Kunsthalle, 1992), no. 197.
See “Introduction from the Catalog of the ‘Jewish Exhibition of Sculpture, Graphics, and Drawings,’ February–March, 1920,” trans. from the Yiddish by Seth L. Wolitz, in Apter-Gabriel, Tradition and Revolution, 230.
For detailed discussion, see Marina Dmitrieva-Einkhorn, “La revue Signal vers l’avenir dans le réseau des avant-gardes: L’axe Milan–Paris–Berlin–Kiev, ” in Russie, France, Allemagne, Italie : Transferts quadrangulaires du néoclacissisme aux avant-gardes, ed. Michel Espagne (Tusson: Du Lérot, 3005), 214-31
Les amis de Valentine et Jean-Claude Marcadé (photos dans les archives de Valentine Marcadé)
Famille Jean-Claude-Valentine Marcadé
Sur la diabolisation de l’Islam spirituel.
Ceux qui font la propagation de cette diabolisation, en particulier à travers une lecture positiviste du Coran oublient que le judéo-christianisme que certains défendent comme « culture », est loin d’être dans ses textes saints et leurs pratiques dans les siècles d’un irénisme à toute épreuve. Le judaïsme a dû mettre de l’eau dans son vin théologique (grâce au christianisme ) et est en plein renouveau. Le taches que sont les croisades, l’Inquisition, entre autres, ne plaident pas pour la douceur évangélique présumée du catholicisme. Donc, ces religions ont évolué. Quant au bouddhisme, réputé non-violent ontologiquement, il faut voir comment il se comporte aujourd’hui encore au Sri Lanka ou en Birmanie. Et je suis sûr que l’Islam, qui est venu 6 siècles après le judéo-christianisme, évoluera et il faut l’y aider et non pas l’enfoncer.
Je suis en train de lire Nicolas de Cues et on sait quelle est sa lecture du Coran (voir Nicolas de Cues, Le Coran tamisé , texte latin introduit, traduit et annoté par Hervé Pasqua, PUF, col. « Epiméthée », 2011. Résumé sur la Toile : Dans cette oeuvre, le Cusain se situe d’emblée sur le plan spirituel et théologique. Il déplace le problème : allant à l’essentiel, il prend le parti de faire une « pia interpretatio » du Coran, qu’il lit à la lumière de la Bible et de la raison. Sa lecture est religieuse et philosophico-théologique. Elle s’appuie sur la « recherche de Dieu » propre à tous les hommes et seule capable d’unir chrétiens et musulmans).
J’étais d’autre part l’interlocuteur et l’ami d’Henry Corbin…
Et puis, l’exemple de la Russie montre que judéo-christianisme, islam, bouddhisme peuvent coexister pacifiquement, même si des forces venues de l’extérieur essaient de faire éclater l’équilibre actuel.
Je suis consterné par le discours, comme toujours soporifique, de Macron devant l’ONU – il donne des leçons, fait la morale (une morale sélective) – Il ne voit pas la poutre qui est dans son oeil américaniste : les gilets jaunes gazés, mutilés, la création du désordre en Syrie et en Lybie…le silence sur l’assassinat du journaliste Khashoggi, opposant au prince héritier d’Arabie Saoudite. Et le silence sur le meurtre par Trump du général iranien cette année…
Et ils se gargarise de « nos valeurs » : qu’il médite la grande maxime du saint et génial Blaise Pascal, si nourri de la lecture de notre compatriote gascon Montaigne : Vérité en deçà des Pyrénées, erreur au-delà!
A propos de l’auteur
Jean-Claude Marcadé, родился в селе Moscardès (Lanas), agrégé de l'Université, docteur ès lettres, directeur de recherche émérite au Centre national de la recherche scientifique (C.N.R.S). , председатель общества "Les Amis d'Antoine Pevsner", куратор выставок в музеях (Pougny, 1992-1993 в Париже и Берлинe ; Le Symbolisme russe, 1999-2000 в Мадриде, Барселоне, Бордо; Malévitch в Париже, 2003 ; Русский Париж.1910-1960, 2003-2004, в Петербурге, Вуппертале, Бордо ; La Russie à l'avant-garde- 1900-1935 в Брюсселе, 2005-2006 ; Malévitch в Барселоне, Билбао, 2006 ; Ланской в Москве, Петербурге, 2006; Родченко в Барселоне (2008).
Автор книг : Malévitch (1990); L'Avant-garde russe. 1907-1927 (1995, 2007); Calder (1996); Eisenstein, Dessins secrets (1998); Anna Staritsky (2000) ; Творчество Н.С. Лескова (2006); Nicolas de Staël. Peintures et dessins (2009)
Malévitch, Kiev, Rodovid, 2013 (en ukrainien); Malévitch, Écrits, t. I, Paris, Allia,2015; Malévitch, Paris, Hazan, 2016
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