For­got­ten Ukrainian Im­pres­sion­ist artist gets re­dis­cov­ered

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle - BY MARIYA KAPINOS KAPINOS@KYIVPOST.COM

When Rus­sian tsar Ni­cholas II vis­ited France in 1909 he was ex­pected to present some­thing valu­able and mem­o­rable to French Pres­i­dent Ar­mand Fal­lieres.

So he brought Fal­lieres two paint­ings by Ukrainian artist Mykhaylo Tkachenko.

Tkachenko was an Im­pres­sion­ist artist, born in 1860 in Ukraine. After studying in Saint Peters­burg Academy of Arts, he moved to France in 1887 to con­tinue studying and work there. Sev­eral years later, in the 1890s, he was rec­og­nized in Paris as an ex­cep­tional Im­pres­sion­ist artist, win­ning gold medals at the big­gest art ex­hi­bi­tions.

He spent the last years of his life in Ukraine, and died in his home city of Kharkiv in 1916. When Ukraine be­came a part of Soviet Union, Tkachenko was for­got­ten. Yet his le­gacy still ex­ists, and the Bri­tishUkrainian Cham­ber of Com­merce in co­op­er­a­tion with the Yale Club of Ukraine, the Cam­bridge So­ci­ety of Ukraine, the Har­vard Club of Ukraine and the U.S.-Ukraine Busi­ness Coun­cil or­ga­nized a se­ries of events in Kyiv, Lviv and Kharkiv to re­store the mem­ory of the artist.

They in­vited James Ru­bin, one of the lead­ing ex­perts on Im­pres­sion­ism from France, to re­mind Ukraine about Tkachenko.

Pro­fes­sor Ru­bin gave a lec­ture on Nov. 1 at the Hy­att Re­gency Kyiv, where 20 paint­ings by Tkachenko were pre­sented in a spe­cial one-evening ex­hi­bi­tion or­ga­nized by the Korners Art Gallery.

French per­cep­tion

Ru­bin spe­cial­izes in his­tory, the­ory and crit­i­cism of 19th cen­tury Euro­pean art, es­pe­cially French art, yet when he saw Tkachenko’s paint­ings for the first time, he could not take his eyes off them and was very sur­prised that he had never heard of Tkachenko be­fore. Ru­bin de­cided to make the painter well-known again.

“It is ex­cit­ing to re­dis­cover an Im­pres­sion­ist painter of such a fine qual­ity, who was so highly rec­og­nized dur­ing the Im­pres­sion­ist pe­riod, but who, due to his­tor­i­cal cir­cum­stances, has since been for­got­ten,” says Ru­bin.

Ru­bin is con­vinced that if Tkachenko had stayed in Paris and made it a cen­ter of his ca­reer, he would not be for­got­ten. But the artist spent a lot of time in Ukraine and that is why he dis­ap­peared from the Euro­pean view.

Dur­ing his speech, Ru­bin showed pic­tures of Tkachenko’s paint­ings and ex­plained their value. Most of the draw­ings pre­sented at the ex­hi­bi­tion at Hy­att Re­gency Kyiv were Ukraine’s 19th cen­tury coun­try­side land­scapes, with typ­i­cal for Im­pres­sion­ism small, thin yet vis­i­ble brush­strokes. How­ever, in France Tkachenko was mostly known for his wa­ter­scapes.

Su­sanna Chakhoian, the soloist of Na­tional Opera of Ukraine, was among the guests who came to lis­ten to Ru­bin and to look at Tkachenko’s paint­ings. She could not stop her­self from com­par­ing Tkachenko's art­works to other world-known artists.

“My fa­vorite place in Paris is Musée d’Or­say with its col­lec­tion of art­works by (Claude) Monet, (Pier­reAu­guste) Renoir and (Edgar) De­gas, so Im­pres­sion­ist es­thet­ics are very close to my heart,” says Chakhoian. “Yet I was im­pressed how pre­cisely Tkachenko re­flected even the small­est de­tails in his works, they are full of love to his moth­er­land.”

How it all started

The first one to re­dis­cover Tkachenko’s art was the Chair­man of the Bri­tish Ukrainian Cham­ber of Com­merce Bate C. Toms. In 2012, he found his ini­tial in­spi­ra­tion by vis­it­ing Korners Gallery in Kyiv, where he saw Tkachenko’s pieces for the first time.

“I was ac­tu­ally look­ing for some­thing else, but was as­ton­ished by the qual­ity of the Tkachenko’s paint­ing,” re­calls Toms.

The Bri­tish-Ukrainian Cham­ber of Com­merce then in­vited James Ru­bin to Kyiv in 2013. He con­firmed the high stan­dard of Tkachenko’s paint­ings and ex­pressed his as­ton­ish­ment that he had never heard of this artist be­fore.

“After pro­fes­sor Ru­bin spoke to us in the sum­mer of 2013, the Bri­tishUkrainian Cham­ber of Com­merce cre­ated its Tkachenko project,” re­calls Toms. “How­ever, with the in­va­sion of Crimea, we sus­pended this ini­tia­tive — which we are now restarting.”

Toms ex­pressed re­gret that very of­ten Ukrainian artists are only ex­hib­ited in ob­scure art gal­leries in the West.

“Our project is for a Ukrainian artist to be ex­hib­ited in ma­jor museums and gal­leries abroad.”

The next step for the Bri­tishUkrainian Cham­ber of Com­merce is pub­lish­ing of a new com­pre­hen­sive book on Tkachenko and his paint­ings in English, French and Ukrainian, for which Ru­bin plans to write an es­say as a pref­ace. The sec­ond step is to bring to­gether all of Tkachenko’s works, with a cat­a­logue in all three lan­guages. They plan to take this ex­hi­bi­tion to Lon­don, Paris and New York.

French ex­pert on Im­pres­sion­ism James Ru­bin gives a lec­ture in Hy­att Re­gency Kyiv about Ukrainian painter Mykhaylo Tkachenko on Nov.1. (Kostyan­tyn Ch­er­nichkin)

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