List of Western European paintings in Ukrainian museums

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Art museums of Ukraine possess a large number of Western European paintings. There, one can see canvases by world-famous artists (such as Titian, Francesco Guardi, Jusepe de Ribera, Diego Velázquez, Rubens) as well as by the painters whose works throughout the world are unique (such as Master of the Osservanza, Jacopo del Sellaio, Jacob Ferdinand Voet, Georges de La Tour and others).

Before the year 1917[edit]

The museum collections of Western European paintings were formed in different ways. Usually they were based on private collections. The collectors often sold or presented pictures they owned to other owners; sometimes (mostly after the 1905 Russian Revolution) large collections were sold abroad.

A number of Ukrainian art lovers spoke out against the export of the artistic wealth and strove for its preservation in public museums and galleries. As early as in the middle of the 19th century, in Ukraine there existed private museums and ‘cabinets of fine arts’ in the universities of Kiev, Kharkov, and Odessa. It was due to the public efforts that the first Ukrainian public museum was opened in 1886 in Kharkov, and the municipal art gallery in Lvov in 1907. Both had large sections of Western European paintings. Some educated people paid their own money to acquire artistic objects which they wanted to donate to their native cities. In such a manner, I. Betsky and A. Alfyorov, graduates of Kharkov University, started the collection of Western European paintings at the local museum. In Kiev, it was Bogdan and Varvara Khanenko who in the 1870s began collecting works by Western European artists.

Between the October Revolution and the Great Patriotic War[edit]

After the October Revolution, all artistic works located in Ukraine were nationalised and distributed to museums and art galleries, both to the existing and to the newly formed ones.

But the new rulers kept selling works of art abroad. Besides, Ukrainian museum pieces were being exchanged for far less valuable ones from Russian museums. For example, against Varvara Khanenko’s will, the Bolsheviks split the collection of Kiev Museum. Some pieces were sold to the USA for little money that was to be spent on military equipment and arms. Varvara’s will was violated once again after her death when the mention of the Khanenkos disappeared from the name of the museum. After that, it was for a long time called Kiev Museum of Western and Oriental Art.

In 1925-1926, the museum was enriched with Shchavinsky’s collection of the 17th century pictures by Flemish and Dutch artists.

In 1919, Zhitomir Local History Museum was created. Its art gallery was based on the Chaudoirs’ collection with a number of first-rate canvases by Western European painters.

The works from the stock of Odessa Committee for the Protection of Monuments of Art and Antiquity and the ones from the metropolitan museums formed Odessa Art Museum. It was opened in 1920. Its present name is Odessa State Museum of Western and Eastern Art.

In November 1920, the Crimea having become Soviet, the regional section for the protection of monuments of art and antiquity started work effecting the order of the Crimean Revolutionary Committee. The section was to expropriate and inventory the art treasures from the palaces and mansions of the Crimean South Coast. In December, the objects expropriated formed the basis of Yalta Popular Artistic Museum where Western European authors prevailed. In 1927, Yalta Museum's collection was transferred to the newly created Sevastopol Art Museum. The same year, the museum in Sevastopol received Simferopol Art Museum’s entire collection of Western European art that included a lot of valuable Flemish and Dutch paintings.

After the annexation of Western Ukraine to the USSR in 1939, Lviv Art Gallery was enriched with nationalised private collections containing plenty of wonderful works by Western Europeans.

During the Great Patriotic War[edit]

On June 29, 1941, most pieces from Kiev Museum of Western and Oriental Art started being evacuated to Penza and Saratov. But it appeared impossible to move the whole collection. When the Germans came, they started plundering the collection, a process that was put the brakes on for some time only by Dietrich Roskamp who was the keeper of the museum at that time. He protested against the misappropriation of the artistic objects and moving the collection to Germany. But it was hardly possible to fully stop it, and in 1943, due to the Red Army’s advance, the invaders organised the exportation of the collection to Germany. They did it methodically at first, listing and carefully packing the objects, and later hastily and chaotically. Altogether, the Nazis took 474 pictures, 10 sculptures and about 25,000 prints from the museum. Luckily, a few valuable works had managed to be hidden, among them Perugino’s Archangel and Marco Palmezzano’s Madonna with a Saint.

225 works of art were plundered from Lviv Art Gallery during the German invasion, many of them were destroyed. Among them was the unique collection of Dürer’s paintings.

In Kharkov Art Museum, only five thousand pieces survived.

Before the war, the collection of Poltava Art Museum numbered about 30,000 pieces. The exposition failed to be evacuated and was almost all destroyed. Among the losses was the priceless Western European collection with unique works by Giambattista Tiepolo, Rubens, Melchior d'Hondecoeter, Adriaen van Ostade, Vigée-LeBrun and others.

The major part of the objects from Sevastopol Art Gallery was evacuated and preserved by its director Mikhail Kroshitsky. After the war, the works of art from Sevastopol Gallery were on display in Simferopol for some time, because Sevastopol lay in ruins and the house of the museum had been burnt down.

Only eleven objects of all the pre-war treasures survived in the Art Museum in Donetsk (at that period the name of the city was Stalino).

After World War II[edit]

Kiev and Odessa have the largest collections that exist as independent museums of western and eastern (oriental) art. The Western European collection in Lvov, though as rich and valuable as those in Odessa and Kiev, is but a department of the local art gallery. Sections containing a lot of valuable works by Western Europeans exist in art museums of Kharkov, Sevastopol, and in Zhitomir Local History Museum. A number of important canvases by foreign artists are possessed by the museums of Poltava, Sumy, Lutsk, Uzhgorod.

Works by famous Western European painters in Ukraine[edit]

Dnepropetrovsk Art Museum

Khanenko Art Museum in Kiev

Portrait of the Infanta Margarita by Velasquez
Still life with Dead Hare by Jan Weenix

Kharkiv Art Museum

Lutsk Local History Museum

Lviv Art Gallery

Mikhail Kroshitsky Art Museum in Sevastopol

Nikanor Onatsky Regional Art Museum in Sumy

Odessa Museum of Western and Eastern Art

Poltava Art Museum

Yosyp Bokshay Transcarpathian Regional Museum of Art

Zhitomir Local History Museum

References[edit]

  • West-European Painting of the 14th-18th centuries (the Ukrainian title: Західноєвропейський живопис 14−18 століть). A picture album. − Kiev, "Mystetstvo" Publishing House, 1981 (in Ukrainian, Russian, and English)

External links[edit]