The State Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art

The State Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art has one of the largest collections of folk art in the Soviet Union. The reserves and displays of the museum contain over 60,000 exhibits dating from various times. The history of the collection goes back to the late 19th century when a group of prominent Ukrainian and Russian cultural figures — A. Prakhov, D. Shcherbakivsky, M. Murashko and M. Bilyashivsky — sponsored the foundation of the Kiev Museum of Art, Industry and Science. Its ethnography department held a small collection of works of folk art. Over time, the collection was enlarged, mainly through private donations, for the city authorities allocated no funds for the acquisition of exhibits.
The nationalization of private collections, the registration of cultural monuments, and the allocation of funds by the state greatly contributed to the growth, both in scope and quality, of museum collections.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the Kiev Museum of Art, Industry and Science sponsored the establishment of two independent museums — the Kiev Historical Museum and the Kiev State Museum of Ukrainian Art. The latter had a fairly large collection of folk decorative and applied art.
The period from the 1920s to the 1940s saw this department considerably enriched by new acquisitions from major museums in Moscow and Leningrad, as well as from art exhibitions. The creative work of folk craftsmen and the popularization of folk art were greatly promoted by the Republican Exhibition of Decorative Folk Art held in 1954 in the cities of Kiev, Moscow. Warsaw and Krakow in honor of the. 300th anniversary of Ukraine's reunification with Russia. The Ukrainian folk art exposition was established the same year as a branch of the Museum of Ukrainian Art, the exhibits having been. chosen from the above museum and the Jubilee Exhibition. In 1964, an independent establishment was set up —the State Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art, located in the grounds of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. Very soon, the museum became famous throughout the Soviet Union, and far beyond its borders.
The museum exposition presents a vivid picture of the history of Ukrainian folk art. It is arranged in 14 halls totaling some 2,000 sq. m. and consists of two departments — Ukrainian Folk Art of the 17th — early 20th centuries, and Soviet Ukrainian Art. Each department is subdivided into sections depicting different types of folk art: weaving, embroidery, wood carving, ceramics, clothing, glassware, porcelain and decorative, paintings by Katerina Bilokur. All exhibitions are arranged on historical, chronological and monographic principles, taking into account the ethnographic division of the Ukraine.
The collection of rugs, carpets and hand-woven and printed fabrics contains over 5,000 exhibits. Rugs and carpets alone are not very numerous, but those on display in the museum give one an opportunity to trace the development of rug-making in the Ukraine, a craft noted for its distinctly national style and the great variety of local peculiarities.
Here one can see unique masterpieces by anonymous artisans of the 18th-19th centuries; rugs from Volhyn (1782), from the Poltava region (1831) and Podolye (1871). Hand-woven rugs and carpets of the early 20th century are more numerous, but the most comprehensive collection is that of Soviet times. Some of the products are distinguished for their high standard of craftsmanship. Among these are rugs by folk artisans P. Vlasenko and N. Vovk, and by professional artists S. Kolos and 0. Mashkevich from Kiev; L. Tovstukha and N. Babenko from Reshetilivka village, Poltava Region; V. Karas from Hlinyani village, Lvov Region; M. Schneider-Senyuk from Kherson and L. Zhohol from Kiev.
There is a highly representative collection of art fabrics containing tablecloths, rushniks (decorative towels), national costumes and bedspreads adorned with beautiful ornamentation. Exhibits in this section represent the most famous hand-weaving centers in the Ukraine — Krolevets, Dihtyari and Bohuslav. Today, large weaving factories function in these towns. Here you can also see interesting monographic collections of hand-woven articles made by Shevchenko Prizewinning artisans H. Veres (Kiev Region) and H. Vasilashchuk (Ivano-Frankovsk).
The collection of printed fabrics is a rather small one, though it includes a number of rare exhibits dating from the 17th—19th centuries. Over the last few years, this collection has been enlarged by new acquisitions, which reflect the finest traditions of the past.
The collection of embroidered articles is the museum's largest, both in terms of the number of exhibits on display and the craft centers it represents. It vividly illustrates the art of needlework as practiced in various localities of the Ukraine. Most of the articles came from the Poltava and Kiev regions. A fairly rich col­lection is from Podolye; wonderful exhibits represent Bukovina and the Hutsul land. There are unique examples of women's blouses and fragments of rushniks made in the 17th and 18th centuries. But the most varied and interesting collection is that of embroidered articles made in art-craft factories and by contemporary folk master-craftsmen. These are true masterpieces whose production involves a number of highly complicated techniques and which are characterized by exceptional decorative and compositional qualities.
Many articles in the contemporary embroidery collection are thematic compositions depicting important jubilee dates in the life of the country. As a rule, thematic compositions are accompanied by traditional ornamental designs now given a new interpretation by the artists, as well as by new decorative motifs.
The collection of artistic wood and horn carving is also one of the museum's most prized and numbers several thousand exhibits. It includes unique carved articles of everyday use representing different ethnographic regions of the Ukraine. Also displayed are furniture suites, dishes, tools, carved harness accessories and musical instruments of the 18th and 19th centuries. From the artistic viewpoint, the collection of 18th-century engraved powder flasks is of special value.
Wood carving of the Soviet period is represented by the creative works of artisans from the Kiev, Poltava, Chernigov, Sumy, Cherkassy and Lvov regions as well as from Podolye, Volhyn, the Hutsul land and the Carpathians. The collection contains works by such well-known master craftsmen as P. Verna, V. Svida, A. Shtepa, V. Nahnibida, I. and V. Odrekhivsky, A. Sukhorsky, Yu. and S. Korpanyuk and D. Shkriblyak. This speaks eloquently of the flourishing of this art form in the modern period.
A place of importance in the museum's exposition is given to ceramics. Of special interest are decorative tiles produced during the 15th and 16th centuries. The most representative collection of ceramics is that of the latter half of the 19th—early 20th centuries.
The Soviet period is represented by articles made practically in all the centers of ceramic production in the Ukraine as well as by the creative works of artisans employed by various ceramics factories and production’s associations.
In the section on Soviet china and faience, one's attention is drawn to articles decorated with paintings by famous masters of decorative art such as M. Timchenko, H. Pavlenko-Chernichenko, V. Pavlenko and V. Klimenko-Zhukova. Factory-made porcelain is represented by specimens from the Poltava, Ternopol, Sumy, Borislav and Druzhkivka china' works.
The museum collection of glassware is one of the largest in the Ukraine as well. Especially valuable, both from the historical and artistic viewpoints are objects made at the "hutas," glass workshops during the 17th and 18th centuries. Here one can see carafes, flasks, goblets and bottles made in the form of a bear or a ram, articles which naturally combine their utilitarian qualities with high artistic merit. As a matter of fact, the same feature is characteristic of contemporary Ukrainian glass, the collection of which numbers over 2,000 pieces and is expanding with each passing year.
Famous contemporary glass-blowers M. Pavlovsky, B. Vaiko and M. Tarnavsky from Lvov; L. Mityaeva, I. Zaritsky and I. Apollonov from Kiev, preserve the finest traditions of the past in their articles and yet comply with the demands of the times.
The museum collection of glassware makes it possible to trace the main trends and the most characteristic features of ornamental glass as practiced in different localities of the Ukraine.
Decorative painting has been popular in the Ukraine since ancient times, but it was only in the Soviet period that it became an independent branch of folk art, assuming the form of a decorative panel painted on paper in tempera, gouache or water-colour. The museum boasts a collection of works by prominent masters of decorative painting such as H. Sobachko-Shostak, P. Vlasenko, T. Pata, N. Bilokin, Ya. Pilipenko, M. Priymachenko, M. Timchenko, the sisters V. and H. Pavlenko, P. Hlushchenko and F. Panko.
Today, decorative painting is not only shown at exhibitions and in museums, but is used for book illustrations, for decorating the interiors of public establishments, in weaving, in the production of china and faience, and in architecture.
A separate hall presents the original paintings and graphic works of Katerina Bilokur, an outstanding master of decorative painting. People's Artist of ithe UkrSSR.
The museum exposition is continually being enlarged with new works of art of the pre-Revolutionary period as well as from Soviet times.