Kiev: National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art

NatMusUkrFolkArt13Perhaps my favourite museum I visited in Kiev, the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art is situated within the grounds of Pechersk Lavra, a huge monastery complex founded in the 11th century on the banks of the Dnieper.

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Entrance to Pechersk Lavra

This post is simply an overview of the museum and its contents, but I hope at a later date to research Ukrainian costume and its making and history in more detail, probably by picking one of the pieces below to start my research. Please comment if you are interested in any particular costumes or elements.

The incredibly informative and well-illustrated folkcostume.blogspot has a number of posts about Ukrainian dress and embroidery, so I recommend having a look to find out more about the items featured here.

Rushnyk

The Folk Museum (as I’ll refer to it from now on) has a huge display of embroidered rushnyk (pronounced ‘rooshnik’). As I mentioned in my last post on the Ivan Gonchar Museum, these strips of cloth have traditionally played an important role in rituals throughout life, being used in baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Rushnyk were traditionally made by individuals for use within families, but their organised production also developed into a sophisticated textile industry during the 20th century, enjoying considerable growth in the 1960s and 70s. State-run factories were set up, which later became part of the “Ukrhudozhprom” (Ukrainian Art Industry), under the Ministry of Local Industry. The rushnyk displayed here largely come from these factories. I’d love to know more about how their production and design differs from family-made rushnyk.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt04Hand-embroidered linen rushnyks (рушники) made in the “Red beam” factory (фабрика “червоний проминь”), New Sanzhary, Poltava region, 1951 – 67.

This chest was displayed in the rushnyk room, so I assume it could have been used to store textiles.

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Carved and painted wooden chest, early 20th century, Ivano-Frankivsk region

Costumes

The museum displays 28 sets of Ukrainian folk costumes from the 19th to 20th century. Organised by geographical region, they are displayed as full outfits, with all the jewelry and accessories to go with the clothes. I’d be interested to know whether they came to the museum as full outfits, and if not, how it was decided to put items together. Most are women’s outfits, which were generally less likely to be made from factory-produced textiles than men’s clothing.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt06Women’s outfits, late 19th – early 20th century, Vlasivka village, Zinkivsky District, Poltava region. Detail: Wrap-skirt, or ‘plakhta’ (плахта)

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NatMusUkrFolkArt08Late 19th- early 20th century costumes, Sumy region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt10 Early 20th century, Chernigiv region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt12 Late 19th – early 20th century, Volyn region

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Svyta (overcoat), 1917.

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Svyta (overcoat), 1930s, Vydrychi village, Kamin-Kashyra district, Volyn region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt17 NatMusUkrFolkArt18 Late 19th – early 20th century, Yavoriv district, Lviv region

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Mans costume, early 20th century, Kosiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region

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NatMusUkrFolkArt21 NatMusUkrFolkArt22 NatMusUkrFolkArt24NatMusUkrFolkArt23 Two early 20th century costumes from Torgovytsia village, Gorodenkiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region

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late 19th – early 20th century, Nyzhni Kryvchi village, Borshchiv district, Ternopil region

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NatMusUkrFolkArt27Late 19th – early 20th century, Chernivtsi region

Rugs

There’s an impressive array of handwoven rugs at the museum, most with colourful floral designs.
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NatMusUkrFolkArt3018th century, Poltava province. Wool, handwoven.

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19th century, Kyiv province. Wool, handwoven.

Carved tools

I think more museums should display the tools used to make and maintain the objects on display – after all, they determine an object’s appearance and present state. At the Folk Museum I found a printing block and these beautifully-carved ironing implements. If anyone can guess/knows how these ‘rubels’ are used please let me know!

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Printing block, 19th century, Poltava province. Wood, handcarved.

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Implements for ironing – ‘rubel’ (рубель), Kyiv province. Wood, handcarved.

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In descending order: back of a cart, 19th century, Poltava province; back of a cart, 19th century, Kyiv province; back of a sleigh, 1870s, Poltava province.

Painting

During the 20th century, many Ukrainian artists made drawings and paintings inspired by folk art. They drew upon motifs and subject matter in textiles and ceramics to make a genre of art which also fed into and was influenced by trends in the international art scene. Many chose to re-imagine and keep alive folk tales by depicting them in paint.

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“Bird on Guelder Rose”, T. Pata (1884-1976), 1951. Gouache on paper.

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Y. Mironova (1929-2010), “проводжала дівчинонька” (The Girl’s Farewell), 1970. Gouache on paper.

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M. Prymachenko (1909-97), “Wedding”, 1959. Gouache on paper.

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N. Bilokin (1894-1981), “Wedding Procession”, 1938. Gouache on paper

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Ceramics and glass

As with textiles, Ukrainian ceramics have a long tradition; pottery from as early the Neolithic era has been discovered here. The Folk Museum houses a whole range of plates and vessels and sculptures, but my camera was most attracted to the animal-shaped ceramics on display.

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‘Two-faced lion’ vessel, late 18th- early 19th century, Kyin province.

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Ceramic goat, 1967, Kyiv

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Late 18th-early 19th century plate, Sunki and Dybyntsi villages, Kyiv region.

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O. Hriadunova (1898-1974), Kyiv, 1940s-50s.

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O. Zhelezniak (1909-63), ceramic sculptures, 1960s, Hrybovaya Rudnia village, Chernihiv region.

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Glass containers, 15th -18th centuries

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Jewel of Donetsk

Last week I paid another visit to Donetsk, a city in Eastern Ukraine where I’ve been regularly working as a teacher over the past few months.glass03

In November, I came across the most breathtakingly beautiful thing I’ve seen in the city so far – even more so because it was completely unexpected. While on a hunt for Ukrainian linen, I ended up in the central market, ЦУМ. A large neoclassical block of a building, ЦУМ is fairly impressive from the outside, if a little dull. There’s certainly no hint of dazzling creativity from its grey exterior.

Inside, it looks pretty much like any other department store in Europe, but at the more rundown end of the scale. Wires trail, there’s a distinct lack of heating and it seems that the decorators never quite finished after the fire that gutted the building in the 1980s.

To reach the fabric stalls on the top floor, I head for the stairs, weaving through a maze of glass-topped jewelry counters and glassy-eyed security guards to the back of the building. I push open an unassuming little door – and stop dead in my tracks. The bare walls of the stairwell are lit by the brilliant colours of one enormous stained glass window that spans the three floors of the building. It’s hard to do it justice in photos, but that’s what I tried to do with these, taken a few days later, when I returned, armed with a camera.glass09glass05glass04I know little about the window, except that it was made in the 1960s when the original 1937 building was rebuilt (having been nearly completely destroyed during the Second World War).

The window seems to flow up through the building, with its central composition of near-life-size figures set against a swirling, semi-abstract background. In typical Soviet style, it depicts the ideals of culture and industry: elegant dancers wearing traditional costume, scientists gazing nobly into test tubes, farm workers proffering baskets of fruit, and broad-shouldered figures at work in the mines and steelworks that Donetsk was originally built on (the name of the city’s football team Shakhtar means ‘miner’, the equivalent of Northampton ‘cobblers’ or Arsenal ‘gunners’).

glass03The whole enormous composition is full brilliant bits of detail. Pieces of glass have been cleverly cut and arranged to depict the shadow of a jacket lapel, smoke rising from factory chimneys and the light cast by a miner’s torch. Even in areas of the background where only one or two colours have been used, the orientation of triangular-shaped pieces suggest the outline of the distant, mountainous slag heaps on the outskirts of the city.

glass12The colour scheme reflects the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, itself supposed to be based on the broad sky and fields of the country’s landscape. The designer has used it to great effect to contrast blue-shadowed workers against the flames of the forge roasting their backs.

Of course, this also reflects the temperature of Donetsk, ranging from 30 in August to  -30 degrees in January. In these pictures, a cloudy and dull -20 degrees day lights the window; I look forward to seeing how the warmer rays of summer will illuminate it.

glass08On a final note, there are plans to redevelop the building, but, according to a recent article, the new owners are planning to keep the windows. I’ll certainly be keeping a watchful eye on proceedings.