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Work of Ukrainian Artist Who 'Captivated' Picasso Burned During Russian Invasion

Ukraine News Museums Art + Architecture
by Morgane Croissant Feb 28, 2022

On February 28, 2022, the local history museum in Ivankiv, a town about 50 miles northwest of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was burned down by Russian forces. The museum, which opened in 1981 and was recently renovated, is said to have housed more than two dozen works of art by Maria Prymachenko.

Maria Prymachenko was a highly celebrated, self-taught folk artist born in the village of Bolotnya near Ivankiv in eastern Ukraine in 1909. She was famous for her joyful and vivid drawings and paintings.

Art by Maria Prymachenko often represents animals (sometimes behaving like humans, playing musical instruments and wearing hats); fantastical beasts such as horses with wings and two-headed chickens; scenes of rural life in Ukraine such as harvests, family meals, and individuals at work; and vibrant flowers (sometimes with human characteristics).

Despite coming from a peasant family and having spent most of her life in Bolotnya, Maria Prymachenko is perhaps the most well-known Ukrainian artist in the world. According to Wall Street International Magazine, Maria Prymachenko won a golden medal at the Paris World Fair in 1937. It is also said that upon seeing her work in Paris, Pablo Picasso said “I bow down before the artistic miracle of this brilliant Ukrainian.”

So acclaimed was her work that her art appeared on Ukrainian stamps in the 1970s.

The 25 works of art by Maria Prymachenko housed at the Ivankiv museum are suspected to have burned. The National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art in Kyiv, home to hundreds of her works (including paintings, ceramics, and embroideries), expressed its sadness and anger at the news in a Facebook post:

“This is painful news for all admirers of the genius of the Ukrainian people — Maria Prymachenko, who left us a legacy of priceless works, from which we still draw inspiration and wisdom. The destruction of the Ukrainian cultural heritage by the Russian occupiers is a crime that will never be justified and forgiven!”

In 2018, Christie’s auctioned 15 postcard-sized works of art by Maria Prymachenko from 1940 for more than $25,000.

In 2021, a mural representing Maria Prymachenko was painted by Sasha Korban in the town Ivankiv to celebrate the artist.

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