Photo: National Art Museum of Ukraine

Alexander Bogomazov: Kyiv 2017 Exhibition

In what is the most important exhibition in Ukraine since the country gaining its independence, a major retrospective devoted to the Ukrainian artist Alexander Bogomazov (1880-1930) will open in Kyiv on 12 September running until 12 November 2017.

The exhibition is being organised by the National Art Museum of Ukraine and museums and collectors from Europe and the United States with support from the British Ukrainian Society. The exhibition will feature 300 works with a full colour catalogue and concentrated PR campaign.

Bogomazov was born in Yampol, near Kharkiv, and studied at the Fine Art School in Kyiv, where he met and married fellow-student Vanda Monastyrska.

His pioneering style, blending Cubism and Futurism with the angular tension of Vorticism, was first showcased at the 20-artist Koltso (‘Ring’) exhibition he helped organize in Kyiv in 1914.

That same year Bogomazov wrote his treatise Painting & Elements, now in Kyiv’s Museum of Literary Archives. His ideas on the importance of Line, Form, Colour and the Pictorial Plane were deemed ‘prophetic’ by the art critic Andrei Nakov.

Following the outbreak of World War One, a penniless Bogomazov found employment in faraway Armenia as an art teacher. His creative imagination exploded beneath the scenic grandeur of the Caucasus.

He moved back to Kyiv in 1917 where, after the October Revolution, he took part in Agitprop decoration schemes. He also helped found the Kyiv Artists’ Union and taught at the Free Art Studios and the Kyiv Institute of Arts, where his colleagues included Malevich and Tatlin and Painting & Elements became part of the curriculum.

In 1927, wracked by tuberculosis, Bogomazov embarked on one of the most ambitious and unusual works of the 20th century: a rainbow-coloured triptych devoted to Sawyers, painted in a forest clearing near his family dacha at Boyarka, 15 miles south-west of Kyiv. It was to be the culmination of his creative life, requiring over 300 preparatory sketches.

In 1929, after two years’ work, he had still not received the advance promised by the authorities, and his wife and daughter had barely enough to live on. He completed only two of the planned three paintings (the central section is undergoing major restoration in time for the exhibition opening) before his death in 1930. The third – Rolling the Logs – will be recreated in 2017 using Bogomazov’s watercolour and pencil sketches, enabling the only triptych of the Avant-Garde to be reconstituted as the highlight of the Kyiv exhibition.

Kyiv 2017 will be by far the largest Bogomazov exhibition ever staged, featuring over 300 paintings and drawings lent by European, American and Ukrainian private collectors and institutions – including the Kröller-Müller museum who recently acquired six works by the artist. The myth of this ‘Great Unknown’ – at last taking his rightful place among the brightest lights of 20th Century Art – will finally be unravelled.