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Kateryna Krychevska, an American artist of Ukrainian descent
Dmytro Malakov, a staffer of the Museum of the History of Kyiv, presents to the readers Kateryna Krychevska-Rosandich, an American artist of Ukrainian descent, whose wonderful watercolours were recently shown at an exhibition held at the Museum of Cultural Legacy in Kyiv.
Kateryna Krychevska-Rosandich belongs to a large number of Ukrainian artists whose works enriched the world art of the twentieth century. Her father was an artist too. He was an art director for the film Zemlya (Earth; 1930), which was directed by Oleksandr Dovzhenko, one of the most remarkable Ukrainian film directors, and which is considered to be one of the supreme achievements of the world cinema.
Krychevska-Rosandich’s mother, Olena, was also an artist. Both parents of Kateryna were educated at the Kyiv Art Institute where their professors were the brothers Vasyl and Fedir Krychevsky, notable Ukrainian painters.
Kateryna’s grandfather, Vasyl Krychevsky, was a painter, architect, designer, art teacher and ethnographer. One of his architectural creations is the building of the local government in Poltava built in the early twentieth century (now this building houses the Poltava Museum of Local Art and Lore). In 1918, Vasyl Krychevsky was commissioned by the first president of Ukraine, Mykhailo Hrushevsky to do the design of the state emblem — the stylized trident — for Ukraine that had proclaimed its independence in 1990s.
Vasyl Krychevsky’s brother, Fedir, an artist too, was one of the founders of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts. Mykola Krychevsky, Kateryna’s uncle, was a painter who emigrated to France in the 1920s and gained recognition as a talented watercolorist.
Kateryna Krychevska-Rosandich was born in Kyiv on September 2 1926. With both of her parents being artists, there is little wonder that Kateryna began painting at an early age. Her tastes were refined by the artistic milieu she was growing up in. Her family was Ukrainian-oriented and Ukrainian-minded, which under the Stalinist dictatorship was in itself a dangerous thing.
Kateryna went to an art school and some of her paintings were shown at exhibitions of the best works of the schoolchildren.
In 1941, two years after the Second World War broke out, war came to Ukraine. Kateryna’s family was not evacuated and stayed in Kyiv under the Nazi occupation. Schooling stopped — the survival was the order of the day. Kateryna found work at a decorative art shop; most of the other workers were approximately of the same age as Kateryna, and graduates of art schools. But even under the inhumane conditions of the Nazi occupation and under constant threat of being rounded up and sent to Germany for forced labour, teaching of art did not stop — associate professor Ivan Khvorostetsky taught painting to a group of young people, Kateryna among them, hoping that better times would come. Artists and art enthusiasts had an art exhibition organized (second of its kind in the city occupied by the Nazis) in the Art Museum of Kyiv in the summer of 1943. Kateryna was one of the 216 participants and was awarded a prize (incidentally, among the awardees was the author’s brother, Heorhiy Malakov).
But the conditions of life for the local population in Kyiv were rapidly deteriorating — the Krychevskys left Kyiv and moved to the city of Lviv in western Ukraine. But they did not stay there for long and moved further west to Prague, Czechoslovakia, then also occupied by Germans. In Prague, Kateryna continued her art studies but close to the end of the war, the whole family was sent to a labour camp in Germany. The fate proved to be merciful to the Krychevskys — amidst all the suffering, carnage and death, they survived and found themselves in a camp for displaced persons in the American zone. That camp was a far-cry from the German labour camp they had been in before — there was even some sort of cultural life going on in it. Kateryna was able to continue her studies — she was admitted to the university in Heidelberg.
When the opportunity to go to the USA to live presented itself, it was used. Kateryna settled down in California, got married and devoted herself to art. She has been living in California since 1949. Her main themes are landscapes and cityscapes; her media are mostly watercolours and gauche. Her works are regularly shown at exhibitions in the USA, Canada and now in Ukraine. Her watercolours were described as possessing great positive energy; they are bright in colour and vigorous in execution. Looking at them one cannot help feeling the artist’s love for the beauty of nature.
While Ukraine remained a “republic’ within the Soviet Union, no contact with the Krychevskys was maintained — the soviet authorities frowned upon any contacts with “displaced parsons,” formerly citizens of Ukraine and now citizens of a foreign country. But after Ukraine’s independence in 1991, things began to radically change.
The first contacts were established by Ihor Likhovy, then the director of the National Shevchenko Museum in Kyiv (now he is minister of culture and tourism of Ukraine). The building which houses the museum was designed by Vasyl Krychevsky, Kateryna Krychevska-Rosandich’s grandfather, and this fact was the starting point for establishing contacts with Mrs Krychevska-Rosandich. Likhovy went to Mountain View, California, where he met Mrs Krychevska-Rosandich. She passed on to him some of the materials from the Krychevskys’ archives.
In the spring of 1993, Kateryna Krychevska-Rosandich came to Ukraine for the first time in fifty years since she had left it back in 1943. She visited Kyiv and Poltava, and had her works exhibited at one-woman shows. She also gave hundreds of works of the Krychevsky artists of three generations and works of other artists of the Ukrainian diaspora to museums of Ukraine. Her donations also included rare books; particularly valuable were the books donated to the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine in Kyiv. In writing a book on art history, Valentyna Ruban-Kravchenko, Ph.D., used some of the materials provided by Mrs Krychevska-Rosandich.
The Museum of the History of Kyiv organized a celebration of the 70th birthday of Mrs Krychevska-Rosandich ten years ago, and a little later an art exhibition, U koli Krychevskykh (In the Krychevsky Family circle) was mounted. All the works shown were presented to the Museum by Mrs Krychevska-Rosandich. Five years ago, another exhibition of Mrs Krychevska-Rosandich’s works was shown in the Museum of Cultural Heritage (it is a branch of the Museum of the History of Kyiv).
For her contribution to art, Mrs Krychevska-Rosandich was made Honorary Citizen of the United States of America; in 2002 she was awarded the title of the Honorary Professor of the National Academy of the Fine Arts and Architecture of Ukraine.
To mark her 80th birthday, the Rodovid Publishers, Kyiv, published a book of Mrs Krychevska-Rosandich’s memoirs, Moyi spohady (My Reminiscences). The book is enhanced by photographs and reproductions of her watercolours in full colour.
In September 2006, a big exhibition of Mrs Krychevska-Rosandich’s works was shown at the Museum of Cultural Heritage. Most of the works that came from the collection of the Museum and from private collections were shown for the first time.
Mrs Krychevska-Rosandich’s works can be seen in many museums and collections in the USA, Canada, Ukraine and other countries: The Union of Ukrainian Women in the USA; Ukrainian Museum in Cleveland; Art Gallery of the Church Museum in Bound Brook; National Fund of Fine Art in Washington; Danager and Clinn Gallery in Palo Alto; Ukrainian-Canadian Archive-Museum in Edmonton, Canada; St Volodymyr Institute in Toronto; National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kyiv, Ukraine; Shevchenko Memorial Museum in Kaniv; Lviv Picture Gallery; Vereshchagin Art Museum in Mykolayiv; Art Museum in Lebedyn; Museum of the History of Kyiv; Museums of Local Art and Lore in Poltava, Sumy and Myrhorod.
Andriyivsky Uzviz street in Kyiv.
At the exhibition of Kateryna Krychevska-Rosandich’s
Evening in Venice.
Klovsky Palace in Kyiv.