The Art Museum in Kyiv
The National Art Museum of Ukraine.
Originally, the Moscow architect Pyotr Boytsov was commissioned to design the Museum of Antiquities and Arts but he declined to complete the job, so the famous Kyiv architect Vladislav Gorodetsky was invited to take over. Taking Boytsov’s drawings as the basis, Gorodetsky introduced a few simple changes which radically changed the concept. He turned the building 90 degrees along the street and included a staircase. The lawns on both sides and the Mariinsky Park trees give the impression of unspoiled nature. Gorodetsky, an avid hunter and traveler, decorated the museum with sculptures of real and mythical animals. His stone lions are strikingly different from the standard “palace lions”. These usually lie in solemn poses or sit with their paws on a shield, ball or other object. In contrast, the huge lions with flying manes of the Art Museum are full of life and impress visitors with their energy and vitality. The front of the museum is decorated with a statue of Apollo. Below it, a bas-relief “Triumph of the Arts”; and below that, medals with square corners showing the battles of Greek heroes with centaurs. Majestic griffins “guard” the museum roof. All sculptures were made of cement by the Italian sculptor Elia Sala. Construction of the museum was completed in 1899 but the opening ceremony was delayed until 1904. Before the revolution, the growth of exhibits was funded by private patrons of the arts. Currently, the collection presents a compact history of Ukrainian art, starting with some great altar pieces in the Byzantine style, some Mannerist religious sculptures in wood, classic portraits of Ukrainian nobles (including the national hero Bohdan Khmelnytsky), some beautiful pastoral scenes from peasant life, and then urban life from around 1900. Then more experimental work – socialist realism from the 1930s followed by a return to formal painting in the 1970s. But there are many other things to see too. The gem of the icon collection is the 12th century polychromic wooden relief called “St. George with scenes from his life”. In the evening, the museum is illuminated with blue lighting that gives it a magical appearance.
This article was published in the book Interesting Kyiv.
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© Sky Horse Publishing House (Kyiv) / Nahs Haus, 2019
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