Taras Shevchenko

Self-Portrait (1840)

Self-Portrait (1840)

Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861) is best known for his poetry, but he was a talented painter and draughtsman as well. Some 835 pieces of his artwork have survived to the present day (another 270 having been lost). Born into poverty as a serf, Shevchenko’s owner noticed his artistic talent when he was still a boy and apprenticed him to an established painter for four years. In St. Petersburg, the famous painter and professor Karl Briullov eventually bought Shevchenko’s freedom with one of his paintings, and the young man went on to study at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. He traveled to Ukraine three times – in 1843, 1845 and 1846 – and created an album of etchings of his homeland’s historical ruins and cultural monuments, and sketching architectural monuments in Russian-ruled Ukraine. In Kyiv in 1846, he was arrested for belonging to a circle of intelligentsia considered subversive by the regime and was sent into military exile near the Caspian Sea. He was forbidden by Russian Tsar Nicholas I to write, paint or draw, but managed to create artwork anyway, depicting the life of the indigenous Kazakhs of his region of exile. He created over a hundred watercolor and pencil drawings during his penal military servitude, which lasted until 1857. Shevchenko moved beyond stereotypical historical and mythological subjects, depicting realistic scenes and expressing veiled criticism of tsarist domination. His portraits feature a wide range of subjects, from peasants to mythological figures to members of the imperial nobility. He was also very proficient in watercolor, aquatint, and etching. On 2 September 1860 the Imperial Academy of Arts recognized his mastery by designating him an academician-engraver.

'Maria' - illustration from Alexander Pushkin's epic poem, 'Poltava' (1840)

‘Maria’ – illustration from Pushkin’s epic poem, ‘Poltava’ (1840)


'Kathryn' (1842)

‘Kateryna’ (1842)


'Chyhyryn Gifts of 1649' (1844)

‘Chyhyryn Gifts of 1649’ (1844)


Portrait of E. V. Keykuatova (1847)

Portrait of E. V. Keykuatova (1847)


'View of the Irgyzkala Fort' (1850)

‘View of the Irgyzkala Fort’ (1850)


'Telemachus on Calypso's Island' (1850)

‘Telemachus on Calypso’s Island’ (1850)


Central Asian Landscape Khanga Baba (1847)

Central Asian Landscape Khanga Baba (1847)


Self-Portrait as a Soldier

Self-Portrait as a Soldier

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