Painting By Bohdan Pevny, Oil on Canvus
New York, New York, 1963
Bohdan Pevny's best known art work is entitled "Zemliia" (Earth). The
painting is dedicated to the memory of the 1933 famine in Ukraine, and
based on a landscape clip from Oleksander Dovzhenko's film on the same
This painting is now part of the collection of the Ukrainian Orthodox
Community Museum in South Bound Brook, N.J.
A LITTLE ABOUT MYSELF
By Bohdan Pevney, Artist
New York, New York
Written in the Fall of 2001
Descendents of the Pevny (??????) family trace their roots to a kozak
named Pevny who, in the late 18th century, made his way from the Danube to
settle in the village of Ohultsi a short distance from the city of Kharkiv
in the Slobids'ka region of Ukraine. By the end of the nineteenth and the
beginning of the twentieth century direct descendents of the kozak Pevny,
the brothers Herasym and Petro, sons of Mykhailo Pevny, were living in
Poltava. The Pevny of Poltava resided on Novoprolozhena Street and were
friends with their neighbors the Petliura and Skrypnyk families.
Herasym Mykhailovych Pevny was the editor of the newspaper Poltavs'ki
Huberns'ki Vidomisti and ran an electronic press located at 45 Pushkin
Street in Poltava, operating from a building owned by a man named Rashkov.
Petro Mykhailovych Pevny, a structural engineer and a member of the
Social-Federalist Party, was a prominent patron and benefactor in Poltava.
He donated the land on which the monument to Ivan Kotliarevs'kii was
erected, and his workshop served as the site for the casting of the high
relief and the preparation of the granite pedestal for the monument. Petro
Mykhailovych's financing also subsidized the renovation of Ivan
Kotliarevskii's home, work that transformed the structure into a museum.
Petro Mykhailovych Pevny, however, was foremost a patron of the theater.
Herasym Mykhailovych and his wife Ahrepyna Tymofiivna Pevny had four sons,
Oleksander, Mykola, Petro and Hryhorii and two daughters, Antonina and
Mariia. The family also raised a relative, Apolon Pevny, who was born in
the same year as Petro Herasymovych (born 1888). Apolon Pevny, eventually,
became a member of the the Military Council of the Ukrainian Central Rada
and served as Secretary for the First Ukrainian Military Congress that took
place in Kyiv in 1918. In 1919, Apolon Pevny held the position of State
Inspector for the Army of the Ukrainian National Republic.
Probably under the influence of their uncle, Petro Mykhailovych, the
brothers Oleksander and Mykola became actors. They worked in the theater
of Mykola Sadovs'kii, where Oleksander played leading roles alongside Mariia
Zan'kovets'ka. Together with the theater Oleksader traveled to Zakarpattia
and were he remained finding employment in the theater of Oleksander
Zaharov. In the early 1930's, Oleksander organized his own theater in the
city of Luts'k becoming the director and producer of the Ukrainian Theather
of Volyn' in Luts'k.
The Bolshviks deported Apolon to Solovtsi at the start of 1920 where he
vanished without a trace. The Bolsheviks were also responsible for
executing Oleksander in 1937, and Mykola in 1940. Hryhorii was hung by the
Germans in 1941.
I was born on June 4, 1931 in Luts'k, where my father, Petro Hersymovych
Pevny settled after the struggle for Ukrainian independence was lost; he had
served as an officer in the Army of the Ukrainian National Republic. By
profession my father was a journalist and found employment as an editor for
the newspapers Vidrodzhennia (Renaissance) published in Kyiv, for Ukraina
(Ukraine) published in Kamianets'-Podil's'kii, and for Ukrains'ka Nyva
(Ukrainian Meadow) published in Warsaw and Luts'k. My father also served
as an ambassador to the Polish Parliament (Sejm) from the Ukrainian Volyn'
Union, which he headed.
In September of 1939, my father fleeing inevitable death at the hands of the
Bolsheviks, made his way West. Now on her own, my mother, Zinaida
Nykyforovna Myts', died in the spring of 1940 in Luts'k. My mothers
parents, Dariia Liudvykovna and Nykyfor Maksymovych Myts' took me in. I
lived with then until 1944 when archbishop Mystyslav Skrypnyk, later the
First Patriarch of Kyiv and All Ukraine, helped reunite me with my father in
My interest in art developed in my childhood years as a result of the
nurturing and encouragement I received from my uncle, Iurii Nykyforovych
Myts', my mother's brother, who was an artist and a theather director, and
from my first art teacher, Petro Petrovych Kholodnyi.
In 1949, I finished high school in Dilingen, Germany, and in 1950 began
studying journalism at the Ludwig-Maximilians Universitat in Munich. At the
time, I was publishing political caricatures regularly in the Ukrainian
emigre press - in the Ukrains'kii Samostiinyk (Ukrainian Independent) in
Munich, in the Ukrains'kii Chas (Ukrainian Times) in Paris, in the National
'na Trybuna (National Tribunal), Amerika (America), Svoboda (Freedom) in the
U.S.A, and in the humor magazine Lys Mykyta (Sly Fox Mykyta) published in
Detroit by Edvard Kozak.
In 1951, I emigrated from Germany to the United States with my father and
settled in New York City, where my father passed away in 1957. I became a
United States citizen in 1956. I completed my art training at the School of
Visual Arts, the National Academy of Design , the Art Student League,
Columbia University and New York University. As a student I contributed to
Such student publications as Horyzont (Horizon) and Feniks (Phoneix), and
was a member of the editorial staff of Students'ke Slovo (Student's Word), a
weekly suplement to the daily Ukrainian paper Svoboda (Freedom).
In 1955, as a student, I co-founded and was the first head of the
"Tovarystvo Molodykh Obrazotvorchykh Mysttsiv" (The League of Young
Artists) in New York that closely collaborated with the "N'iu-Iors'ka Hrupa"
(The New York Group), an group of young literati. The "Tovarystvo Molodykh
Obrazotvorchykh Mysttsiv" (The League of Young Artists) organized four
annual exhibitions in New York and this is where I first showed my
After completing my studies, I became a member of the "Obiednannia Mysttsiv
Ukraintsiv v Amerytsi" (Union of Ukrainian Artists in America) and took part
probably in all of the exhibitions organized by this group. I was on the
board of directors and also served as the deputy head of this organization.
From 1969, I assumed the position of organizational manger for the Union of
In 1960, I married Chrystyna Dmytrivna Kvasnytsia with whom I have three
children - two daughters, Olenka and Larysa, and a son, Taras. All of my
children have received graduate degrees - Olenka has a Ph.D. in Art History,
Larysa has a Ph.D. in Genetics, and Taras is getting his Ph.D. in Underwater
By force of circumstances, and in response to the needs of the Ukrainian
community, I began working in the graphic arts, laying out and illustrating
books and magazines for children and young adults, for example Nich
Promynula (Bygone Night) by Volodymyr Radzykevych, Ivan Krypiakevych's
Istoriia Ukrainy (History of Ukraine), Voloshky (Corn-flowers) by Mykola
Shcherbak, and two readers for Ukrainian schools, etc. Many of my
illustrations can be found in such journals as Veselka (Rainbow), Krylati
(Winged), Iunak (Youth), Hotuis' (Get Ready), etc.
I worked diligently on such books as Knyzhkovyi znak shestydesiatnykiv
(Book Marks of the Artists of the Sixties) published in 1972, the
monograph Viktor Tsymbal -karykatury (Victor Tsymbal: Caricatures)
published in 1981, and Ukraina -entseklopediia dlia molodi (Ukraine - A
Junior Encyclopedia) published in 1971.
I also dedicated much of my time to publishing, writing over one hundred and
fifty essays, articles and research papers published in books, magazines,
journals and newspapers including: Suchastist (Contemporaneity), Terem
(Tower), Krylati (Winged)", Svoboda (Freedom), Amerika (America) published
in the diaspora; and Ukraina (Ukraine), Dzvin (Bell), Pamiatky Ukrainy
(Monuments of Ukraine), Slovo i Chas (Word and Time), Starozhytnosti
(Antiquities), Nasha Vira (Our Faith), Volyns'ka trybuna (Volyn' Tribunal)
and others published in Ukraine.
I am the author of the monograph Mykola Nedilko published in 1983 by the
Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences in the U.S.A., of the chapter on fine
arts in the English-language language publication of Ukraine - A Concise
Encyclopaedia (1988) and of memiores published in Dobrookyi - zustrichi ta
lystuvannia zi Svitlychnymy (Welcoming Eyes: Meetings and Correspondences
with the Svitlychni), 1998, and in Mykhailo Chereshn'ovskyi - veleten'
pomizh namy (Mykhailo Chereshnovsky: A Giant Among Us), 2000.
Although I studied painting in foreign schools, I never appropriated the
manner of my American teachers and never joined a particular artistic
movement. An immunity to the process of assimilation had been nurtured
within me since childhood. At first my work leaned toward objective
expressionism (e.g., "Velyka Bila Doroha" [Long White Road], 1956), and then
to surrealism (e.g., "Prorok" [Prophet], 1957). Color fields started to
replace early bravura brushstrokes, and symbolism infused my version of
surrealism (e.g., "Spasytel'" [Savior], 1961).
My best known work is entitled "Zemliia" (Earth), it is dedicated to the
of the 1933 famine in Ukraine, and based on a landscape clip from Oleksander
Dovzhenko's film on the same subject. This painting is now part of the
of the Ukrainian Orthodox Community Museum in South Bound Brook, N.J.
My poster of Taras Shevchenko asking the question "Chy tvoi dity hovoriat'
moieiu movoiu?" ("Do your children speak my language?") achieved widespread
popularity both in the diaspora and in Ukraine. It was circulated in mass
at the start of the 1990's in Ukraine; it was carried in protest rallies and
displayed on the flagpole before the Kyiv's City Hall when the Ukrainian
national blue-and-yellow flag was fisrt raised there. In addition to
painting, I also worked in wood, carving sculpture in relief.
My artistic works have been discussed by artists and art critics of the
Ukrainian diaspora such as Anton Maliutsa, Volodymyr Sichyns'kyi, Sviatoslav
Hordynys'kyi, Vadym Lesych, Liubomyr Kuz'ma, Bohdan Kravtiv, Iurii Solovii,
Roman Pachovs'kyi, Bohdan Stebel's'kyi, Leonid Lyman and others.
In 1962, I took a study trip to Western Europe so as to become acquainted
with original works of great masters. I visited Holland, Germany,
Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain, France and England. In 1970, with a
similar intent I traveled to Ukraine for the first time visiting the cities
of Kyiv, L'viv, Odesa, Symferopol', Zaporizhia, Kharkiv and Poltava.
In 1971, I was among the organizers of the New York exhibition entitled
"Modern Graphic Arts of Ukraine" which gathered together the works of
graphic artists from Ukraine that had found their way into the hands of
American collectors. Represented were artists of various age and status
working in a broad range of artistic styles including Social Realism as
well as non-conformist trends. The exhibition was very well received by
its New York audience and reviewers. It, however, fell subject to harsh,
unfavorable criticism from Soviet authorities; an open letter entitled
"Nechystymy rukamy" (With Unclean Hands) signed by leading representatives
of the arts in Ukraine including Tetiana Iablons'ka, Vasyl' Kasiian,
Mykhailo Derehus, Mykola Hlushchenko and Oleksander Hubarev appeared
in the Soviet press.
In 1988, I was once again involved in the organization of an exhibition
entitled "Contemporary Art from Ukraine." This time the Permanent Mission
of Ukraine to the United Nations took an active part in the planning of the
exhibition. Unlike the 1971 exhibition, which was favorably reviewed, the
diaspora critics attacked the organizers of the 1988 exhibition for their
collaboration with representatives of Soviet Ukraine labeling us "the
children of Scherbyts'kyi."
In 1990, I was responsible for organizing a large retrospective exhibition
of the graphic works of the artist Jacques Hnizdovsky in the National Museum
of Ukrainian Fine Arts in Kyiv and in the National Museum in L'viv. In
1991, I was the curator and catalogue author for the retrospective
exhibition of the works of the sculptor Mykhailo Chereshn'ovskyi in the
Ukrainian Museum in New York City.
From 1984 in New York, and from 1992 in Kyiv, I have served as a member
of the editorial board of the journal Sucasnist (Contemporinaity). In
particular, I was the main editor of the art section of the publication and,
in 1996, became the chief co-editor of the journal.
I am an actual member of the Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences in the
U.S.A., a member of Union of Ukrainian Artists in America, of the Union of
Artists of Ukraine, of the Union of Writers of Ukraine and of the Union of
Journalists of Ukraine.
New York, New York, Fall 2001
NOTE: Bohdan Pevny passed away on September 7, 2002, in New York City
after a two-year battle with cancer. He last visited his home in Kyiv,
where he had spent every summer since 1991, in August 2001. He was buried
in the Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery of St. Andrew in South Bound Brook, N.J.,
and is survived by his wife Chrystyna, and his three children, Olenka,
Larysa and Taras.
www.ArtUkraine.com wishes to thank Chrystyna Pevna and Olenka Pevney
for furnishing us a copy of the biographical sketch by Bohdan Pevny and for
sending us a photograph of his painting, "The Earth."
FOR PERSONAL AND ACADEMIC USE ONLY