The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine, 1932-1933 (Holodomor)
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"THE EARTH" (ZEMLIIA) BY BOHDAN PEVNY
Dedicated to the Memory of the 1933 Famine in Ukraine
  

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 subject.

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 Warsaw.

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 paintings.

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 Ukrainian Artists.

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 Archeology.

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 memory 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 collection 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, Ukraine, 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
 
 

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