The first ‘Borysivka’ icons exhibition in Ukraine has been inaugurated at Ivan Honchar Museum. The Ukrainian icons presented here were made on the historical lands of Slobozhanshchyna in late 19th – early 20th centuries. At that time the Borysivka sloboda settlement was a powerful icon-painting center.
The initiator of the exhibition was Hierodeacon Januarius, the grandson of Ivan Honchar, the renowned Ukrainian author. The philanthropist purchased and transferred 250 icons to the museum where the staff cleaned them from dirt and dust and decorated them with richly embroidered Ukrainian rushnyks (decorative ritual towels).
‘While working in Nizhyn region in his young years Januarius was instructed to paint the icons. Thus he paid attention to their stylistics, images and colors. Being passionate about art and willing to his colleagues in icon-painting, the young priest started collecting icons as an artist for artists, so that they could use the virtuosity of drawings and other findings in their work. Januarius continues the philanthropic tradition initiated in the Gonchar-Matvienko family. Like his grandfather, he does his best to prevent the icon-painting as a phenomenon of Ukrainian culture from disappearance’, – tellsTetyana Mykolaivna Poshyvailo, the exhibition curator and the deputy general director of the Ivan Honchar Museum.
Having traveled around the lands of Chernihiv, Kyiv, Odessa and Cherkasy regions during four years in order to collect the unique samples of Borysivka icons, the author of the exhibition has surveyed over a hundred of Ukrainian villages.
The temple icons used to be painted by monks in icon-painting schools at monasteries and churches, while the folk icons were usually painted by peasants. Habitually made for purchase and sale, they were often presented to churches as gifts and in later years they were stored in attics.
‘At time the entire family was engaged in the icon-painting process: a father could draw and paint, a mother would decorate the icon, and a son would add certain details and thus take over his father’s craft. Sometimes the masters united in the guild where their work was divided. Many masters entered the Imperial Academy of Arts, which was the evidence of their professionalism’, – explains Natalia, the guide of the Ivan Gonchar Museum
In the past the ‘Borysivka’ icons gained their popularity due to originality of the iconographic technique, decorative elements and painting manner.
In the middle of the 19th century in Borysivka, the icon painters were divided into two categories: the “krasochniky” painters and the “lychkuny” painters. The “krasochniky” painted the entire icon, including clothes and background, while the “lychkuny” drew only faces, hands and sometimes legs. The distinguishing features of these masterfully-created images were eloquent story narratives, simplicity of drawing and composition as well as linear interpretation of the figures.
The uniqueness of the ‘Borysivka’ icons lies in their decoration invented by the Tikhvin monastery nuns. Here one can see a variety of ornamental techniques, including foil, stamping, velvet and even interweaved woolen threads. The images are decorated with flowers the main motive of the Ukrainian folk icon. The most popular plots were the apocryphs of Virgin Mary, Christ, St. Nicholas, the Protecting Veil of the Blessed Virgin.
At the end of the 19th century about 500 painters were working in Borysivka icon-painting workshops. It took about a week to produce from 18 to 25 images and a year to create up to 750 icons. Over the years their work resulted in about 307 thousand icons. They also were sold in Ukraine and in the Kuban, Caucasus, Bulgaria, Serbia. That is why ‘Borysivka’ icon painting craft can be considered a unique artistic phenomenon of the Ukrainian culture.
However, for a long time nobody mentioned the ‘Borysivka’ icons, so they were underestimated.
‘I’ve never seen the icons in such design before. I am impressed. Performed in a bit in a naive folk manner and richly adorned but made beautifully and harmoniously with ideal proportions. Icons are an integral part of Ukrainian culture. If previously possessing them was an everyday necessity, now it is a more decorative part of life. I am eager to learn more about this cultural phenomenon’, – says Marina, a visitor, excitedly sharing her impressions.
‘I have seen this exhibition before. I have returned to have a closer look. I feel a true inclination to this kind art as it makes me recall my childhood. After all I grew up in that region (the border of Chernihiv and Sumy regions) and I have inherited such icons from my grandmother, so I wanted to compare my legacy with these masterpieces. For me this exhibition is an extraordinary event, so I have seen many of these icons for the first time. For long years the author has been collecting, saving and eventually he can show us the Ukrainian spiritual wealth. It’s nice to be here, it relieves my soul’- says Lybov, an exhibition visitor.
Official site: https://honchar.org.ua/