“Primitive” Prymachenko: National Artist of Ukraine
Born in 1909, Maria Prymachenko spent her long life in a Ukrainian village with the humble name of Bolotniya, which means marsh or swamp. As a girl she came down with polio, which interfered with her schooling and left her with a painful limp. But her vivid imagination and irrepressible use of color made her a giant in the Ukrainian art world in spite of, or perhaps because of, the limitations she encountered.
Her fantastical paintings of imaginary beasts, birds, flowers and ordinary villagers doing everyday things brightened the walls of Kiev’s Art Arsenal earlier this year in a first-ever retrospective of more than 300 of her works.
The fact that she painted from her imagination went against the Soviet view that art was a tool to teach about socialism. This made her subversive in her own private way. Her Ukrainian motifs taken from embroidery and decorative arts revealed her as a nationalist as well.
Luba Rudenko, director of MIR’s affiliate office in Kiev, visited the exhibition twice, and sent us photos of some of Prymachenko’s “naïve” art. She reported that the halls were crowded with parents and children smiling to see the primitive images.
Luba feels that the reason Prymachenko is so popular is that “her art has a very strong link to her personal life full of her own fantasies, love and wisdom, as well as to ancient crafts based on the deep-rooted culture and folk art of the Ukrainian people.”
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Top photo: The “naive” art of Maria Prymachenko. Photo credit: Luba Rudenko
PUBLISHED: April 19, 2016