The present day life is marked as time of reappraisal of values in various spheres of life. Events of national history are being viewed from a new, more impartial, angle. Many notable names of those, who formed the van of cultural life not only in the Ukraine but Europe and the USA as well, are coming back from neglect to the lap of native culture. Such outstanding personalities of Ukrainian painting as A. Arhipenko, K. Malevich, M. Boichuk, I. Padalka, D. Burliuk, A. Petrіtsky, A. Exter, O. Grischenko, K. Redko, V. Palmov were at different times discredited, disgraced and undeservedly forgotten, like many other gifted writers, poets, dramatists, directors. Alexander Bogomazov (1880-1930) belongs to this galaxy of Ukrainian artists. The name is mostly known from “Painters` of Ukraine Dictionary’ (Kiev, 1973) or from “History of Ukrainian Art” (Kiev, 1967, 1970). It is sometimes mentioned in some published works, as very significant was the individuality of the artist. But the personality of Bogomazov was always presented staying in the background, in the shade of those, who determined the main trend of development of so-cold socialist realism.
Only a few Ukrainian art – critics and publicists, such as D.Gorbachev, I.Dichenko, A.Makarov, made attempts to reveal a really grate significance of the painter’s legacy, to revive his unique and distinctive work.
What is behind the name of A.Bogomazov today? The glory of the Ukrainian and Russian vanguard leader, of the author of numerous canvases being exposed in museums and private collections in London, New York, Venice, Zurich,Tokyo, San-Francisko, Zagreb and others. And not less he is known as a theorist and a teacher.
Monographs and articles by A.Nakov and V.Markade (France), B.Stipanchich and T.Milovich (Yugoslavia), Ya.Mudrak and M.Muller (USA) are devoted to the painter’s legacy. In the Ukraine the works of Bogomazov are being exhibited only over the last several years. Though small personal exhibition in Kiev House of Literators (1966) first acquainted the audience with his art it could not, of course, fully reveal the painter’s artistic personality. A Bible phrase “a prophet is not without honour, save in his own country” is really proved in the case.
A.K.Bogomazov went down in the history of Ukrainian art as one of the founders of national cubo-futurism. He was an outstanding painter and a gifted teacher. He taught at the Institute of Plastic Arts, later renamed into Kiev Art Institute, or eight years. Theoretical activities of Bogomazov earns special attention. In 1914 he wrote a treatise “Painting and Elements” in the village of Boyarka not far from Kiev. Having read the manuscript, French researcher A.Nakov called it a prophetic one. But this exceptional work Is not published yet. In this work A.Bogomazov traces the genesis of artistic from, born of moving of a point as a primary element. Bogomazov treats paint elements, such as line, form, artistic mass, environment and so on, with understanding them in the dynamics, analysing painting as a complex, constuntly changing and living according to its own inner laws, system. In “Painting and Elements” rhythm is viewed not only as a quantative category, but qualitative one as well. And this was the painter’s innovatory discovery. Most principles of the manuscript anticipated theoretical achievements of “Suprematism” by K.Malevich (Vitebsk, 1920) and of “Points and Lines on the Plane” by V.Kandinsky (written in winter of 1918-19, published in 1926). So the Ukrainian master can be said to have made a valuable contribution to determine a new anthological place of form in the 20th century art, just when it was being established as a selfsufficient unit. It was this that was the main achievement of home objectless art. A.Bogomazov in his work launched a challenge against the artists and the audience who did not want to recognize the laws of revolutionary development of art and criticized New Art. He says: “New Art is dear for it defines independent importance of art element as of a bearer of artist’s sensations (…) Realization of his power by the Artistic Individuality, and not the senseless accusations of aspiration for some abstract aim, attract him onto the road of new discoveries in Art. You better throw your accusations against those, who hastens to please public tastes, so hiding their own helplessness”.
Purposefulness, freedom of thought and spirit-power were the chief traits of A.Bogomazov’s character and his biography confirms this. It is not rich in striking events but is very peculiar biography of an artist for that time. He was born on March 27, 1880 in the village of Yampol, Kharkov province (now Sumy region). Alexander and his younger brother were brought up by their farther Konstantin Fiodorovich Bogomazov, a book-keeper by profession. The boy did not know what mother’s caress is, neither felt he any closeness with the father, who was a pious, honest but very despotic person. Alexander started to draw in Kherson, where he was studying on the father’s insistance at Agricultural School. In 1902 he did not obey the father’s will and entered Kiev Art School. He was studying there for almost nine years. A.Murashko and I.Selezniov were his teachers. In 1905 he was expelled from the School for participation in students’ strike, the break in his study lasted till 1907. During these two years he took private lessons, first in Kiev from S.Svitoslavsky and then in Moscow from K.Youon and F.Rerberg. In 1908 he took part together with D.Burliuk, M.Larionov, A.Exter in exhibition called “Zveno” (section) in Kiev. In 1915 he organized and exhibited in another stage exhibition in cultural life of Kiev “Koltso” (ring). 1913 was a memorable year in the painter’s private life. That year he married dearly loved woman Vanda Vitoldovna Monastyrskaya, who became his faithful companion for the rest of his life.
A.Bogomazov was always deeply attached to his family and rarely left Kiev. He made just a few far-off journeys. In 1911 he left for Finland under the order of newspaper “Kievskaya Mysl”. He brought from there a series of new works. In 1915 the painter went to the village of Geriusy in the Southern Caucasus, where he worked as a teacher of graphic arts at local higher primary school.
A.Bogomazov spent much time and strength energy on teaching. In 1917-18 he taught at commercial school in Zolotonosha. The next two years – at Kiev Art-Craft School-Workshop and at the same time at Budaiev higher primary school and from 1919 till 1922 – at Boyarka Railway Labour School. But his work at Kiev Art Institute in 1922-30 was undoubtedly the highest stage of Bogomazov’s pedagogical activities. He taught there the so-called “fortech” (formal-technical subjects) and from 1926 he focused his efforts on Museum-Excursions Department of Teachers’ Training Faculty. Bogomazov’s activities during the first years after the October Revolution was a bright page in his biography.
He was appointed as head adviser of artistic arrangement of revolutionary holidays: Red Army Day, May Day, Children Day, Wite Flower Day. Then he became senior craftsman of the First State Painting-Decorative Craftwork. At that time at the congress of painters-teachers he was elected a director of Artistic Education Department in All-Ukrainian Committee of Fine Arts.
In 1920 A. Bogomazov worked as a senior designer of the 12th Army and arranged there an agitation hospital train and an agitation steamer. He got the consuption at the front. His last journey was to Yalta in 1923 to treat the illness which caused his untimely death. Bogomazov died on June 3, 1930 in Kiev.
His character being formed early in life, Bogomazov determined his path in life himself and stuck to it in spite of all difficulties and tests. So was he choosing the orienting points in art, which he maintained firmly and with confidence. In late years of his studying at the Art School the young painter was carried away by impressionism. Excellent portraits of Bogomazov’s wife to be, made during that period are preserved. The next stage of the artist’s creative work was to a great extent influenced by Scandinavian modernism. The exquisite works, made in 1911 in Finland, are the vivid spesimen of that period. But shortly the artist became one of the chief masters of cubo-futurism which sprang up in Europian Art at the beginning of the XXth century at the intersection of two well-known trends -French cubism (P.Picasso, J.Braque, J.Gris) and Italian futurism (F.Marinetti, I.Bocconi, K.Karra, G.Severini). Considerable achievements of cubo-futurism displayed home artists. At different times it absorbed K. Malevich, V.Tatlln, A.Exter, representatives of associations “Knave of Diamonds” and “Donkey Tail”.
The consistensy of the painter’s convictions showed itself in his desire for analytic distribution of form, ending with artistic synthesis and in his special respect for renovating power of technical progress. It is not mere chance that among the best canvases of the master are such paintings as “Tram (Lvovskaya Street, Kiev)” (1914), “Fitter”, “Train” (both-1915). The painter’s creed is validly and logically put in the mentioned manuscript. A.Bogomazov made it his aim to discover the laws of arrangement of emotional influence of an object, which is to be portrayed, on the picture plane. And he was solving this supertask not only theoretically, but by practice as well.
It was the traditions of cubo-futurism that the painter consistenly developed in his subsequent work, enriching them with new findings. In the second half of 20’s he was working at the problem of colour, trying to find out the laws of interrelations of locally painted coloured spots on the plane. The paintings “Sharpening of Saws” (1927), “Sawers” (1928-29), “Sawdust Bearers” (1929) are the vivid examples of synthesis of artistic searches of Bogomazov during that period. Beautiful portraits of the daughter (1926 and 1928) are also preserved.
The inner world of the artist was rich and interesting, which is specifically testified by the letters to his relatives and friends and by notes in his diary, which he kept from 1899. A. Bogomazov tried to understand the vital questions of being, to comprehend the role and purpose of a human being, of an artist. But scientific work and analytical creation of A.Bogomazov should not overshadow, however, the lively man, romantic, dreamer, who believed in unlimited possibilities of Feeling, Beauty, Creation. “The beauty can not be understood by only mind, without feeling, – he wrote to his wife to be, – because the logic of mind does not coincide with the logic of beauty, for which there are quite different scales, which can not be measured by logical yardstick. Stars are beautiful, so is rose. But why? Mind would not answer, it would only say that stars can not be taken off the sky and rose can be pitched. But Beauty would say: the star is beautiful and sometimes I take it off the sky and adorn it with the rose of my love” (letter of July 29, 1909).
Today, looking back to the nearest past of our art we ask ourselves what has happened. Why the names of the best artists have been being forgotten for decades and we payed honour to false idols, naked kings? How could it happen that the most talented and non- ordinary was given out as errors. Alexander Bogomazov, who was given the proud name of “Ukrainian Picasso” during his life, one of the best artists of his time, was excluded from the process of art development. History is said to judge everything and put in the proper place. So, perhaps, the time has come to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”, to bring back the notable names which are to be in the golden fund of our national culture.