Grigorii Petsuh: Animals concealed in wood

Special project of the Ukrainian Art Library

Abstraction of nature in Grigorii Petsuh`sculptures

Grigorii Petsuh, a Lemko sculptor (1923-2008) created his sculptures from wood; hundred years old lime-tree logs prolong their lives in the master’s studio transformed into bears or cats, looking like ancient totems of early tribes.

Grigorii Petsuh never tries to elaborate details, his carvings discover natural features of wood, its layers, bark and cracks. He creates just like cutting with his axe.

“My art is influenced by my stay in the mountains. They have their own rhythm, their forms interact mutually…” – says the sculptor. We encourage flowers and trees to grow, why do not we permit all the kinds of art to be developing. When i want to express myself I can create both abstract and realistic forms without limiting myself. I sometimes can not give any definitions to my creations, it is just a wish to create.


Grigorii Petsuh was born on January, 23 in 1923 in the village of Florinka in a peasant family of Ivan and Melania Petsuh. The father and the grandfather of the future sculptor were sacristans in the local church. Being still a child, Grigorii participated in different church services: rang the bell, lit the candles etc. The patterns of the popular carvings in small wooden chapels, the crucifixes on the crossroads inspired him to create… But it happened so that at the beginning of the WW2 the young man (he was only 17) became a displaced person. The German occupants forced him to go to a small village near Gamburg. There he was made work hard, looking after horses, cows and pigs from dawn till night. He even had to sleep in a stable. These 5 years were long and hard, but his dream of becoming an artist never left him.

Grigorii was back home only in 1945. In 1946 he entered the Popular Art School in Zakopane. The future artist took part in art exhibitions being still a student. In 1950 he continued his studies in the Art Academy in Warsaw. After graduating from the Academy Grigorii Petsuh became a teacher of carving in the State Liceum of Art in Zakopane.

In 1962 he marries Sophia Parii and becomes a happy father of his son Darii. During the summer of 1965 the artist travels to Moscow, Kyiv and Lviv where he visits historic landmarks and museums. In Kyiv he was deeply impressed by the works of Ivan Kavaleridze and by the monument to the prince Volodymyr on the Dnipro hill.

Grigorii Petsuh is considered to be one of the 10 best sculptors of Poland, but he can be called a Ukrainian sculptor too.

Art is an adventure

“Art is a great adventure, – Grigorii Petsuh said. – The nature shows us a lot of exciting things every day. We enjoy watching the sunrise, mountains, seas, flowers… We can discover a living being in a stub of many knots, adding of taking away some details and making it a piece of art”. The master often uses natural shapes of old stubs to illustrate his own artistic ideas. He describes his creative process giving as an example his sculpture “Wild bear”. “I used a huge block of wood, piercing it with carvings to show the interdependence of flesh, soil, trees and scenery”.

The mystery of life is the main object of the master’s art. He shares the idea of harmonious coexistence of humans and nature which helps a person keep spiritual balance. and inspires for good.


The artist’s sculptural portraits are also highly appreciated. His first famous work in this genre was the metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky bar-relief completed on lime-tree board. It was the master`s present to the metropolitan. Later Petsuh created the portraits of Taras Shevchenko and Ivan Franko. In 1972 the bar-relief of Bohdan Lepky was placed on his tomb in Krakiv. Later the sculptural portraits of sculptor`s parents were placed on their tombs.

“It is worth living and creating in this world to remain in the memory of other people”, – Grigorii Petsuh said.