Les Lozovsky: an unknown star of the 1920`s

Special Project of the Library of Ukrainian Art






The tragic fate of one of Narbut`s students


Les Lozovsky, student of Heorhiy Narbut and Mykhailo Boychuk, lived only 22 years. He died mysteriously, on the night of March 22, 1922. The young man was strangled in his apartment in Voznesenskiy descent. He was found in his bed, with some pieces of jewelry spread around him. The killer or killers have not been found. That is not surprising because during the period from 1917-1922, which were the last years of Les Lozovsky life, the state power in Kyiv changed about 20 times.



Life of Les Lozovsky

Les Lozovsky was born in Kyiv on August 30 (old style) 1900. His father was a milkman, the mother was an extravagant actress. Les and his younger brother were grown by their relatives in the village parish Pogrebysche near Berdichev.

When he was 15 Les entered the Kyiv Art School, where his teacher was Mykhailo Kozik. Then he studied at Stroganov Art School in Moscow, and in 1917 became one of the first students of the newly created Ukrainian Academy of Arts in Kyiv. Lozovsky became one of the favourite students of Heorhiy Narbut who allegedly entrusted him the secret of special tempera. The teachers of the young artist were also Mykhailo Boychuk, Oleksandr Murashko, Vadim Meller and Alexandra Exter in her “Painting and Decorative Arts Studio”, which she opened in Kyiv in March 1918. The circle of his artistic communications included Anatol Petrytsky, Olexandr Bogomazov, Kostiantyn Piskorsky, Vasyl Sedlyar, Ivan Padalka, Oxana Pavlenko, Tymofiy Boychuk, Les Kurbas, Mykhailo Semenko.

Meller`s student N. Alekseeva-Gorbunova remembers Les`s appearance:

“He was the senior student in our group responsible for external relations workshop. He was often late to the lesson, coming when the sitter had already been posing. He quickly unwound his long scarf, took off his short smart coat, tossed his long black forelock and started to work.”



Art of Les Lozovsky

Most of the artistic works of Les Lozovsky have been preserved in book design: the covers of eight books and seven albums of notes.
In particular, Lozovsky created the covers of the collections of poems by Pavlo Tychyna (Clarinets of the Sun, The Plow, Instead of Sonnets and Octaves: all three – 1920 year edition). The famous art-critic Leo Dintses wrote about Les`s works in the magazine “Ways of Art” in the 1920s: “Les Lozovsky, who was a student of Narbut and then of Boychuk,is one of the most talented students at the Academy.

After thorough studies of Novgorod icons he accepted not only their style and technics, but also was was imbued with their inner meaning. He also created an original alphabet painted in tempera. This original but a bit thick print perform in wonderful tempera is very decorative. The book vignettes are completed in the national spirit, without loseing any tiny detail not like Mark Kirnarsky did.”

At the beginning of 1920 Les painted the portrait of Hryhorii Skovoroda (tempera on board), and in 1921 he painted a portrait of Vladimir Lenin in the same technique. Even the reproductions of these works have not survived, there is only a description of a portrait of Lenin: “… the revolutionary leader is depicted in heroic manner. His face is outlined sharply, the colors are rich, juicy, with dominating dark shades. They reflect the personal attitude of the painter to the bright individuality of Lenin. The strokes of the paintbrush, clearly defined, are not linear but looks spiky paintings image with sharp triangles. The corpulent body with heavy voluminous belly expresses the monumentality of the image. The colors are contrastin: yellowish face, burgundy jacket oh the green background.”

There are also some works known to the public, including “Malachite” and “Memento mori”. Les designed his own “font Lozovsky” which he used illustrating books and albums of notes.



Memory about Les Lozoskу

In the twentieth century in the artistis investigation of the works by Les Lozovsky the historian Sergiy Bilokin and a collector Ihor Dychenko were engaged. The catalog Malevich Plus (1994) reproduces some works from Dychenko`s collection, including one of tempera paintings by Lozovsky. The present whereabouts of the work are unknown.

Two watercolors from the manuscript of “Eleas” (“Portrait of my life” and “How to be a futurist”) stored in the collections of the National Art Museum of Ukraine.

Nowadays in independent Ukraine Kateryna Lebedieva, a journalist and a founder of the Library of Ukrainian Art, is most actively engaged in the survey of Lozovsky`s life and work.


House on Voznesenskiy descent in Kyiv where lived and was killes Les Lozovsky.