Shadows Of Olena Kulchytska

Special Project of the Library of Ukrainian Art

Olena Kulchytska’s illustrations to “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” by Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky

Legendary classic book by Ukrainian writer Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky was illustrated by many artists since first publication in 1911. Among them are Mykhailo ZhukOlena Kulchytska, Ivan Filonov, Lubomir Priyma and others. Olena Kulchytska (1877-1967) – one of the best Ukrainian graphic artists. She truly was in love with Ukrainian folk art, was surrounded by it (you can see this even now visiting Kulchytska’s Memorial Museum in Lviv). Her illustrations to “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” are extremely detailed, sophisticated, ethnographic and informative.

Story of their creation is noteworthy. It was Ukrainian writer Anton Krushelnytsky who propose to illustrate the book to Olena Kulchytska. The book was due to be published for the 15th anniversary since death of Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky – April 25, 1928. Sales revenue was planned to spend to writer’s monument in Vinnytsia.

Beside Olena Kulchytska there were also invited to illustrate the book Julian Butsmanyuk (worked on the initial letters) and Anton Krushelnytsky’s son Ivan (he had to create headpieces and tail-pieces). But there was already Bolshevik’s ideological pressure in Ukraine, and commission preparing events to the memory of Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky in Vinnytsia had not accepted work from Butsmanyuk and Ivan Krushelnytsky. They did not like “excessive styling.”

Anton Krushelnytsky wrote to the jubilee edition of “Shadows …” substantial introduction; was decided to illustrate it with views of the Carpathians. Kulchytska (who lived at the time in Przemysl) had to make images from photostills. Pictures were taken by young amateur photographer Yurko Dorosh under supervision of the youngest Krushelnytsky’s son – Taras.

The team of artists did not manage to publish their version of “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” to death anniversary of Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, but it was next date on Sept. 17, 1929 – 65 years since the birth of the writer.

At the last minute before book went to printing in Kharkiv graphic portrait of the writer made by Ivan Krushelnytsky was replace with photo and cover created by Kulchytska was changed to cover by Anton Sereda.

Later edition were seized by Soviet regime. There are only two copies of 1929 edition of “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” in V.Stefanyk Lviv National Scientific Library NAS of Ukraine. In one book introduction by Krushelnytsky is cut with scissors; in the second copy (from collection of M. Vozniak) editor’s name is struck out with blue ink. The illustrations below are scanned by the Library of Ukrainian art from this rare 1929 edition. We chose the best images from a total 75 in the book.

Illustrations by Olena Kulchytska reflect charming  Carpathians nature and landscapes of Chornogora Ridge, village Kryvorivnya and images of Hutsuls life. Artist recreated in detail characters clothing, furniture and interior details (eg, you can see the oven with traditional Hutsul tiles). This talented graphic masterpieces contain drop of magic – as the book “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” itself.

Olena Kulchytska made her “Old Lady” from the famous picture “Old Hutsul Lady” by Ukrainian photographer Mykola Senkovsky. This image was granted main prize in Paris exhibition in 1926.

At the last minute before book went to printing in Kharkiv graphic portrait of the writer made by Ivan Krushelnytsky was replace with photo and cover created by Kulchytska was changed to cover by Anton Sereda.

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