Kateryna Bilokur is an highly original Ukrainian folk artist. Her beautiful pictures of the colorful Ukrainian nature are a significant landmark in the history of Ukrainian folk art.
Kateryna Bilokur`s life was not easy. She was born December 7, 1900, in the village of Bogdanivka, Kyiv region, into the family of a poor peasant. She had no possibility to study at school and only her thirst for knowledge helped her later to fill up the gaps in her education. Gradually, love for art forced out all the other flames. Her parents attempts to distract her from that “good-for-nothing” pursuit were in vain. Studying attentively nature, she gradually enriched herself with new impressions and penetrated into the mysteries of painting, design and drawing line.
The first works of Bilokur (1920s — early 30s) were amateurish. They were the portraits of her relations and villagers executed with charcoal and self-made vegetable paints.
The second half of the 1930s was an important period in her creativity. Then she took to drawing still-lifes. Even her earlier works — The Birch (1934), Flowers by the Fence (1935), Flowers (1936) and some others clearly showed her exceptional creative abilities. Ingenuity of selection of subject matter, vitality, fanciful composition and harmony of colors characteristic of these pictures became the main features of all the work of the artist.
Bilokur’s paintings were first displayed at the Poltava Regional Exhibition in 1940 and then at a national exhibition in Kyiv. They were highly appreciated by art-lovers and art-critics. Inspired by this success, the artist went to Kyiv and Moscow “to see real paintings by real masters” and afterwards created a series of wonderful compositions permeated with love for her native land and its industrious people. Unfortunately, all of the works displayed at the Poltava exhibition in 1941 perished during the Second World Wаг. Only some works of the period, which were not entered in the exhibition, have been preserved (Flowers and Birches at Eventide, Flower s in Fog, Dahlias, Field Flowers).
The two years spent on fascist-occupied territory were the most trying in the life of Kateryna Bilokur. Only a few pictures were made in this period — Flowers and Flowers at Eventide (1942), and Flowers (Lilies) which she finished by the end of 1943.
After the liberation of her native village, Bilokur creates new compositions, Luxuriant Vegetation, Decorative Flowers (1945), Bounties of Nature (1946), 30th Anniversary of the October Revolution (1947), and her famous canvas Ear the King which is unrivaled as regards its esthetic and emotional impact.
The 1950s were the most productive years in Bilokur’s artistic career. She made such original and bright still-lifes as AppIes and Tomatoes, Breakfast (1950), Watermelon, Carrots and Flowers (1951), In Shramkivka District of Cherkassy Region (1955—1956), Flowers and Crapes (1953—1958) which are distinguished for their freshness and verve. Through the artist’s fantasy the flowers, vegetables and utensils limned in these pictures turn into a canto glorifying nature, man and his deeds, into symbols of beauty. Being scrupulously and faithfully depicted, each detail in Bilokur’s pictures is perceived as a really existing one. Their realistic representation is to no lesser degree sustained by the artist’s subtle sense of color. Light and shade smoothly wavering into each other and a soft gamut of colors are typical of all her works. The main effect is produced by the use of pure colors which is characteristic of folk decorative art on the whole.
In the 1950s Bilokur made her first attempts in water-color painting. Her best works of the period — Bogdanivka Village in September, Beyond the Village (1956), Early Spring (1958), Autumn (1960) — are noted for their extraordinarily emotional expressiveness. During the last years of her life, which were dimmed by serious illness, Kateryna Bilokur created a number of notable pictures such as Dahlias (1958), Peonies (1958), Bogdanivka Apples (1959), Bunch of Flowers (1960) and others.
Kateryna Bilokur died June 9, 1961. Her creativity has won her general recognition. She was given the honorable title of People’s Artist of the Ukrainian SSR and awarded the Badge of Honor and a diploma of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR. In her native village a monument was erected in her honor. At all times of the year its pedestal is covered with flowers which she so admired.
In one of her letters K.Bilokur wrote: “You may not like my work as I paint only flowers. But how can I not paint them if they are so beautiful! When I begin a picture of flowers I think sometimes: when I finish it I’ll do something from the life of the people. But by the time I finish it, my imagination already draws new pictures, and all of them — flowers. That’s the long and the short of it. When spring comes around, and the fields turn green, and flowers begin to bloom, each prettier than the others… My God, i forget everything, and again lake to painting flowers.Don’t be angry with me, my close and distant friends, for me painting flowers, because the pictures with flowers are beautiful.”
Kateryna Bilokur rightfully occupies a leading place in the history of Ukrainian folk art. Bilokur’s art is based on her profound knowledge of nature and folk art traditions, and the impact her canvases produce is really unforgettable.