Andreenko’s work reflects almost all the artistic trends of our century. Beginning with 1915—1916, Andreenko exhibited cubist-constructivist work. By 1928 he switched from constructivistic stage designs and still-life paintings to surrealistic oils and gouaches, which persisted into the nineteen thirties. Constantly developing, seeking, and overcoming post-impressionistic influences, Andreenko also painted Parisian scenes in a naturalist style during the pre-war and war years. In the post-war years, Andreenko continued to create works of figurative realism, works frugal in colors, reflecting the tragedy of war and imbued with existentialism. Andreenko returned to constructivist composition only in the late fifties. In this period he explored new problems of abstraction, not merely returning to older forms of his earlier years.
According to the critics Valentine and Jean-Claude Marcade, Andreenko’s paintings are orchestrated from various elements of the visible concrete world, Extracted out of reality, the artist’s shapes on canvas become his own reality. The artist invests his creation with his conscious individuality and with his subconscious moods.
Guido Marinelli, in the introduction to the catalog of Andreenko’s retrospective held in 1964 in Paris, states that in Andreenko we have an artist who belongs to the avant garde grouping of abstractionists like Kandinsky, Malevich, and Larionov, with whom Andreenko maintained a close personal contact.
Pierre Courthion, a French critic, maintains that “in all that Andreenko has created, there is a perfection of balance, created through the association of forms to which Andreenko, as artist and former stage designer, assigns an original rhythm: spatial lines, spiral configurations, layerings, lateral arrangements, and vertical movements. The artist literally throws his compositions onto the canvas, distant visions appear in the textures and open multiple perspectives to the viewer.”
Andreenko’s colors are unusually delicate. Minor tones predominate, as has been pointed out by the French critic, Guy Dornand. The colors are accentuated graphically and are inflected with light. Andreenko’s gouaches reflect the delicacy of his chromatic fugue and the certainty of his taste.
Volodymyr Popovych, author of a monograph on Andreenko in Ukrainian, has dwelt on the fine sensibility which appears in Andreenko’s work through the interplay of feelings and the love of form. This poetic sensibility results in an intimacy of secrecy and depth, as are Andreenko’s colors, which he simultaneously reveals and conceals. The monograph traces the periods in the artist’s life and delineates the balance achieved by Andreenko between intellect and form.
Mykhailo Andreenko was born in Kherson, Ukraine, in 1894. His family belonged to the Ukrainian gentry, and since childhood, an atmosphere of art surrounded him. In 1910—1912, he was already painting and exhibiting landscapes in Kherson. His higher education was obtained simultaneously at the Law School of St. Petersburg University and at the Art School of the Imperial Society for the Encouragement of the Arts. His principal teachers at the latter were Bilibin and Roerich. In 1914 Andreenko showed some figurative work in oils, as well as some graphics. His first cubistic works were exhibited in 1915—1916 and a number of cubist-con-structivist works date from that time.
Andreenko also studied stage design and assisted with stage sets at A. Suvorin’s theater. In 1918 he left St. Petersburg and worked as stage designer in the Chamber Theater in Odessa. He distinguished himself by schematic and constructivist sets, with vivid colors for the costumes also designed by him.
From 1921 to 1923 Andreenko lived briefly in Bucharest and then in Prague, where he designed sets for various theaters. After 1923, Andreenko settled permanently in Paris, where he still lives, thereby fulfilling his old dream of living in that city.