The works of Vsevolod Maximovich first appeared in the collection of the National Art Museum of Ukraine in 1926. At that time Fedir Ernst, one of the museum’s founders, was travelling across Europe in search of great works by Ukrainian artists with the goal of amassing a valuable and unique collection. In Moscow he discovered the works of Maximovich, and brought them back with him to Kyiv as an example of the modern style which in the early 20th century captivated all of Europe, leaving a noticeable imprint on Ukrainian culture as well.
Maximovich had been a young painter from Poltava who studied under and was influenced by Ivan Myasoyedov. He moved to Moscow to pursue his career where he attended Rerberg’s studio. In 1914 he held an exhibition of his work, a failure, which brought him neither the success – or the money – he had hoped for. In despair, he committed suicide.
The connection is obvious between Maximovich and greatest masters of the secession – Aubrey Beardsley, Konstantin Somov and Mykhailo Vrubel – whom he grew to love under the inspiration of Rerberg. His romantic panneau is represented in an organic union of the real with the conventional. The painter’s fantasy is realized according to all the laws of the decorative spectrum – with a precisely constructed foreground, a mosaic-like field of multicolored matte, muted speckles and an ornamental richness to the contour lines.
Majestic figures, bizarre and mysterious, pose frozen, almost jellied. Stylized nudes remind one of athletes, probably evoking his experiences as a member of a nudist sports colony along with I.Myasoyedov and F.Krichevsky. Athleticism is a rare trait in the Secession with its exhausted, overly refined, incorporeal images – in contrast to the richness cultivated by Cubism. Further, Maximovich athleticism is marked by an air of self-absorption and narcissism. Elegant, beautiful faces – both women and men seem like reflections of the artist himself. Another peculiarity unique to the Poltava native: his talent emerges, almost subconsciously, in his pornamental stylizations in which a “peacock eye” motif prevails. The ornaments resonate with Poltavian patterns, and the colour scheme evoke the influence of both red and black ancient Greek vases and the reddish and dark colours of Poltavian woven cloth.
The linear-decorative system characteristic of the secession style, is apparent also in Maximovich refined still-lifes, fantastic landscapes and portraits. His self-portrait is based on the dramatic juxtaposition of deep black and dazzling white colours. A gracious and elegant young man looks at us from it. The eyes with their pensive, sad and somewhat cold gaze , leave a powerful impression – they convey the feeling of spiritual weariness, renunciation of the world, inner void, and, perhaps, a premonition of approaching death whose attributes are featured on the ornamental background. Shortly afterward, when Maximovich just turned twenty, he died. The paintings reiterated his tragic fate. Instead of becoming the gems of museum collections, they were condemned as worthless in terms of art and ideology by ignoramuses and for many decades languished in the museum cellars. As a result, this extraordinary artist of the early 20th century makes his first public appearance only in its final decade.