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Arkhyp Kuindzhi (1841-1910). Ukrainian landscape painter of the second half of the 19th century

Arkhyp Kuindzhi (1841-1910). Ukrainian landscape painter of the second half of the 19th century

Arkhyp Kuindzhi, Ukrainian landscape painter, was born in Mariupol to an impoverished Greek shoemaker family in 1841. The surname Kuindzhi means “goldsmith” or “master of gold matters” in Urumqi. In his childhood, the future artist enjoyed painting on any available surface, including walls, fences, and scraps of paper.

Since his family was poor, the youngster had to start working hard early. He occasionally grazed geese and worked for a contractor and a bread merchant. The bread seller advised Arkhyp Kuindzhi to go to Сrimea and become an apprentice to Ivan Aivazovsky. So he came to Feodosia and spent the summer there. Aivazovsky, on the other hand, did not see the student’s skill and simply tasked him with painting a fence and a trowel of paint. 

Adolf Fessler, Aivazovsky’s young relative, who was also in Feodosia then, taught Kuindzhi his first painting lessons. After returning from Feodosia, the inexperienced artist began working as a retoucher in photo studios, first in Mariupol and then in Odesa.

Arkhyp Kuindzhi arrived in St. Petersburg in 1865 to study at the Academy of Arts. But, only on the third attempt he became a student. Arkhyp Kuindzhi spent almost all his life in St. Petersburg, but the nature of Ukraine was always with him. And his most famous works prove this: “Moonlit Night on the Dnipro river,” “Evening in Ukraine,” “Ukrainian Night,” “Dnipro River in the Morning,” and “Rainbow.” 

In 1880, Kuindzhi had an exhibition of one of his paintings, “Moonlit Night on the Dnipro River,” in his studio. To successfully present the canvas, the artist lowered the curtains on the exhibition hall’s windows to block outside light and lighted the painting with an electric light beam to accentuate its features. Kuindzhi, the talented colorist, achieved incredible realism with the moonlight. The visitors waited in line to see the painting; some even went behind the canvas, searching for a source of extra light.

Arkhyp Kuindzhi passed away in July 1910. His art heritage of approximately 170 paintings is now in various collections worldwide. The descriptions in the famous exhibition halls constantly marked Arkhyp Kuindzhi as a Russian artist. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York changed the nationality of Mariupol-born artist Arkhyp Kuindzhi from Russian to Ukrainian in its descriptions. 

During the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian invaders demolished the Arkhyp Kuindzhi Art Museum in Mariupol on March 21, 2022, and looted the paintings. Among the 2200 works in the museum’s collection were art pieces by Tetiana Yablonska, Ivan Marchuk, Mykhailo Deregus, Ivan Aivazovsky, and, of course, Arkhyp Kuindzhi and his students.

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