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In the Eye of the Storm

Modernism in Ukraine, 1900–1930s

Konstantin Akinsha, Katia Denysova, Olena Kashuba-Volvach


Published to accompany the Royal Academy exhibition from 29 June to 13 October 2024, a major study of Ukrainian art from 1900 to the mid-1930s – with loans from major museums in Ukraine, elsewhere in Europe, the United States (including MoMA) and Israel

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How does artistic life flourish during revolution and conflict? Ukraine in the early 1900s endured unimaginable political upheaval, yet this became a period of true renaissance in Ukrainian art, literature, theatre and cinema.

In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900–1930s presents the ground-breaking art produced in Ukraine in the early 20th century, focusing on the three key cultural centres of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa. Against a complicated socio-political backdrop of collapsing empires, World War I, the revolutions of 1917 with the ensuing Ukrainian War of Independence, and the eventual creation of Soviet Ukraine, several strands of distinctly Ukrainian art emerged.

While émigrés such as Sonia Delaunay and Alexander Archipenko found fame outside their homeland, the followers of Mykhailo Boichuk focused on Byzantine revivalism, and the artists of the Kultur Lige sought to promote the development of contemporary Yiddish culture. The first avant-garde exhibitions in Ukraine featured the radical art of Davyd Burliuk and Alexandra Exter, and the dynamic canvases of the Kyiv-based Cubo-Futurist Oleksandr Bohomazov. In Kharkiv, Vasyl Yermilov championed the industrial art of Constructivism, while Vadym Meller, Anatol Petrytskyi, Oleksandr Khvostenko-Khvostov and Borys Kosarev revolutionized theatre design. The attempt to build a national identity in Ukraine resulted in a polyphony of styles and artistic developments across a full range of media – from oil paintings, sketches and sculpture to collages, cinema posters and theatre designs.

Twelve internationally renowned scholars, including curators from the National Art Museum of Ukraine, bring to life this astonishing period of creativity in Ukraine and all the movements it encompassed.


'Generously illustrated... An introduction to an influential period and a diverse group of artists whose works continue to be uncovered, and whose history reverberates today'
Library Journal

'Informative and wide-ranging'

'[Documents] an impressive exhibition of Ukrainian modernism with colour plates and extensive essays by 12 Ukrainian scholars and museum officials... Highly recommended'

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 28.0 x 24.0 cm

Extent: 248 pp

Illustrations: 221

Publication date: 15 November 2022

ISBN: 9780500297155

Contents List

Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza


Konstantin Akinsha

I. Kyiv

From Kyiv to Paris: The Cosmopolitanism of Alexandra Exter
Katia Denysova

The Beginning: The First Avant-Garde Exhibitions in Ukraine
Olena Kashuba-Volvach

The Art Section of the Kultur Lige: Yiddish Avant-Garde Art in Kyiv (1918–1922)
Hillel Kazovsky

Oleksandr Bohomazov: The Ukrainian Version of Futurism
Olena Kashuba-Volvach

Myroslava M. Mudrak

Bauhaus on the Banks of the Dnipro
Olena Kashuba-Volvach

II: Kharkiv

The Tragic Sensuality of the Kharkiv Avant-Garde
Tetiana Zhmurko

Constructor Vasyl Yermilov: A Captive of the Material World
Konstantin Akinsha

Visual and Spatial Experiments in Ukrainian Scenography of the 1920s
Olena Kovalchuk

Ivan Kavaleridze: Searching for the Hero of the New Age
Oksana Barshynova

Nova heneratsiia (1927–1930)
Myroslava M. Mudrak

III. Odesa

The Odesa Society of Independent Artists
Olha Barkovska

From Symbolism to Avant-Garde: The Emancipation of Ukrainian Cinema in the 1920s
Ivan Kozlenko

IV. Aftermath

In the Shadow of Russia: Ukrainian Art at the XVI Venice Biennale of 1928
Olena Kashuba-Volvach & Maryna Drobotiuk

The Émigrés from Ukraine: Archipenko, Delaunay and Baranoff-Rossiné
Katia Denysova

From Oblivion to Glory: Spetsfond or The Special Secret Holding
Yuliia Lytvynets


Authors’ Biographies

Picture Credits


About the Author

Konstantin Akinsha is an independent art historian, curator and journalist. He received the George Polk award for cultural reporting in 1991. Akinsha's curatorial projects include 'Russian Modernism: Cross-Currents of German and Russian Art, 1907–1917' (Neue Galerie, New York, 2015), 'Permanent Revolution: Ukrainian Art Today' (Ludwig Museum, Budapest, 2018) and 'Between Fire and Fire: Ukrainian Art Now' (Semperdepot, Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna, 2019). He is the founding director of the Avant-Garde Art Research Project (UK) and the author of several books, including Beautiful Loot: The Soviet Plunder of Europe's Art Treasures (1995).

Katia Denysova is a PhD candidate at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. Her research investigates the influence of socio-political factors on early 20th-century art in Ukraine. She has contributed to the H-SHERA, ArtHist and Dash Arts podcast series, and the journals Arts, Art and the Public Sphere and immediations.

Olena Kashuba-Volvach heads the Department of 19th and early 20th-Century Art at the National Art Museum of Ukraine (NAMU). She holds a PhD in art history from the Institute of Art Studies, Folklore and Ethnology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and was the senior research fellow at the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine. She is the author of numerous articles and has published several books, including Oleksandr Bohomazov: A Self-Portrait (2012), The Ukrainian Academy of Art: A Brief History (2015) and Art Pages of the New Generation, 1927–1930 (2016). In 2019–20, Kashuba-Volvach curated the multi-venue exhibition Oleksandr Bohomazov: The Artistic Laboratory.