In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900–1930s

Thames & Hudson. Feb. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9780500297155. $60. FINE ARTS
Sixteen generously illustrated, individually authored essays in four sections examine the myriad influences (modern, folk, European, Russian); dynamic experimentation; and search for a national identity that characterize early 20th-century Ukrainian art. Three sections focus on the vibrant artistic centers of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa. Compelling profiles of Alexandra Exter, Oleksandr Bohomazov, Oleksandr Khvostenko-Khvostov, and others whose innovative work extended beyond painting into theater and costume design, mural art, ceramics, graphic arts, film, and sculpture underline just how instrumental these artists were in spreading the modernist spirit. This period of exchange and creativity, which blossomed despite increasing political restraints, was brought to an abrupt end by the Soviet regime’s destruction of “ideological harmful” artwork and purges of intellectual elites in the 1930s. Some art removed from museums did survive, stored in “special secret holding” where it remained for decades, as explained in the book’s final section. Black-and-white photos and 124 pages of color plates support the text. The book was created in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name at the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum (Madrid) and supported by the Museums for Ukraine.
VERDICT An introduction to an influential period and a diverse group of artists whose works continue to be uncovered, and whose history reverberates today.
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