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Trail 5: Ukrainian Exhibits in Museums and Galleries

By following the links on this page you can go on a virtual tour of some of the Ukrainian artefacts and art works in museum and gallery collections in London.

(Note: the territory which became the modern state of Ukraine has had a complex history, and has been known under many different names. The artists who were born, lived their formative years and worked in Ukraine were often known as nationals of the countries under whose rule Ukraine was at the time. Some of the exhibits, therefore, may not have Ukraine as their provenance, even though they originate from this territory and were created by people who either were Ukrainians or had strong links to Ukraine.)

Ancient Kyiv jewellery at the British Museum

The British Museum owns a set of jewellery dating from the time of Kyivan Rus’ and spanning the 7th to the 12th centuries. The pieces were all found in Kyiv or its environs, and are beautifully crafted from gold or silver. Some of the pieces were researched by Dr Ludmila Pekarska, who is currently curator of the Shevchenko Library and Archive.

The pieces include a silver bow brooch, a silver pendant (which would have been worn by a lady at the court of the Kyivan princes), a silver bracelet and a gold pendant with enamel.

Maps of Ukraine at the British Library

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The British Library (BL) holds a number of ancient maps of Ukraine, both as pages in atlases and as separate items. An example is this 1662 map of part of the Dnipro river, by the Dutch cartographer Johannes Blaeu: ‘Tractus Borysthenis, vulgo Dniepr et Niepr dicti’. The photograph (left) is of an identical map in a private collection in London. At the beginning of the 20th century there was considerable interest in the maps of Ukraine held at the BL: for example, in 1914 the writer George Raffalovich (pseudonym Bedwin Sands) compiled and published a list of the maps, and in 1912 a short article about them appeared in «Украинская жизнь» (Ukrainian Life), a periodical published in Moscow.

 

Cossack baroque and Bauhaus at the Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert (V&A) has a wide range of exhibits relating to Ukraine, including photography by Boris Mikhailov (from his series «Сумерк», ‘At dusk’), works by Jacob Kramer and political posters from early Soviet Ukraine.

Among the ancient treasures at the V&A is a gold pendant, made in the Crimea in 350-300 BC, and two sets of 18th century «царські ворота» (central iconostasis doors), both made in Kyiv, one made by the eminent goldsmith Oleksii Ishchenko, and the other by an unknown craftsman.

The V&A also has a collection of jewellery and silverware by the Kyiv-born goldsmith and industrial designer Naum Slutsky (1894-1965), whose father was also a goldsmith, in Kyiv. Slutsky emigrated to Vienna and became a prominent member of the Bauhaus. In 1933 he came to England and taught design at the London Central College of Arts and Crafts, at the Royal College of Art and other institutions.

Artists originating from Ukraine in major art galleries

Many well-known artists from the 19th and 20th centuries, including Ilya Repin (one of the few East European painters at the National Gallery), Kasimir Malevich and others, had their origins in, or strong associations with, Ukraine. Some of their works, which often reflect their Ukrainian associations, may be found in the main London art galleries.

The Tate Gallery collections include several works by the cubist sculptor Alexander Archipenko (1887-1964), the Ukraine-born painters Jacob Kramer (1892-1962), Mané-Katz (1894-1962) and others.

Ukrainian folk art at the Horniman Museum

The Horniman Museum has in its collections examples of Ukrainian folk art, including «писанки» (Easter eggs) and a «бандура» (bandura, folk instrument originating in cossack times, shown in the sculpture below).

Gregor Kruk at the Shevchenko Library and Archive

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The Shevchenko Library and Archive has on display works by Ukrainian artists from Ukraine and the diaspora, including a collection of sculptures by Gregor Kruk (1911-1988), who, after the Second World War, worked in Germany. The photograph shows Kruk’s sculpture ‘Bandura player’.

Films relating to Ukraine at the British Film Institute National Archive

The National Archive at the British Film Institute (BFI) has a collection of Ukrainian and Ukraine-related films, including works by Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Sergei Paradzhanov and a number of contemporary directors. To see the collection go to the BFI website and enter the search terms ‘Ukraine’ and ‘Ukrainian’.