Mykola Samokisha
Mykola Samokisha
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Samokish or Samokisha: return of the real name

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On January 18, 1944, at 9 o’clock in the morning in Simferopol, which was still under the yoke of Hitler’s troops, at the age of 84, Mykola Samokysha, a Ukrainian graphic artist, battle artist, and master of the animalistic genre, fell asleep easily and calmly forever. His departure was announced not only by the press of occupied Ukraine, but also by Germany. The obituaries were as follows: “ He was popular with both the civilian population and the military. During the war alone, he painted hundreds of paintings that spread far beyond Ukraine and the Crimea. His name, his many works of art will be an eternal pride for Ukrainian art, for Ukraine “(” To Victory “, Lviv, №9, 02.03.1944); “The death of a well-known European battle painter is a great loss of Ukrainian culture“(” Voice “, Berlin, №9, 27.02.1944).

However, the pro-Russian press of the occupation period after the death of Samokishi called him a “major Russian artist “, in the person of whom ” Russian art has lost a talented master “; however, it was noted that his paintings, brilliant in technique, stood out favorably in Soviet exhibitions among the “pathetic paintings of the Soviet” battlers. ” “ Already lying on the deathbed, he was still drawing and finding friendly words for the students he loved so much. In the Crimea, everyone knew him and was proud of his famous countryman, “- wrote the Nikolaev” New Thought “(№11 (32), 30.01.1944). In contrast to the Russian tradition, in Ukrainian publications the name of the artist is presented in the nominative case as “Samokisha”: this word in the Sivers’kyi region meant sour milk. That’s how the master signed his letters.

Samokish or Samokisha: return of the real name
Mykola Samokisha

He was born on October 25, 1860 in the village of Nosivka, Nizhyn district, Chernihiv region, in a poor family of a village postman and a Cossack. From his grandfather, in whom he lived, he inherited stories about the glorious Cossack times, inspired by them, made “weapons” and “ataman” over peers. At the age of 10, with the help of his uncle, after two-grade school he entered the Nizhyn Classical Gymnasium at the Bezborodko Lyceum. As an 18-year-old boy, he began attending the workshop of Professor of Battle Painting B. Villewalde in St. Petersburg. Studying at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts (1879-1885) he belonged to the pro-Ukrainian circle of young artists (it also included S. Vasylkivsky, P. Martynovych, O. Slastion), whose goal was to reproduce historical events and national features of the life and way of life of the Ukrainian people.Danylo Mordovets, a well-known writer and expert on the history and way of life of the Ukrainian people, took care of this circle. Mykola Samokysha graduated from the Academy with two silver and one gold medal. Interestingly, entering the academy for the first time, the future outstanding artist failed the entrance exam. At the same time, he became on the path of study against the will of his father, who wanted to see his son as a wealthy lawyer, not a “hungry painter.”

In 1886-1889 he went on a scholarship trip to Paris with S. Vasylkivsky, where he studied under the guidance of the battler E. Detail. From 1890 he worked as an artist at the military department; in the same year he was awarded the title of academician of painting for the painting “Herd at the watering hole”. In 1900 he received an award at the World’s Fair in Paris.

In 1894-1917 he directed the battle workshop of the St. Petersburg Academy (in 1913 he became its professor and a full member). In 1918 he settled in Evpatoria, in 1922 he moved to Simferopol, where he created his own art studio, later reformatted into an art school named after him.
Samokisha never severed ties with his homeland. In the late 1890s and early twentieth century. he often came to Ukraine, in particular to Kharkiv, and took part in exhibitions. From 1898, together with S. Vasylkivsky, he worked on an album that was to be a continuation of Shevchenko’s “Picturesque Ukraine” – “From Ukrainian antiquity”, with the text of prof. D. Yavornytsky (published in 1900). The second album – “Motives of Ukrainian ornament” (1902) – Samokisha worked on himself. In the early 1900’s, the artist participated in the paintings of the Poltava Provincial Zemstvo. From 1911 he worked in Ukraine every year, performing a long-conceived cycle of works on Ukrainian history and the Cossack wars: “Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s entry into Kyiv in 1648.” (1929), “Battle of the Yellow Waters”, “Boarding of the Turkish galley by the Cossacks” (1930), “Battle of Ivan Bohun near the Monastery in 1653” (1931), “Battle of Tsarychanka in 1709.”,” The Cossacks’ march to the Crimea “(1934),” The destruction of Baturyn by Menshikov “,” Gordienko’s bone destroys Kempel’s dragoons “,” Maxim Krivonos’s battle with Yarema Vyshnevetsky “(1934),” Kharkiv fortress of the XVIII century. ” (1936), “Dispersal of the demonstration in Kyiv on the 100th anniversary of Shevchenko’s birth” and “Tsar’s gendarmes take Shevchenko into exile” (1938), “Bohun near Berestechko”, “Avenger Bohun”, “Cossacks in chats”, “Cossacks have dinner “,” Famine in the Crimea 1921-1922 “and others.”Cossacks have lunch”, “Famine in the Crimea 1921-1922″ and others.”Cossacks have lunch”, “Famine in the Crimea 1921-1922″ and others.

On November 14, 1929, in a letter to the writer Maxim Lebed, who would become a victim of Bolshevik terror in almost 10 years, Mykola Samokysh, mentioning his brother Serhiy Vasylevsky, wrote: . If it happened that we did not do our Ukrainian, it was done for money, and our soul was in Ukraine. ” Poet and playwright Kostya Bureviy, who also died in the NKVD torture chambers, said: “Samokisha was never a Russian patriot, and therefore, quite naturally, did not throw himself into the arms of Russian patriotism and did not humiliate his art with” victorious “hackneyedness.”
In October 1935, the Lviv newspaper Dilo reported that a whole committee had been formed in Simferopol to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mykola Samokysha’s artistic work.
From 1937 to 1941 the artist managed the battle-historical workshops of the Kharkiv and Kyiv art institutes.

During World War II, Samokysha, already old and weak, refused to evacuate from the Crimea. On December 30, 1942, the occupation newspaper Golos Kryma reported that a council of artists had been formed in Simferopol to streamline artistic life and improve the working conditions of individual artists, including Mykola Samokysha along with nearly four dozen artists and sculptors. The council had the following responsibilities: evaluating the works of artists, supplying them with the necessary materials for work, assisting in the realization of paintings, providing assistance to outstanding artists, organizing art exhibitions, and so on.

“Among the Ukrainian artists who did not take advantage of the opportunity given to them to escape to the depths of Moscow and stay, we must first mention Mykola Samokish, one of the best Ukrainian and world battlers. Back in 1905, he gave a series of famous drawings from the Russo-Japanese War, for which he was in the role of military correspondent. Samokysha studied the days of the Cossacks in Ukrainian history. Under Soviet rule, our artist was forced to paint not the proletariat at all, but drawings that would show the unity of the Russian Empire and the heroism of the wars “for the family.” Now the old 80-year-old artist is in Simferopol, “Krakowski Vesti wrote in 1942.

In the spring of 1942 in Simferopol, members of the Southern OUN (b) marching group organized a consumer cooperative, the Ukrainian Consumer, to legalize their activities and help local Ukrainians. Thus, Mykola Samokysha also received financial assistance. At the end of June, a special commission was opened at the city’s main police department to correct the passports of Ukrainians registered by the Russians (about 4,000 documents were reissued in a short time). Whether the artist was among these people – we can only guess.

” ” Gentle eyes look out from under the small glasses. White Cossack mustache and small white beard; the same white tuft, carefully combed. Red woolen cloak and boots. Mykola Samokysha sits on a jig and draws ”. With such features Mr. Masyukevych depicts the great Ukrainian battle artist, whom he visited in 1942 in Simferopol. He talks about the artist’s attentiveness and courtesy to everyone, about his tireless work, about his great popularity among the population and the military, who from time to time come in, bringing or taking away their orders. The artist’s wife tells about his stay abroad, about some works and workers left in Leningrad and Kharkiv, and it is unknown what happened to them “, – wrote the Lviv organ of the German occupation” To Victory “in fact a few days before the death of the master ( №1 for 06.01.1944).

Samokish or Samokisha: return of the real name
Mykola Samokysha, “Evening in the Crimea” (year unknown. Canvas, oil). Chernihiv Historical Museum.

In total, for 60 years of creative activity Mykola Samokysha has created 11 thousand paintings, drawings, etchings, book illustrations, which are stored in museums of Ukraine and Russia and in private collectors. Many of them were lost; many of them, made for money, under duress, died forever with their customers. In the legacy of the artist remained numerous graphic works, much of which on the battle scenes, made in watercolor, ink and pencil. He made several thousand book illustrations, using painting tools, in particular illustrated Ukrainian books: the story of Mark Vovchko, the novel “Nicholas Jer” by I. Nechuy-Levytsky, “Taras Bulba” by M. Gogol and others. These illustrations have been published in various magazines. Samokish’s works are characterized by multi-figure and dynamic composition.

Until his last day, the Ukrainian artist worked tirelessly at the easel for 10 hours every day. Two days before his death, he wrote a fragment of the painting “Battle of Krivonos”.

Soviet criticism, as well as pre-revolutionary, very carefully silenced the Ukrainian work of the artist, and even if this “slippery” topic was discussed, it was only in the tone of arrogant teachings. Thus, criticizing perhaps his best work – “The entry of Bohdan Khmelnytsky in Kiev in 1648.” – in the magazine “Fine Arts” (№9, 1940) emphasized: ” It seems to us that Samokysh often chooses a less significant episode. For Bohdan Khmelnytsky, for example, such a more significant moment could be the episode of Ukraine’s accession to Russia. Maybe that’s why Samokish’s works are getting smaller thematically . ” This is mentioned in the material of the Berlin “Voice” (№37 (132), September 12, 1943).

After the death of Mykola Samokysha, the German occupation command of Simferopol decided to rename Kooperativna Street, where he lived, in his honor. After the occupation of Crimea by the Soviet army, this directive was repealed. In addition, the red authorities decided to find out whether the artist had collaborated with the Germans; in addition, the young widow of Samokisha began to actively accuse him of all mortal sins – a phenomenon inherent in any change of power. In 1960, on the 100th anniversary of the master, the street was renamed again.

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The project was implemented with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation

Sergey Konashevich

Author of numerous culturological publications, editor of Ukrainian Culture Publishing House LLC

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