Taras Chevtchenko

Article

August 15, 2022

Taras Hryhorovych Chevtchenko (Ukrainian: Тара́с Григо́рович Шевче́нко), nicknamed Kobzar, born on February 25, 1814 (March 9 in the Gregorian calendar) in Moryntsi, government of kyiv, and died on February 26, 1861 (March 10 in the Gregorian calendar) in St. Petersburg, is a Ukrainian poet, painter, ethnographer and humanist. He is considered the greatest romantic poet in the Ukrainian language. An emblematic figure in the history of Ukraine, he marked the national awakening of the country in the 19th century. His life and work make him a true icon of the culture of Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora during the 19th and 20th centuries. The main Ukrainian university bears his name since 1939: the Taras-Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.

Biography

Youth

Shevchenko was born in 1814 to a family of peasant serfs in Moryntsi, a village about one hundred and fifty kilometers south of kyiv, now in Ukraine, which at the time was part of the Russian Empire. He very quickly lost his mother (1823), then his father (1825), becoming an orphan at the age of 12, which added pain to his life, which was already filled with it. As a child, he showed real talent for painting. He works and studies with a deacon. It was at this time that he discovered certain works of Ukrainian literature. But he also likes to draw, and makes his first attempts with a painter. At 14, Shevchenko became a servant to a lord named Pavel Engelhardt. He leaves with him near the Baltic Sea for Vilnius (today in Lithuania), the latter remains there from the autumn of 1828 until the beginning of the year 1831. One evening, the lord surprises Shevchenko drawing by the light of a candle in front of one of the paintings in the house. He accuses her of having nearly burned the precious painting and has it whipped in the stables, but Engelhardt's wife, a charitable soul, points out to her husband that if he sends Taras to learn art, he will will have as a personal painter. The following day, Shevchenko was sent to the University of Vilnius to follow the courses of the painter Jan Rustem. In 1831, Engelhardt left for Saint Petersburg and Taras Shevchenko continued his apprenticeship there for four years with the painter Chiriaev. Taras Shevchenko spends his free time sketching the statues of the Imperial Summer Gardens in the Russian capital. He then met the Ukrainian artist Ivan Sochenko. The latter introduced him to other compatriots like Yevhen Hrebinka and Vasyl Hryhorovytch, as well as to the Russian painter Alexei Venetsianov. Thanks to them, he can meet the famous painter and professor Karl Brioullov. The latter put his portrait of the Russian poet Vasily Zhukovsky into play in a lottery, which enabled him to buy and, for 2,500 rubles, to free Taras Shevchenko on May 5, 1838. Vasily Zhukovsky himself used his influence to obtain this postage; he is thanked for it in Shevchenko's poem, Kateryna. To illustrate his poem Kateryna, written in 1838-1839, Shevchenko painted, in the summer of 1842, the painting of the same name which remains today one of the emblematic images of Ukrainian painting; it depicts a pregnant Ukrainian girl and a Russian soldier walking away. At that time, young Ukrainian girls who, after having accepted the favors of passing Russian soldiers, became pregnant at the works of the "occupier", were rejected by their families.

Artist and national cantor

Taras Shevchenko enrolled at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg and studied there under the direction of Briullov. In 1840, Kobzar (The Bard), his first collection of eight romantic poems, was published in Saint Petersburg. In 1841, his epic poem Haidamaky, then in 1844 the Ballad Hamaliia, so