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Shevchenko, Taras (Hryhorovych) [Grigor’yevich] locked

(b Moryntsi, Kiev province [now Cherkasy region], March 9, 1814; d St Petersburg, March 10, 1861).
  • L. I. Popova

Ukrainian painter, graphic artist and poet. He was born a serf, and he moved to St Petersburg with his owner in 1831. In 1832–8 he worked in the studio of the fresco painter V. Shiryayev. With the help of some Russian writers and artists, he was bought out of serfdom in 1838, and he enrolled at the Academy of Arts. From 1838 to 1845 he studied under Karl Bryullov, whose influence, which continued, can already be seen in Shevchenko’s watercolour Gypsy Woman and the Self-portrait in oils (both 1841; Kiev, Shevchenko Mus.)

Bryullov’s influence is further notable in Shevchenko’s portraits of the 1840s. Shevchenko’s artistic and literary activities went hand in hand, and he published numerous volumes of poetry. In 1842 he painted the picture Katerina (Kiev, Shevchenko Mus.) on the same subject as his poem of that title—a serf girl deceived and abandoned by an officer. The central figure is painted with great delicacy and psychological effect; although conventional in composition and tone it shows a detailed observation of everyday life.

In 1843–5 Shevchenko was in Ukraine painting portraits and genre pictures, the latter with a vivid palette typical of Romanticism. He also produced a series of etchings, Zhivopisnaya Ukraina (‘Picturesque Ukraine’; 6 sheets, pubd St Petersburg, 1844), employing both gentle and abrupt transitions of light and shade, with a skilful modelling of space and form. Shevchenko completed his course at the Academy in 1845. In 1847 he was arrested for agitation against serfdom and was sent into exile. He continued to write and draw, devoting many studies to the wretched life of the Kazakhs, at first merely recording nature, but advancing to broad generalizations. Typically Romantic feelings of estrangement and loneliness are expressed in landscapes showing overgrown graves or kibitki (nomad tents) or compositions on Classical themes such as the Dying Gladiator (sepia, 1856; Kiev, Shevchenko Mus.). The plasticity of his work is especially effective in the series of allegorically autobiographic drawings the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Indian ink and bistre, 1856–7; Kiev, Shevchenko House–Mus.).

In 1857 Shevchenko returned to Russia. The drawings he executed on the journey show that his artistic vocabulary had become more economical, graphic and dynamic. His Romantic painted portraits were developed in portrait drawings and etchings (e.g. the portrait of the actor M. S. Shchepkin, pencil and chalk, 1858; Kiev, Shevchenko Mus.). During his last years Shevchenko devoted himself entirely to etching (with much use of aquatint) and to studying the graphic art of Rembrandt, and he etched portraits of several prominent cultural figures. His work as a whole, which represents the peak of Romanticism in Ukrainian art, strongly influenced the next generation of Ukrainian artists.


  • S. A. Taranushenko: Shevchenko—khudozhnik [Shevchenko the artist] (Kiev, 1961)
  • E. B. Vandrovskaya: Shevchenko—khudozhnik [Shevchenko the artist] (Alma-Ata, 1963)
  • Shevchenko—khudozhnik: Materialy naukovoï konferentsiï, prisvyachenoü 100-richchyu vid dnya smerti T. G. Shevchenka [Shevchenko the artist: report of a scientific conference on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the day of T. G. Shevchenko’s death] (Kiev, 1963)
  • Shevchenkivs’kiy slovnyk [Shevchenko dictionary], 2 vols (Kiev, 1978)