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PYSANKY ART -- From Ukraine "Folk Art" Magazine

Based On Three Articles from the "Folk Art" Magazine
No 2, 1997, No 1-2, and 3-4, 1999
The National Union Of Folk Art Masters Of Ukraine

PYSANKY ART -- From Ukraine "Folk Art" Magazine

The egg was considered by many ancient cultures to be the starting point for the creation of life. The Greeks, Egyptians, Hindus, Persians, Phoenicians and others considered the egg to be very important. The word for egg in Latin was ABOVA.

Experts have shown that there have existed many transcultural relations and interactions between among peoples throughout history. The same or very similar customs and symbols have been found in the cultures of quite different peoples.

One of the members of the Titiniuk family at work.

The pysanka from Slobazhany region.

Slavonic pagans treated the egg as a symbol of Spring-Land- Water-Sun. The mystery of preserving life and the creation of new life has always fascinated people. The egg is a very unique product of nature, as it contains the embryo of a new bird. Symbolic rituals and ceremonials were created around the egg. Among pagans it was a custom to present an egg--passing the egg from one hand to another's hand, one man to another man, as if gave the other a new life.

The custom of painting eggs comes from ancient times. Pagans threw eggs into the fire to please the gods. To make the gods temper justice with mercy people painted eggs in different colors. With the introduction of Christianity colored eggs became the symbol of forgiveness and Easter, faith in Christ's resurrection.

In Ukraine such colored eggs with a variety of design and ornament are called Pysanky. Vadym Shcherbakivskyi, a Ukrainian expert in folk art, writes: ".... Pysanky are the eggs that are decorated with different ornaments. They are painted during Holly Week and are a symbol of Easter."

Pysankarstvo--painting on eggs--is treated as a unique type of folk art. The first official recognition of this type of folk art, according to some sources, dates back to 1874. That year in Kyiv the Third Congress of Archeology was held. Ukrainian scientist Fedor Vovk initiated the official recognition of pysankarstvo at this Congress.

During the period from 1876 until 1904 the pysanky works by Olena Pchilka, Pelaheya Lytvynova, Mykola Sumtsov, Serhiy Kulzhynskyi, Myron Kolduba, and Volodymyr Shukhevych appeared from different regions around Ukraine.

The famous Ukrainian professor Mykola Sumtsov, who lived and worked in Kharkiv, initiated in 1888 the Kharkiv collection of Ukrainian traditional pysanka. His call for eggs and program to collect pysanka was announced in the press. He soon received 250 different painted eggs from 8 regions. In 1891 Mykola Sumtsov published his work "Pysanky" ("Kyivska Starovyna", Kyiv) based on his research of the eggs he collected.

Six years later Professor M. Sumtsov gave his collection of 378 egg samples from different regions to the Kharkiv University Museum. During 1900-1902 M. Sumtsov initiated another program for the collection of pysanky. At the Twelfth Congress of Archeology he exhibited 337 examples of pysanky. In the Museum in Slobozhany, where M. Sumtsov was a director, a collection of 1,050 samples of pysanky has survived since1926.

The Historical Museum in Kharkiv, is one of the few Ukrainian museums, who also has a unique collection of Ukrainian pysanky from the end of nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century.

The various designs on the eggs are made in different ways. For example, in the South Podillia, Bukovyna region painting with the help of wax is used. In some of the regions of Volyn and the Carpathians the technique of scraping away the dye from the painted egg is used. The painting of eggs in only one color-- red, blue, green, yellow-- without any ornament is used widely in all the regions of Ukraine. The eggs are put into the boiled broth of onion peels, different plants, rinds, and aniline (a chemical). Eggs painted in such a way are called "krashenky".

According to the design it is normally possible to divide Ukraine into the following areas: Dnieper, Podillia, Polissia, Volyn, and the Carpathians. For example, in the Western Carpathians designs are geometrical with thin white and yellow lines. The basis of the compositions are stars, crosses, triangles, and rhombus (diamond shapes). Very often the eggs are decorated with the images of animals such as horses, deer and birds. White, yellow, red, and black colors prevail.

Pysanky from Slobozhany region.

In Podillia violet and purple colors are most widely used. Designs are based on painting different flowers, and leaves. In all regions one can find in egg ornaments the depiction of rakes, mills, and combs (hair-brush). But it is possible to say, that every village in Ukraine has some of its own original designs and ornaments which show local customs, ideas, and flavor.

Pysanky from Slobozhany region.

Every color has its own meaning. Thus, the color red means joy, love, and for young people--hope for marriage. Red is also the symbol for the sun. The color yellow is close to red by its meaning. Yellow is the symbol of warmth, and high spirited energy. When four or five colors are mixed together that means family happiness, peace, and love. Green is a symbol of spring, the revival of nature. Red with white eggs, and black with white eggs represent respect for ghosts, and gratitude for protection against evil.

Pysanky from the collection of the State Museum of Decorative Folk Art of Ukraine. Prepared specially for the Folk Art Magazine by the students of the Kyiv Art College under the supervision of O. I. Vladymyrova.

Pysanky from different parts
of Ukraine.

With the gaining of Ukrainian independence in 1991 and the renewed interest in Ukrainian national culture the interest in pysanka art has begun to increase. Nowadays pysanka art is being called a phenomenon of Ukrainian culture, the grand-grandmother of folk decorative art, and the masterpiece of miniature painting.

Congresses of the masters of egg painting, egg exhibitions, seminars, and conferences about pysanky are not rare anymore. This kind of folk art is now being added to school and college programs.

The State Museum of Ukrainian Folk And Decorative Art at the Lavra has one of the largest collections of pysanky that were made at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. This collection was gathered thanks mainly to Mykola Biliashivskyi and the Shcherbakivskyi brothers. The collection now has 3,300 examples of pysanka art. Almost all the regions of Ukraine are represented. The oldest pysanky in the collection are from the nineteenth century. This collection, alongside the other folk art held in the museum, is part of the spiritual and material culture of the Ukrainian people.

The article above is a summary of three articles found in the magazine "Folk Art",
(1) Magazine No. 1-2, 1999, pages 48-49, article by Viktoriya Titiniuk,
a specialist in art,
(2) Magazine No. 3-4, 1999, pages 54-55, article by the late Mykola Shutak, the Bukovyna regional office of the Union of Folk Artists,
(3) Magazine No. 2, 1977, pages 6-8, article by Liudmyla Atlantova, academic secretary of the State Museum of National Decorative Arts Of Ukraine.

The title of the article on page 48, Folk Art Magazine, No 3 - 4,1999.

Pysanky from different parts of Ukraine.


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