Bolsheviks whitewashed Kharkiv Impressionist artist Mykhailo Tkachenko from history

Tkachenko was well known and appreciated at the end of the nineteenth century in both France and the Russian Empire. However, he subsequently vanished from the art scene for many decades, only to resurface relatively recently. In essence, Tkachenko was a victim of changing political tides. He died at the relatively early age of 55 in 1916 as a respected member of the Impressionism movement. However, following the Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviet regime rejected the “decadent” art of the “bourgeois” world. This left the artistic legacy of Tkachenko consigned to oblivion. Meanwhile in Paris, Tkachenko’s works were absorbed into private collections and there were no follow-up exhibitions or publications to sustain his reputation. . . .

While brilliantly straddling the two artistic worlds of the Tsarist Empire and France, Tkachenko remained very committed to his native Ukraine. He drew inspiration from the beautiful landscapes and village scenes that figure so prominently in many of his Impressionistic works, while taking an active interest in Ukrainian history. According to Rubin, Tkachenko, “repeatedly returned to Ukraine in order to paint Ukrainian scenes, and to do them in the more progressive, novel style he had learned from the Impressionists. In other words, he brought Impressionism to Ukraine.”

Tkachenko also brought Ukraine to French Impressionism. As you look at the catalogues and reviews of the many exhibitions and works from his 20 years in Paris, it becomes clear that most of his art drew on Ukrainian themes. Art critics also noted this source of inspiration and routinely identified Tkachenko with Ukraine. As if to illustrate this connection, the two works for which he won gold medals in 1911-12 were entitled “In Ukraine” and “View of Poltava Province”.

Tkachenko was a close friend of another painter from the Kharkiv area, Serhiy Vasylkivsky, who achieved fame with his paintings of Ukrainian Cossacks.