Ukrainian painters: Kyriak Kostandi

Kyriak Kostandi (1852–1921), Out Into the World (1885), oil on canvas, 80.5 x 62.5 cm, National Art Museum of Ukraine Національний художній музей України, Kyiv, Ukraine. Wikimedia Commons.

Last week’s Ukrainian artist, Mykola Kuznetsov, came from an estate to the north of Odesa, on the Black Sea coast. Kyriak Kostandi (1852–1921), the subject of this article, was also born and brought up near Odesa, trained initially at the city’s drawing school, then went on to the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg. Although only a couple of years younger than Kuznetsov, Kostandi didn’t start his studies at the Academy until 1882, by which time Kuznetsov had already embarked on his career painting portraits.

Kyriak Kostandi (1852–1921), A Visit to a Sick Friend, Portrait of Aleksey Afanas’ev (1850-1920) (1884), oil on canvas, 67.8 x 85 cm, Tretyakov Gallery Государственная Третьяковская галерея, Moscow, Russia. Wikimedia Commons.

Kostandi’s early painting of A Visit to a Sick Friend from 1884 was almost certainly made when he was still in Saint Petersburg. It’s now known for its portrait of Aleksey Fyodorovich Afanas’ev (1850-1920), a Russian painter who was associated with the Wanderers; he stands to the right.

After completing his studies in Saint Petersburg, Kostandi returned to Ukraine, where he taught in Odesa.

Kyriak Kostandi (1852–1921), Out Into the World (1885), oil on canvas, 80.5 x 62.5 cm, National Art Museum of Ukraine Національний художній музей України, Kyiv, Ukraine. Wikimedia Commons.

Out Into the World, from 1885, also known as Among the People, is probably Kostandi’s best-known painting today. This young Ukrainian country woman stares from the window at the bright world, with her few belongings squeezed into the bag beside her. Her hopes and aspirations are perhaps those of many Ukrainians at the time.

In the late 1880s, his style became more Impressionist, and he painted more plein air oil sketches.

Kyriak Kostandi (1852–1921), Landscape with a Meadow (1897), oil on panel, 18 x 24.5 cm, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie, Warsaw, Poland. Wikimedia Commons.

Landscape with a Meadow from 1897 shows a woman walking though a meadow rich with the flowers of early summer, and a large farm in the background.

In 1897, Kostandi joined the Wanderers (Peredvizhniki), and was important in taking their approach to other Ukrainian artists. He was a co-founder of the Society of South Russian Artists, and served as its president until 1920. That group was based in the city of Odesa, where it was at the centre of the arts as they flourished there well into the twentieth century.

Kyriak Kostandi (1852–1921), Geese (1913), further details not known. Wikimedia Commons.

Kostandi’s Geese from 1913 is rich in colour and the textures of his brushstrokes.

Kyriak Kostandi (1852–1921), Early Spring (1915), oil on panel, dimensions not known, Odesa Art Museum Одеський художній музей, Odesa, Ukraine. Wikimedia Commons.

Early Spring (1915) contrasts an aged priest as he walks alone in the sunshine among the leafless trees outside an Orthodox church.

In 1917, Kostandi was appointed director of the Odesa City Museum. He died in Odesa in 1921, shortly after his sixty-ninth birthday.


Andrey Kurkov and others (2022) Treasures of Ukraine, A Nation’s Cultural Heritage, Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978 0 500 02603 8.
Konstantin Akinsha and others (2022) In the Eye of the Storm, Modernism in Ukraine 1900-1930s, Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978 0 500 29715 5.