I have previously looked at some paintings of the Hutsul people of the far west of Ukraine, in the Carpathian Mountains there. One artist whose work was omitted is Ivan Trush (1869–1941), who was born in the small village of Vysotsko, to the north-east of Lviv, the city where he lived and worked for much of his career.
When Trush (with a long ‘oo’) was born there, this part of Ukraine was within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. However, as was usual at that time in western Ukraine, when he trained as a painter, Trush went to Poland, to the Kraków Academy of Art. He studied there from 1891-97, with shorter periods spent in Vienna and Munich. Following completion, he settled in Lviv, where he first exhibited in 1899.
In the early years of the new century, Trush travelled to Italy, Egypt and Palestine. He probably painted this Landscape with Cypresses in Italy in about 1900. Like many of his surviving landscapes, it appears to have been painted en plein air, and makes good use of rich colour, with the popular ‘complementary’ combination of red poppies with green fields.
In 1908, he visited northern Italy, where he painted this famous view of Venice, San Giorgio Maggiore. One of the smaller islands there, it has been painted extensively, perhaps most famously in Claude Monet’s late series. The church and its high campanile are prominent landmarks whose detail Trush has captured in this impressive oil sketch.
Trush was an established painter of portraits as well as landscapes, and perhaps the most prominent Ukrainian Impressionist of his time. Among the many prominent Ukrainian figures he painted was the major poet and writer Ivan Franko. He was also instrumental in the rebirth of painting in Galicia, and the establishment of the Lviv National Museum.
Trush’s late oil sketch of Nasturtiums III from 1928 uses the combination of red and green again.
His figurative painting includes portraits such as this pair of Hutsul Girls from 1933. They are seen here uncharacteristically against flat and open country, rather than the steeper land of the Carpathians.
Remaining paintings are undated.
Trush painted this quick oil sketch of the Seashore on cardboard, perhaps on the coast of Crimea.
Evening Sun is likely to have been painted in the Carpathians, when there were still patches of snow on the distant hills. Trush caught the rich warm light of the setting sun as it lit the trunks and branches of these isolated trees.
Summer, Haystacks shows some ‘shaggy’ haystacks in flat and open fields. In the distance is a substantial church.
Summer is another view of the fields towards the end of harvest time.
Trush died in Lviv in 1941, just over a year after the city of Lviv had been taken by the Red Army, and shortly before it was seized from them by Nazi forces. Both occupying powers had engaged in mass killings there. By that time, many of his paintings that had been given to the National Museum in Kraków, Poland, had been looted. Those stolen works of art are still appearing on the market today.
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.