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"Alexis Gritchenko Dynamocolor" by Vita Susak, is now published

Alexis Gritchenko Dynamocolor monograph

We look forward to welcoming you at the presentation of the monograph.


    National Art Gallery

    15th September 2017


    National Art Museum

    of Ukraine

    21st September 2017

Alexis Gritchenko Dynamocolor monograph presentation
Alexis Gritchenko Dynamocolor monograph presentation



Twenty- five years ago, while searching for my Ukrainian roots, I traveled to the Chernihiv region. To my despair, I did not find any trace of my own relatives there; however, I did find Alexis Gritchenko (Oleksa Hryshchenko).

Upon my return, I discovered Gritchenko’s memoirs from his youth, Ukraine of My Azure Days. In it, I again heard the too-rare stories told by my grandfather, a Ukrainian of Cossack origin born in Sosnytsia, and at last, his silences were lled. In 1920, Gritchenko had gone before him to Sevastopol, then to Constantinople. Later, it was I who followed the footsteps of the great traveler—the Ukrainian vagabond, as he liked to call himself.

Alexis Gritchenko was Ukrainian.

His life and his work remind us of this every moment. His contribution to modern art, both theoretical and pictorial, had its roots in Kyivan Rus and its Byzantine heritage (the structure and coloring of ancient icons) and was nourished by the glorious period of the hetmans in Ukraine. He never forgot the stories of travels he heard from hischumak grandfather, who spoke of the distant past of the Ukrainian Cossacks, a past in which legend and historywere intertwined. As one critic noted, “He was born in Ukraine. This may partly explain the exuberant breath found in his paintings. The airy, peaceful architecture of a Corot, whom he venerated, gave way to the memory of a distant, but always present, native land, of stormy, surging plains, changing with the light . Throughout his life, he maintained contact with the Ukrainian diaspora around the world, and he shared its hope for a sovereign, independent Ukraine. In 2006, his dream of seeing 70 of his works and his archives transferred to Ukraine (to the National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kyiv) was nally realized. Alexis Gritchenko was a born painter.As a young child, he collected pencils of all kinds. But the true revelation came when he was at the general store in his hometown of Krolevets. With ve kopecks in his pocket, he chose to buy colors rather than sweets. 

Alexis Gritchenko was a born painter.

His real apprenticeship began in Kyiv in the autumn of 1906, in Serhii Svitoslavsky’s studio, which was also visited regularly by Sonia Lewitska, Vladimir Denisov, and Oleksandr Bohomazov. With the latter two, he traveled and painted in Crimea.In Moscow, he studied at the school run by Konstantin Yuon and Ivan Dudin; he soaked up the works in the Shchukin and Morozov collections. This was followed by travel: Paris and the Cubists, Italy and the Early Renaissance masterpieces.The year 1911 found him in Moscow in the workshop of Ilia Mashkov who, along with Aristarkh Lentulov and Petr Konchalovsky, invited Gritchenko to join them in forming the Jack of Diamonds group. He exhibited with other art groups of the period without ever really joining any of them; he, the easel painter, rejected the aesthetic and the decorative. At the time, he was teaching at the People’s University and working with Volodymyr Tatlin in their shared studio.The purchase by the Tretyakov Gallery of his painting Gray Bridge in 1918 was a crowning point, and the 1919 Moscow exhibition with Oleksandr Shevchenko was a major event, as was his manifesto, “Dynamocolor” (Tsvetodinamos).


For the artist, there were travels and encounters, discoveries of illustrious precursors, and sharing—sometimes confrontation—with his contemporaries.When he rst arrived in Paris in 1911, his discovery of Delacroix at the Louvre was a revelation. “He was my master, my academy,” he said. Delacroix had dared to change the painter’s palette by choosing more intense, more dazzling colors: “Feeling things through color,” wrote Gritchenko. 

Delacroix wanted to make color vibrate; he turned it into a dynamicelement.So a great colorist was born. But it was another admirer of Delacroix, Paul Cézanne, who taught him the science of space construction. Gritchenko took from the great master his constructional spirit and stripped his art of the super uous: “The renewal of color was already a discovery, but the intimate marriage of color and form was a revelation.” His departure from Moscow and Russia at the end of 1919 and abandonment of his students and paintings were surely wrenching, but also, from an artistic point of view, a liberation.According to his admirer, Pavlo Kovzhun, “Gritchenko’s work in Constantinople represented the triumph of his previous work, of his sound ideas, of everything he had felt, gone through, experienced.” He understood the essence of plastic creation, its laws and its mysteries, and integrated the theory to free himself from it.From Constantinople he returned to Mystras, the “new Byzantium” where the last Byzantine emperor was crowned. He would later visit Greece, Paris, France and Europe, New York, his style evolving to some extent in accordance with his travels. But until his last breath, his guiding principle remained “the dynamics of color.”In 2000, I participated very modestly in the organization at UNESCO of the exhibition Penetrations: Ukrainian Artists in the Modern Art of France, 1900–1960. I met Vita Susak, and shortly afterward I acquired my rst work by Gritchenko. How many of the Master’s works have passed through my hands over the years? And each time, there’s the same happiness and so much to discover with my expert, yet always amazed, eye.
A friend, a great art collector, constantly tells me that in the history of art everything is already written; it is impossible today to discover an overlooked talent and see his work emerge from the nothingness of the past. On the other hand, one who has known a glorious past, who played a part in art history, may at some point be neglected or forgotten.
Alexis Gritchenko was one of the key actors in the creative, tumultuous Moscow of the avant-garde years. Who could believe that Lentulov and Mashkov were mistaken when they invited him to join the Jack of Diamonds. No one would dare claim that the prestigious directorship of the Tretyakov Gallery, which was o ered to him (and which he refused), was undeserved. No one has ever doubted Fernand Léger’s enthusiasm for his Constantinople watercolors at the 1921 Salon d’Automne. Nor can he be a mere interloper in Dr. Barnes’s fabulous collection, alongside Cézanne, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, and other great masters. And what about his presence in the world’s top museums and the glowing praise he received from the greatest art critics throughout his life. I am certain that this wonderful monograph by Vita Susak will help Alexis Gritchenko, a major gure of 20th-century art, regain the place that is rightfully his.

                                                                                                                      Michel Lièvre Markovitch 

Presentation of the monograph
Lviv: 15th September 2017, 16h | Kiev: 21st September 2017, 18h

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