Vassil Khmeluk (1903 –1986), a painter, graphic artist and poet, was born on 3 June in the village of Berezivka near Zhmerynka (now in Vinnytsya oblast, Ukraine). His father, a well-to-do engineer, encouraged the son’s artistic activities. Vassil graduated from  the Berezivka gymnasium {with honours}. In 1921–1923 the young man studied from W. Yarocky in Krakiv Art Academy. Then he moved to Prague {to join his elder brother Illya, who was a businessman}. There Vassil studied philosophy in Charles University in 1926–1927, as well as from S. Mako in the Ukrainian Studio of Plastic Arts (1926). In Prague, Khmeluk published three books of futuristic poems in Ukrainian: Гін (the name can be translated as Chase or Rut ) (1926), Осіннє сонце (The Autumn Sun), and a book of poems from 1923–1926 and 1928 (1928). All the three books were designed by Yu. Vovk, who had also made a portrait of the author.

In 1928 the young man decided to move to Paris, which he did, and spent the rest of his life in this city. He painted expressionistic landscapes, portraits and still life in the spirit of Paris artistic school. Khmeluk designed books; one can mention such his creations as La Moselle by Decimus Magnus Ausonius and Mon retour en Gaule (My Return to Gaul) by Rutilius Claudius Namatianus (both published in Paris, 1931).

During Vassil’s first years in Paris, his works were bought by such well-known marchands as A. Vollard and L. Zborovsky, by I. Shchukin (a collector from Moscow), a Swiss neurologist Walter Minich (11 Vassil Khmeluk paintings from his collection are now in Lucerne Art Museum). Since early 1940-ies Vassil worked with Durand-Ruel Gallery. He took an active part in the life of Ukrainian diaspora, was a member of Paris Group of Ukrainian Artists. Among his friends were A. Gritchenko, M. Andreyenko-Nechytaylo, V. Perebeinisse, M. Krychevsky and others. Khmeluk took part in the exhibition of Ukranian Group in Paris (1930), in the 1st exhibition of Association of Independent Ukrainian Artists in Lviv (1931), held an exhibition together with V. Perebeinisse and M. Krychevsky in the gallery Atelier Français (1930). His personal exhibitions took place in Paris galleries: A. Poyet (1936), Wolman  (1935, 1938), Tessin (1942), J. Allard (1946), Durand-Ruel (1943, 1945, 1947, 1956, 1960, 1967, 1972), Paulette Jourdain (1950); in London (Redfern, 1944); in New York (Durand-Ruel, 1946 and 1948; Leonard Hutton, 1962); in Munich (1958); Geneva (1980). In 1974 Vassil Khmeluk took part in Russky Vzglyad (Russian View) exhibition in Heidelberg (FRG).

{Little is known about his personal life. The artist had been married twice. His first wife, also an artist, died young.} In 1959 Khmelyuk married his model {and long-time lover} Maria, a woman of Spanish descent.

Maria inherited Vassil’s works when he died in Paris on 2 November, 1986. Vassil Khmeluk was buried on Montparnasse Cemetery.

One can see his works in Lviv Picture Gallery, National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, in the museums of Lucerne, Stockholm, Toronto, New York, Munich and Philadelphia.

June 3, 1903

Berezivka, Ukraine
November 2, 1986 

Paris, France


Poet, sculptor, graphic artist

Work

Vassil Khmeluk

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