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Sonya Lewitska

Sonya Lewitska: A Symphony of Color and Form

"Flowers," housed in the Malab’Art Gallery in London, reflects the influence of the Fauvist movement and highlights Lewitska's ability to capture everyday beauty through her unique artistic lens. This piece continues to enchant and inspire viewers with its delicate beauty and emotional depth.


Sonya Lewitska. Flowers

Sonya Lewitska's painting "Flowers" exemplifies her delicate and expressive style. This watercolor piece features a vibrant bouquet of flowers in a vase, dominating an intimate interior scene. The composition is balanced, with the flowers' bold hues of red, orange, and white standing out against a muted background, drawing immediate attention. Lewitska employs a loose, impressionistic technique with fluid brushstrokes, giving the painting a dreamlike quality. The background elements are suggestively defined, adding to the piece’s intimacy. The overall mood is serene and contemplative, showcasing Lewitska's mastery of color and form.

 


Early Life and Artistic Beginnings

Sonia Lewitska was born on March 3, 1874, in Vilhovtsy, Zhytomyr region. She developed an interest in drawing relatively late, and in 1894 she spent a year training at the private art school of the Kazanovskys in Zhytomyr. Her marriage to Dr. Justyn Manilovsky was unsuccessful, and after experiencing unhappiness in her family life, the young woman moved to Kiev with her daughter Olga.



There, she immersed herself in the city's creative atmosphere before relocating to Paris in 1905. Many Ukrainian artists sought experience abroad, and Sonia's destiny intertwined closely with French culture. Initially hesitant, her parents finally sent her to Paris in 1905.



Training and Development in Paris

Sonia Lewitska graduated from the Paris Academy of Arts with notable success, allowing her to make copies of paintings in the Louvre after just a year. She became fascinated by the works of Delacroix, Fragonard, and Puvie de Chavan during this period. Studying at the Paris Academy of Arts marked the beginning of her Parisian life and was crucial to her artistic success.



Living in the bohemian Montparnasse, Sonia was part of a creative community challenging conservative art traditions and developing modern aesthetics of the 20th century, with color as the main means of expression. Amidst this vibrant environment, she managed to forge her own unique style, impressing French critics with her instinctive view of the world, delicate writing, artistic taste, and subtle understanding of nature.



Artistic Evolution and Influence

Her participation in exhibitions quickly garnered attention. Sonia soon became a committee member of the Autumn Salon, a significant achievement for a foreign artist in Paris, acknowledging her immense talent. Her works received high praise from Guillaume Apollinaire at the first cubist exhibition in the Autumn Salon in 1911. At the second cubist exhibition in 1912, her paintings were showcased alongside those of Alexander Arkhipenko.



Her first solo exhibition at the B. Weigl gallery in 1913 also received positive reviews. In Paris, Sonia shared her joys and hardships with artist Jean Marchand. Their modest home on rue Colencourt became a creative salon frequented by many Parisian celebrities. Despite modest income from their art, Sonia extended warm Ukrainian hospitality to her guests.

 

Lewitska's artistic style evolved significantly over her career. Initially influenced by Fauvism, her work displayed bold colors and strong brushstrokes. However, she gradually incorporated elements of Cubism, evident in her structured compositions and fragmented forms. This blend of styles became a hallmark of her work, reflecting her ability to adapt and innovate within the dynamic Parisian art scene.




Later Life and Legacy

In the 1920s, Sonia spent summers in the south of France, painting Provençal landscapes and portraits. She also devoted much attention to graphic arts, blending Ukrainian folk art traditions with French Art Nouveau. In 1921, she collaborated with poet Roger Allard to translate and illustrate "Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka" by Nikolai Gogol, showcasing her imagination and humor.

Her versatility extended to portraits, landscapes, decorative projects, and fabric designs, with green, ochre, and blue being her favorite colors. She excelled in wood engraving, as seen in her illustrations for "The History of St. Louis" by Jean de Joinville. Critics admired her elegant stylization, particularly in the design of Paul Valéry's poem "Le Serpan," which delighted connoisseurs and the author himself.



Lewitska’s art was characterized by its lyrical qualities and keen sense of design. Her ability to capture the essence of her subjects with minimal yet expressive detail was highly regarded. Her graphic work, especially her wood engravings, displayed a masterful command of line and form, merging traditional techniques with modernist aesthetics. Her illustrations often featured whimsical and fantastical elements, demonstrating her creative imagination and narrative ability.



Sonia’s talent was further confirmed with her illustrations for deluxe editions and various design projects. Her works were exhibited in Berlin, Prague, and Lviv in the early 1930s. However, signs of mental illness began to appear, and though she continued to draw, her works grew darker and sadder. In 1938, a posthumous exhibition of her works was organized by the Association of Sonia Lewitska’s friends. The Parisian press praised her imagination and talent, noting her significant impact on French graphic art. Although few of her works are found in Ukrainian collections, her legacy endures in museums like the Museum of Modern Art in Paris and the Vienna Albertina.


Lewitska's artistic journey was marked by continuous growth and experimentation. Her contributions to both painting and graphic arts were substantial, and her ability to integrate influences from various art movements into her own distinctive style has left a lasting impact on the art world. Through her work, she bridged cultural divides and brought a unique perspective to the rich tapestry of early 20th-century European art.









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