Tetyana Yablonska (1917-2005) was a Ukrainian artist. Her works, which mostly adhere to the realist movement with its emphasis on capturing farmers, city workers, and landscapes, share more in common with impressionism due to the artist's particular use of light and colour.
Yablonska's life mirrored the stormy events of 20th-century Eastern Europe; she was born a few days before the February Revolution in 1917. Her father, Nil Yablonsky, a painter and literature instructor who sprung from Lithuanian nobility, educated his children at home. In 1928, the family moved to Odesa, Ukraine, out of fear of possible persecution because of their roots, with hopes of eventually escaping the USSR. It was unsuccessful, so they settled in the eastern region of Ukraine instead.
Yablonska enrolled in the Kyiv Art Academy in 1935, studying painting in the studio of Professor Krichevsky, a renowned Ukrainian artist. She graduated from the academy just as the Second World War broke out, and she was forced to leave for the Russian province of Saratov while pregnant with her first child. She continued her artistic practice while living in a community agricultural village, painting portraits of her fellow villagers' killed relatives.
She continued painting upon his return to Kyiv in 1944. Her well-known pieces "Bread" and "Morning," for which she won two state honours, were produced during this time.
During the 1960s, Yablonska travelled across villages and cities in Zakarpattia, a region in Western Ukraine known for its rich folklore heritage. These experiences greatly influenced her art, prompting a shift in her style toward a naive approach characterised by vibrant colours and flattened rendering, and distinct Ukrainian folk motifs. She created a series of works titled "Zakarpattia", which has brought the resentment of the local authorities and the Moscow Academy of Arts. She was deprived of the opportunity to participate in exhibitions.
Despite these difficulties, Yablonska continued to work and gradually won back the authorities' confidence. In the 1970s, she was chosen to represent Ukraine at the Venice Biennale after winning the third state prize. Inspired by the Italian Renaissance, she created a series of works influenced by Italy, and her paintings adopted a more monumental style in portraiture and landscapes.
Her right hand was paralysed by a stroke in 1999. As she learned to paint with her left hand, she started to make still lifes that depicted the view outside her window.
Yablonska held solo exhibitions throughout her career and took part in a lot of shows all across the USSR. The Kyiv Museum of Ukrainian Art held a big retrospective of her paintings in 1987. She was awarded the State Prize of the USSR three times—in 1949, 1951, and 1979—as well as the Taras Shevchenko State Prize of Ukraine in 1998. UNESCO designated 1997 as the Year of Yablonska.
Beyond her artistic practice, Yablonska was a dedicated educator, teaching at the Kyiv Art Institute from 1947 to 1973. She nurtured several generations of talented Ukrainian painters. She was an illustrator for "Veselka" (Ukrainian for "Rainbow"), a renowned Kyiv publisher, for more than 20 years; generations of Ukrainian youngsters have been influenced by her books. As a person, she embodied emancipation, evidenced by being among the first women in Kyiv to wear pantsuits. She was a passionate car diver; with the money that her first State prize had brought, she had bought a motorboat.
Yablonska's artworks find their home in institutions such as The National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kyiv, Odesa National Fine Arts Museum, The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, The State Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg and private collections in Europe, the United States, and Canada.
February 24, 1917
June 17, 2005