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Ukraine • born in 1915

Biography and information

Yakov Yakovlevich Gnizdovsky (January 27, 1915, Pilipche village, the former territory of Austria-Hungary, now Ternopil Oblast, Ukraine - November 8, 1985, New York, USA) - Ukrainian-American artist, graphic artist, ceramist, art historian.

Features of the artist Jacob Gnizdovsky: Jacob Gnizdovsky is known primarily as an experimentalist, a woodcut master who created a recognizable image gallery in his own expressive manner. He developed a recognizable “lacy” style of carving with rhythmic repetitions, and the themes of his works are mostly animals and plants. He also perfectly mastered oil painting, wrote icons, created ex-librises, made tapestries and proved himself to be an art historian who understands and is very sensitive.

Famous works of the artist Jacob Gnizdovsky: "Wanderers", "Last Supper", "Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos", "Sunflower", "Sheeps", "Sleeping Cat".

The future artist was born on January 27, 1915 in the family of the impoverished Galician gentry Jacob Gnizdowski and his wife Martha. Yakov showed talent for drawing from childhood, but his parents insisted that the boy receive a good classical education. Jacob entered the gymnasium in Chortkov. In 1934, Gnizdowski was arrested on suspicion of belonging to the Ukrainian national underground movement. At the trial, Yakov denied any involvement in the work of the illegal circle, and when he was asked to present a notebook, there were portraits of everyone who was in that courtroom at that time. The participants were convinced that the young man was not interested in anything but art, and all the charges against him were dropped.

In order to receive a certificate of graduation, Gnizdovsky moved to Lviv and entered the gymnasium at the Lviv Theological Seminary. He actively participated in the artistic life of the city, became a member of the youth wing of the Association of Independent Ukrainian Artists. At the invitation of caricaturist Edward Kozak, Gnizdowski collaborated with the Lviv newspaper Novoye Vremya, Komar magazine; the fees gave the young artist the opportunity to make ends meet. And the image of the cat in the illustration in the magazine “World of the Child” in March 1937 was one of the first in the gallery of many famous “Gnizdovsky cats”.

The talent of the beginning artist was appreciated by the philanthropist and connoisseur of painting by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who in 1936 gave Gnizdovsky a small scholarship to master classes in Germany. Two years passed in unsuccessful attempts to get a passport, so in 1938 Gnizdovsky left his thoughts about Germany and entered the Warsaw Academy of Arts. “If it were not for this scholarship,” recalled Gnizdowski, “not to be an artist to me.”

After the outbreak of the Second World War, the Academy of Arts in Warsaw was closed; Jacob moved to Zagreb, where he studied at the Academy of Art of Painting and Graphics, and also became interested in woodcutting for the first time. "My then passions in painting were revolving around Bruegel, El Greco and Durer - in the schedule "recalled Gnizdovsky. He created his first woodcuts in 1944. After moving to Germany, he ended up in a camp for displaced persons near Munich, where he lived until 1949. He reflected this experience in a series of works.

In the future, the artist actively worked, was engaged in graphics, was the art editor of the Ukrainian literary monthly Arka, created illustrations, worked on posters, textbooks and advertising, created bookplates.

After moving to the United States, the artist settled in Minnesota, in the city of St. Paul, where he got a job as a designer in the advertising company Brown and Bigelow. A year later, Gnizdowski moved to New York. The next decade, the artist himself called the period “a hundred roads”: he firmly decided to live at the expense of creative work, he was in poverty, he saved on everything - but he persistently continued to search for his own unique style. He painted in oils, created icons for two temples of the Ukrainian diaspora in Connecticut and New Jersey.

Like all artists, Gnizdowski dreamed of Paris; he came to the capital of world art in 1956. He worked a lot, held three solo exhibitions. Here he met Stefanie Kouzan, the daughter of immigrants from Ukraine who emigrated during the First World War. They were married, the couple had the only daughter Marie-Marta.

Returning with his family in the United States, Gnizdowski finally reached an internal agreement and devoted himself entirely to the schedule. “Woodcut is my main, most primitive and most favorite technique. The resistance that a tree provides is what I look for the most. In each stage of woodcarving, you can make improvements, and that’s what appeals to me. ” The artist made his first prints from his carved boards using an aluminum spoon, and later acquired a press.

The artist created 377 engravings using xylography, lynorite and etching techniques. More than 55 exlibris came out from under his chisel. He became famous during his lifetime, often and successfully exhibited, his graphic works Winter Landscape and Sunflower decorated the office of President John F. Kennedy in the White House. A big project of the artist’s last years of life - an iconostasis for the Ukrainian Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Kerhonkson, New York.

In 2015, the National Bank of Ukraine issued a commemorative coin for the 100th anniversary of Yakov Gnizdovsky, on the obverse of which is a stylized robot artist “Sunflower” (1974), and on the reverse - his self-portrait.
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