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Tetyana Yablonska: create for life and live for art

Tetyana Yablonska possessed an inexhaustible love of life and optimism, which allowed the artist to maintain her strength and desire to paint even under the most difficult circumstances. Her energy was always in full swing, she could paint a picture in two days at a very old age, when she was already over eighty. And in her youth, she was reproached with the fact that she drove her car and motor boat too dangerously. Soon the Rodovid publishing house will publish the book, Tetyana Yablonska: Diaries, Memories, Reflections. The Arthive’s material quotes some excerpts from the book.
Tetyana Yablonska: create for life and live for art
Tetyana Yablonska dreamed of her future profession since her school years. She said that every time she saw a falling star in the sky, she made only one wish, to be a good artist. Although she was endowed with other talents, including the gift of a storyteller.
Photo Source:
Photo Source:
In the way she describes her childhood years spent in the West of Ukraine, one can hear real poetry: "Autumn. Endless rains. After all, it is a western region. The entire ceiling is covered with green and yellow streaks of rain. Drops gather on and on, merge into one heavy yellow drop and — drip! — fall to the floor in the set plate. There are bowls and basins on the floor in different places. The sounds of falling drops make interesting music. You lie on your couch with pressed springs, you look at the ceiling at these gathering drops, you try to catch the melody in these sounds… I listen again to the rhythm of the falling drops. Dot — dash, dot, dot. After the water is drained, the rhythm has changed — drops fall less often. The melody is not so joyful any more, it is easier to fall asleep to it".
"It was extremely interesing at our home in any city and at any time of the year. We issued our Cricket family magazine, each author wrote and illustrated a certain part of its issue, the children drew every day: still lifes and each other — from nature, buildings and landscapes they saw during walks — from memory. Nyl Yablonsky did not teach his children artistic techniques, he developed their feelings, taught them to see the essence of things, the character of a person. When they drew a samovar, the father would come up to the drawing, look carefully, and then say: ‘Why did you attach the handle so badly, it is about to fall off. Redo it quickly, so that one can see what it is made of'…"
Tetyana Yablonska was a straightforward person, and she could not restrain herself in her statements. Afterwards she regretted that she had said too much. It was especially difficult under the Soviet regime, when one could fall into disgrace for any careless word. Moreover, it was not always possible to understand the reason for the disfavour of the authorities. The artist recalled the Before the Start painting to become very popular after an exhibition, she even was to be awarded the State Prize for it. But at the last moment, something went wrong: "The picture … was removed from the stretcher, and it lay in the basements of the Museum of Ukrainian Art for a long time," Tetyana Nylivna said. "Instead of the prize, it received some abusive epithets… Witch-hunting began at the institute. But I was always rescued by my love of life and enthusiasm."
The artist refused to cooperate with the authorities still when she studied at the art institute. She was the head of the course, and she was called in for a conversation (in fact, for recruiting secret officers). When asked about other students, Yablonska replied that she knew nothing and could not tell anything special about anyone. Unfortunately, there have always been more accommodating students. "I studied at the institute at the most terrible time — I entered it in 1935," the artist recalled. "On every course and, probably, in every dorm room there was an informant, a secret officer. And they "took" one careless or frank after another. And the course did not pick up on it! They talked about everything, except for him, the one taken away, — not a word, not a hint, no curiosity. He fell. He’s killed. ‘Close the ranks!' As if nothing had happened. We lived and worked as before, merrily, with enthusiasm."
Tetyana Yablonska in her student years, 1939. Photo source:
Tetyana Yablonska in her student years, 1939. Photo source:
The quality that helped Yablonska to survive during the difficult war years, when she had to take on any work, including agricultural work, and during the times of unfair criticism from the Soviet censors, was her love of life. "Mom was a cheerful person," recalled the daughter of the artist, Gayane Atayan. "She had the winner’s character. Her joy was stronger than other emotions. Hence the Bread painting, and the Morning."
Tetyana Yablonska. Bread
1949, 370×201 cm
An excellent illustration to her daughter’s words is the Tetyana Nylivna’s description of the idea of her next picture in 1950: "Spring, a square, the sparkling sun and a lot of different kids. Plenty of them. They run about. Such a lust for life. Like grass springing from every crack. Toddlers, bigger ones, different and surprisingly cute. They are busy in the sand. And shadows on the ground. And the birds chirping. Everything lives, everything wants to live. This topic seems to me very significant, life-affirming and necessary. Can you imagine? In my opinion, it will not look like just a small everyday scene. The activity of life. Irresistible. And the joy of life. Everyone should be imbued with the joy of life. Vitality. Recently I saw some kind of slope. And on it, in different directions, grew some bushes. Everyone grows, everyone springs, everyone wants to live."
Tetyana Nylivna Yablonska. Spring, 1950
Tetyana Nylivna Yablonska. Spring, 1950
Yablonska generously shared her joy with those around her. Family holidays were held at her home, for which her sister, brother with their spouses and children, her three daughters, and then her grandchildren gathered. The artist took part in home New Year’s performances, played both Ded Moroz and a sorceress. She helped make cardboard knightly armour for her grandson and painted it with watercolours. The students also gathered at Yablonska’s place, they discussed difficult moments at tea, debated. And Tetyana Nylivna could spontaneously share her joy with them — a new mastered yoga exercise, which she took to for some time.
Tetyana Yablonska with her students. Late 1960s — early 1970s. Photo source:
Tetyana Yablonska with her students. Late 1960s — early 1970s. Photo source:
At the same time, perfect order always reigned in her studio. According to the recollections of Tiberiy Szilvashi, her student at the Kyiv Art Institute, the situation in her studio was significantly different from other institute studios: there was never "artistic disorder" there. Tetyana Nylivna strove for harmony in everything, including her canvas. Szilvashi said: "She said that painting should be such that if you mentally run your hand over the surface of the canvas, it should not bump into any obstacle, not a single corner or roughness. It is the case on her canvases. They are perfectly harmonized and laid on the same plane. This is a tremendous skill."
Tetyana Yablonska. Mother
1960, 200×124 cm
The artist was extremely strict in assessing her own work. She could make hundreds of sketches of one painting until she found the very composition that would fit her idea. Take into account that she was quite hard-fisted; in the heat, she could pierce an unsuccessful in her opinion canvas. Yablonska even burned her ready-made works: this fate was barely avoided by the famous Morning painting — the artist considered it "anti-picturesque". But, fortunately, she succumbed to the persuasion of those around her to spare it.
Tetyana Yablonska. Morning
1954, 110×169 cm
Tatyana Nilovna was sensitive to the needs of people, and if someone needed her help, she tried to do everything in her power. In the 1950s, she was a deputy of the Supreme Soviet and fulfilled the simple requests of ordinary people: she could help to get slate or to arrange a child in kindergarten. She even continued painting at the meetings of the Soviet: she made sketches of the deputies sitting in front of her.
Tetyana Yablonska with her daughters. Photo source:
Tetyana Yablonska with her daughters. Photo source:
When the Soviet epoch ended, like many other creative people who had to deal with the Soviet censorship, she breathed a sigh of relief. "It would seem that I always painted everything I wanted the way I wanted. But now, after the whole system has collapsed, I clearly feel what we got rid of," she wrote. "Previously, we sometimes did not feel this oppression, since we were born in slavery. And now I would so much like to paint some of my pictures quite freely, liberally, forever expelling the unblinking eyes of a terrible, silent censor from my consciousness."
Her daughter, Gayane, confirmed that in her painting, Yablonska was not guided by the demand for subjects from the current government: "Mom always remained herself, never was an opportunist: all her works, painted in the socialist realist style, are inspired by life, real impressions, they are sincere, and therefore, more than just Soviet painting."
The need to create was as vital for the artist as the ability to breathe. When, after a stroke in 1999, she could no longer paint with her right hand, she began to learn to work with her left hand. Tetyana Nylivna found inspiration in everyday things: the daily changing landscape
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outside the window, modest bunches of wildflowers or the dishes left after breakfast on the table. She asked not to touch or rearrange the casually placed cups, because she believed that if you placed them on purpose, you would get a completely different picture.
Her love of life did not fade away with the limitations caused by her disease. She took up this challenge to open up new opportunities: "Now I’m back to square one," she wrote. "I feel that I am completely free in my creativity. I paint at windows and near my home. This ‘horizon narrowing' really expanded my scope, it opened the beauty and poetry where I had never seen them before. Each of us has our own window through which Nature looks".
Yablonska painted in pastels almost to her last breath: she painted her Bellflowers on the penultimate day of her life.
Looking at her, one recalls her reasoning about inspiration: "It's amazing that such a ‘simpleton' like Repin was the one to say that some kind of an ‘elusive dream' should be felt in a work of art… In fact, I only have a desire to paint when I suddenly feel how nature or interior, or an object as if covers with some kind of invisible transparent poetic cloudiness… Some magical poetic state spreads. That very ‘elusive dream' appears. You can’t think of a better word. It is necessary to paint faster, to keep this ‘elusive dream' inside as long as possible. Do not let it go while it is even slightly expressed. If you can grasp even a hint of it, it will still be precious."