A Mariupol Museum Dedicated to One of Ukraine’s Most Important Realist Painters Has Reportedly Been Destroyed by Russian Airstrikes

The museum is the latest cultural casualty of the Russian invasion.

Viktor Vasnetsov, Portrait of artist Arkhip Kuindzhi (1869). Collection of the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Viktor Vasnetsov, Portrait of artist Arkhip Kuindzhi (1869). Collection of the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, public domain.

The latest cultural casualty in the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the Kuindzhi Art Museum in Mariupol, reportedly destroyed on Monday by an airstrike.

Dedicated to the life and career of local artist Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842–1910), the museum opened in 2010 in a historic 1902 building.

News of the museum’s destruction was first reported by the Ukrainian magazine Local History, and in English by the Art Newspaper.

Prior to the invasion, the institution had been preparing to open a solo show for Vasily Mikhailovich, a local artist who had been in residency on the premises, according to Konstantin Chernyavsky, the chairman of the National Artists Union of Ukraine, writing on Facebook. (Union members hold exhibitions at the museum.)

A damaged military vehicle on the bombed streets of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 21, 2022. Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

A damaged military vehicle on the bombed streets of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 21, 2022. Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

The museum’s collection includes photographs and other ephemera related to Kuindzhi’s life, including the 200-year-old baptismal font in which he had been christened.

The artist was initially part of the 19th-century Russian Realist art movement known as the Wanderers, but ultimately became known for his vibrant, light-filled canvases, like Red Sunset on the Dnieper, part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Arkhip Kuindzhi, Red Sunset on the Dnieper (1905-08). Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

Arkhip Kuindzhi, Red Sunset on the Dnieper (1905-08). Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

Kuindzhi, who was of Greek descent, was honored with a Google Doodle in January, which marked either his 180th or 181st birthday.

He was also the subject of a brazen 2019 art theft, when a man visiting Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery, in broad view of visitors, removed the painting Ai-Petri. Crimea from the wall, and walked out of the institution. The work, valued at $1 million, was recovered shortly after the brazen heist.

The Kuindzhi Art Museum was home to 650 paintings, 960 graphic works, 150 sculptures, and over 300 works of decorative and applied arts. But only three of those were by the museum’s namesake—the sketch Red Sunset, and two studies, Elbrus and Autumn. Fortunately, all three works are believed to have been removed from the premises prior to the bombing.

Google honored Arkhip Kuindzhi with a Google Doodle in January.

Google honored Arkhip Kuindzhi with a Doodle in January.

Presumably destroyed, however, were pieces by a wide range of other Ukrainian artists, including historic figures such as Ivan Aivazovsky, Mykola Hlushchenko, and Tatiana Yablonska, as well as contemporary painters Vasyl Korenchuk, Oleksandr Bondarenko, and Lyudmyla Masalska, according to Local History.

In February, the Russian military burned down the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum, which was home to dozens of works by Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko. Earlier this week, Russian forces bombed Mariupol’s G12 art school, where 400 civilians were known to be in hiding. Their fates remain unknown.


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