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Kuindzhi Art Museum.
Kuindzhi Art Museum.

Mariupol’s Kuindzhi Art Museum Reported Destroyed in Russian Air Strike

The Kuindzhi Art Museum, devoted to the work of influential Ukrainian realist painter Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842–1910), was destroyed March 21 in a Russian airstrike on the Ukraine port city of Mariupol, according to Lviv, Ukraine-based culture website Local HistoryKuindzhi, who was of Greek descent, is considered important by both Ukrainians and Russians. Known for his extraordinary ability to depict light and for his use of brilliant color, he was originally a member of the Wanderers, a nineteenth-century group of Russian realists, before breaking with them and establishing his own style, strikingly embodied in the 1905–08 Red Sunset on the Dnieper, currently held in the collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Konstantin Chernyavsky, chairman of the National Artists Union of Ukraine, told Local History that the museum, housed in a turn-of-the-twentieth century Art Nouveau mansion, possesses three works by Kuindzhi, as well as ephemera including letters, photos, documents, and the two-hundred-year-old baptismal font in which the artist was christened. Also in the museum’s collection are hundreds of works by Ukrainian artists, including those by a number of Kuindzhi’s contemporaries, among them the noted seascape painter Ivan Aivazovsky, postimpressionist Mykola Hlushchenko, and Tatiana Yabolonskaya, whose 1949 Bread graced a Russian postage stamp in 1967. According to Chernyavsky, none of the three original Kuindzhi works was present in the building at the time of the bombing; a number of full-size copies of his paintings remained, and have presumably been destroyed, alongside works by the aforementioned artists and those by numerous contemporary Ukrainian artists, including Oleksandr Bondarenko, Vasyl Korenchuk, and Lyudmyla Masalska.

Mariupol has sustained unfathomable damage and a high number of civilian casualties since the February 24 launch of the Russian invasion; days before the airstrike destroyed the museum, a Russian bombing decimated the city’s G12 art school, inside which hundreds of citizens were sheltering.

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