Petrykivka : Ukraine’s Vibrant Treasure

A petrykivka artist’s most important tools are her hands and her cat. To paint the intricate, colorful motifs of this traditional form of Ukrainian folk art, it’s essential to combine bold strokes with delicate ones. The tip of one’s finger might be used to create a cluster of round berries, a mass of dahlia petals or a tangle of oak leaves. But for the fine tendrils and feathers adorning roosters and cuckoo birds, classical symbols with complex meaning, a painter turns to a brush made of cat hair. “The cat first has to agree to give you some fur,” says Natalia Rybak, the artist at the Petrykivka Center for Folk Art, as she shows me the local art collection. “Not all do.”


Petrykivsky painting or “petrykivka” is one of many forms of ancient Ukrainian decorative arts. Its name is derived from the place of its origin, the village of Petrykivka in Dnipropetrovsk region, and it is closely tied to the Cossack tradition. Cossacks were members of the democratic communities that since the 15th century started forming into a loose federation in southern-central Ukraine. Independent from the neighboring states, the Cossack federation offered social freedoms and protection, thus drawing an ever increasing number of people from other regions to its villages. South-east of Kyiv, Petrykivka was established in the 17th century as the wintering ground for the Cossack divisions that spent the rest of the year in the areas around the lower Dnieper River. Even after the Cossackdom was destroyed by the Russian tsars in the 18th century, many former strongholds, such as Petrykivka, retained enough autonomy to develop their traditional crafts.

Although today traces of the Cossack romance are hard to find around Dnipropetrovsk, a major industrial center in Soviet times, Petrykivka has a flair that once characterized many towns in this part of Ukraine. The colorful paintings gracing houses, fences, and sign posts give it a flamboyant, baroque character, enhanced by the cherry and apple orchards dotting the landscape. As the local masters are quick to point out, the lush nature is what inspires much of the art, and the splashes of red, yellow and green paint fit organically with the tall hollyhocks, wild roses and swaying rowan trees.

During summers spent in Poltava, I have become used to the vivid petrykivka patterns (the village is about 80 miles south of our town). My great-grandmother had dishes, vases and samovars painted in clusters of red guelder rose berries and orange flowers, and I even tried the technique myself. But this is the first time I visited Petrykivka and explored the art in its original setting.


Looking around, I can’t help smiling—the colors, shapes and lines have an uplifting effect. “Once decorating houses with bright paintings was common to all of central Ukraine, but only in Petrykivka has the tradition survived to this day,” says Rybak. “It wasn’t an art form taught in schools, but rather something that was expected of everyone. People who mastered the art best were respected by the community. It was believed that the paintings reflected the inner world of their creators.”

Petrykivka painting is included in the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, and there are several features that make it distinctive. One is the flat, unfolded design. The animals and birds are painted in profile, while the flowers are painted in the style called “a little onion,” reminiscent of a bulb cut neatly in half. No branch or stem crosses the other. Every element of the design is exposed to light.


A classical composition is of a blooming branch or bouquet of flowers populated by birds. “The flowers represent the tree of life, while birds are a symbol of harmony, happiness, light,” explains another artist at the center, Mykola Deka. I have already seen enough paintings to notice common motifs, and I’m fascinated by the birds with peacock-like tails. They turn out to be zozulia, cuckoo birds. While in many traditions, the cuckoo bird is seen negatively for its parasitic behavior– it lays its eggs in the nests of other birds–Ukrainian folklore finds it intriguing. The cuckoo bird is a harbinger of spring, a symbol of time and its mysteries, and a reminder of all that’s bittersweet in life. In petrykivka paintings, cuckoo birds, often shown in pairs, are resplendent in yellow or green plumage dotted with red or blue; there is no hint of sadness.

The drawings are done in a variety of mediums—tempera, gouache, oil, acrylic paints. Tempera is closer to the traditional plant based colors, and the addition of egg yolk gives a rich luster to the finished work. However, it’s fast-drying and unforgiving of minute mistakes. Since petrykivka artists paint without stencils or prior sketches, the design has to be worked out in one’s mind and the hand completely steady. A tiny smudge, and the whole thing is ruined. For this reason, the artist draws the large elements of the ornament first and embellishes them with details later. Here is when the cat brushes become useful.


“Don’t worry, a cat suffers no harm!” says Rybak. “You only need a tiny bit of hair.” Judging by the groomed, well-fed specimens I spotted around the village, Petrykivka cats are treated like queens. After all, they’re artists’ companions and muses. Extra fine brushes apply paint in wispy strokes, adding a lacy, airy dimension to the compositions.

The Petrykivka Center for Folk Art was established in 1991 and today it counts 40 masters in its guild. The center invites visitors to see the art collection, observe painters at work in their studios and even take a class. Visitors can buy a painting or a variety of decorated household items–spoons, jewelry boxes, cups and toys are popular. Petrykivka is an old art form, but it continues to evolve and develop as each artist adds his or her own touch, infusing the classical motifs with new meanings.


While petrykivka has recognition and trademark, the situation for practitioners in the village is dire. There are no funds or no support from the government, and as a result, no opportunities for young artists. Such has been the case for the past decade, and the current war and economic crisis are compounding the problems. It’s a craft in danger of dying out.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Museum of New York is hosting an exhibit titled Petrykivka: The Soul of Ukraine. Running until August 9, it features 29 paintings by 17 artists, and if you’re in the city in the next two weeks, I recommend visiting. Whatever the situation today in Petrykivka–and in Ukraine more generally—the vibrancy of the paintings cannot but fill you with happiness and hope.

The Ukrainian Museum of New York
222 East 6th St., NYC, just around the corner from The Cooper Union
Note: Hours are 11:30-5 pm, Wed-Sun, closed Mon and Tues

The Petrykivka Center for Folk Art
Lenin Street 65
Petrykivka, Dnipropetrovsk region, 51800
tel: +(38)0563422270
[email protected] (the site is in Ukrainian, but you can see some beautiful examples of petrykivka on this page)

Photography by Bois de Jasmin (title photo is from The Ukrainian Museum of New York exhibit)



  • spe: Delightful! Thank you for this lovely educational piece. July 27, 2015 at 7:51am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you liked it! 🙂 July 27, 2015 at 12:00pm Reply

  • claire: Thank you for a beautiful and bright start to my Monday. July 27, 2015 at 8:28am Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure! Thank you for reading. July 27, 2015 at 12:00pm Reply

  • Kandice: Thank you for sharing these pieces and the process with us. I’d love to have some of these for my home as I smile as soon as I see them. They are lovely, and it’s interesting to hear how the art form has evolved over time. And being a cat lover I enjoyed reading how they were instrumental to the whole process! July 27, 2015 at 8:48am Reply

    • Victoria: Me too! I didn’t realize how integral cats were to the process. 🙂
      It’s traditionally done on white, which makes the colors more vibrant, because petrykivka originated as a form of interior and exterior decor on whitewashed houses. But I noticed that many modern artists paint on different color surfaces. Black is also very striking. Either way, they look uplifting and vivid. July 27, 2015 at 12:03pm Reply

  • Tamara: I loved tis post and photos. Wish I were in New York to see the exhibit. What’s written next to the brushes in your picture? July 27, 2015 at 9:03am Reply

    • Victoria: A friend visited the exhibit and really liked it. New Yorkers are spoiled for choice when it comes to art. July 27, 2015 at 12:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: Apologies, I missed your question. It says “cat hair brushes for petrykivka painting, 25 hryvna each,” which is about a dollar. July 27, 2015 at 12:06pm Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: Absolutely lovely! July 27, 2015 at 9:26am Reply

    • Victoria: There are so many talented people working at the center. July 27, 2015 at 12:05pm Reply

  • limegreen: What a pleasure to be greeted with a burst of color this morning, thank you! Your photos bring forth the vividness of this art form, can’t imagine how amazing it would be to see it in person.
    I was intrigued by the cuckoo, too! I would like to learn more about the cuckoo in Ukrainian folk tradition. Is there a folk tale or song or poem that has the cuckoo motif?

    (In contrast to many Western traditions, as with what you mentioned, the Chinese tradition does not view the cuckoo in a pejorative fashion either, and in fact venerates it. It is also a harbinger of spring but I think a lot of traditions view the cuckoo as such. One of the early Chinese words still used today for cuckoo is “bu gu” or “sow the grain”!) July 27, 2015 at 9:28am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s so fascinating to learn how symbols differ across cultures, but even more so how they overlap. As for the cuckoo, she was considered to hold the keys to paradise. Since in the Ukrainian animistic believes, the souls of those who died return to the earth as birds and they depart back to heaven in the fall. Since cuckhoo holds the keys to paradise, she has a task of opening the doors of heaven early and as a result, she doesn’t have time to tend to her own offspring. For this reason, in many Ukrainian folk tales and songs, she’s also embodies a mother separated from her children but caring deeply for them. Zozulenka-matinka, dear mother cuckoo bird, is how she often called in songs. She may also bring news, often sad ones.

      So, seeing these gorgeous cuckoos represented as fire birds was particularly interesting. July 27, 2015 at 12:21pm Reply

      • Victoria: I was trying to find a song about the cuckoo, and Youtube turned up this one:

        It’s sung by talented Nina Matvienko, and while the song is melancholy, it actually fits with the theme of the post today. It’s about a cuckoo bird bringing news to a girl that her mother passed away. A girl wonders what to do, where to find her mother and asks painters to draw a likeness on the wall of her house. The song is in Ukrainian, but it’s worth listening to it for the beauty of Matvienko’s voice. July 27, 2015 at 12:37pm Reply

        • limegreen: It’s a beautiful song, and the story is so beguiling! Thank you for taking the time to hunt this video up to share! July 27, 2015 at 1:14pm Reply

          • Victoria: It was also an excuse to take a break from work. But yes, it’s one of my favorite songs, although sometimes its sorrowful melody is almost too much to bear. July 27, 2015 at 2:43pm Reply

        • Michaela: Victoria and Limegreen, I love this conversation of yours, did not lose a word of it!
          The song is so beautiful yet heartbreaking, even without knowing the language, it changes tears and sorrow into beauty. This lady has an angel’s voice! July 28, 2015 at 5:24am Reply

          • Victoria: She does, and even the older recording doesn’t diminish the beauty of her voice. Ukrainian songs are rich in polyphonies, and this is what gives them such a beautiful, eerie quality. Here is another one, also quite melancholy, which you will instantly notice. (I need to find some cheery Ukrainian songs; I promise there are many.)
            I could find a studio recording of this song, but I think you feel it even more in the live version. July 28, 2015 at 11:36am Reply

      • limegreen: Thank you so much, Victoria! I tried to look up Ukrainian cuckoo folklore myself and was overwhelmed by the options, not necessarily in English, too. 🙂
        So beautiful a symbol, thank you for sharing it! July 27, 2015 at 1:12pm Reply

        • Victoria: Birds in general are much loved in Ukrainian folklore, especially nightingales, roosters, cranes. Roosters show up in petrykivka paintings a lot. Not surprising, since apart from symbolism, they make terrific models for this kind of work. Just think of how brightly and opulently you can paint them. July 27, 2015 at 2:41pm Reply

      • limegreen: The “explanations” for the cuckoo’s parasitic behavior are so interesting! The Chinese tradition from an ancient folk ballad “explain” that the cuckoo is a moral ruler and the other birds are honored to raise its offpsring. the Chinese did not frown upon the practice of many wives, since it produced more progeny! July 27, 2015 at 1:22pm Reply

        • Victoria: Ha! That’s a clever way to turn the explanation around–that the birds are honored to be the foster parents. By the way, when I looked up the cuckoo’s symbolism in Asia, I also discovered that in Japan, it’s associated with longing for the spirits of the loved ones to return. A bit closer to the Ukrainian reading.

          True, people tried to make sense of the world around them through the categories and concepts that they used. July 27, 2015 at 2:49pm Reply

          • limegreen: The parasitic breeding habits of the cuckoo was acknowledged in Chinese tradition, and in some commentaries was euphemistically called the cuckoo’s metamorphosis (the cuckoo goes to a nest and emerges as another bird, i.e. the foster parenting bird, often a magpie).
            I was struck by the Ukrainian cuckoo being the holder of the keys to paradise — its absence from parenting is for a venerated duty! The tail feathers in the paintings are so regal! July 27, 2015 at 4:13pm Reply

            • Victoria: Yes, so, its giving up on parenting is not by choice, but because of a sacred duty. I love this explanation as much as I do the Chinese one. (Interestingly enough, in Russian, kukushka, a cuckoo bird, is a negative way to describe a mother who leaves her children behind. In German, a similar term is “a raven mother.”) July 28, 2015 at 8:57am Reply

              • limegreen: That is so fascinating. Now you have me curious about other bird terms for parenting behavior!
                Are you fluent in German, too? July 28, 2015 at 9:17am Reply

                • Victoria: Just some basic reading knowledge. I took a class at the university, but I only know enough to read cookbooks. 🙂 Oh, and to order via Amazon. Belgium is too small to have its own Amazon, so I order from the German site. July 28, 2015 at 11:57am Reply

                  • limegreen: You continue to amaze me, Victoria! 🙂 July 28, 2015 at 2:35pm Reply

                    • Victoria: I’ve basically concluded that the more languages I learn, the more chances I have to make a fool of myself. I’m doing fairly well on that front; my capacity to make the silliest of mistakes hasn’t yet been reached. July 28, 2015 at 2:50pm

                  • limegreen: You are being far too modest! July 28, 2015 at 6:48pm Reply

                    • Victoria: Just realistic. 🙂 July 29, 2015 at 6:04am

  • Michaela: Excellent post, thank you!
    I love that cats participate somehow and are treated like queens.
    This craft is a treasure, I hope young artists and people there will be able to keep it alive, despite the hard times! July 27, 2015 at 9:43am Reply

    • Victoria: I briefly imagined my mom’s cat Viola as a source of brushes–she does have a very soft and lovely fur, but then I decided that taking part in the production “Killer Cats” wasn’t my idea of fun. So, I just bought a ready-made brush as a souvenir. 🙂 July 27, 2015 at 12:22pm Reply

      • Michaela: Viola certainly appreciates that! 🙂 July 28, 2015 at 5:25am Reply

        • limegreen: lol 🙂 July 28, 2015 at 9:18am Reply

        • Victoria: Our vain lady wouldn’t wish to have her fur trimmed. 🙂 July 28, 2015 at 11:37am Reply

  • Karen: Wow! Beautiful, stunning, vibrant art and wonderful reading about the technique and history. July 27, 2015 at 9:57am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for going along on a ride with me. I can’t believe I didn’t visit Petrykivka before. It’s such a charming place and not too far from my grandmother’s. July 27, 2015 at 12:23pm Reply

  • Olga: Such beauty! Thank you very much for bringing it to my attention. I would love a painting like that in my house. July 27, 2015 at 11:18am Reply

    • Victoria: Very happy that you’ve enjoyed it. It’s a striking art form and yes, having these pieces around is a reminder of beauty in daily life. July 27, 2015 at 12:25pm Reply

  • Alicia: Such a lovely gift to start the day! Thank you, Victoria. July 27, 2015 at 11:27am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 I love the explosion of colors in these paintings. July 27, 2015 at 12:27pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Those vibrant colours were most welcome on this stormy, rainy day here in Amsterdam. July 27, 2015 at 12:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: It has been rainy here too. Rainy, windy and grey, but now I see some sunshine. Hope that it clears up in Amsterdam too. July 27, 2015 at 12:28pm Reply

  • Karen B.: It is such a distinctive style–so lively and cheerful. Thank you very much for the examples and history, Victoria. July 27, 2015 at 12:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: I agree, Karen. I also find it cheerful. It must be the combination of colors, whimsical shapes and soft, rounded lines. July 27, 2015 at 2:36pm Reply

  • Neva: These pictures are really lovely. I can imagine how wonderful and romantic a garden fence decorated with the paintings looks like… or enamel dishes which one can use like vases… or plates, or even wallpaper!!!! I would consider Petrykivka paintings a kind of naive art. Am I right? July 27, 2015 at 3:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, imagine a decorated whitewashed house set in a flowering orchard. It’s so cheery. Meanwhile, I got a plate and a couple of wooden spatulas, keeping in spirit of the applied nature of this art.

      I suppose, yes, it might be called naive art, although I don’t like the label. It says more about the elitist nature of the art establishment that devised such categories than of the matter itself. July 27, 2015 at 4:03pm Reply

      • Neva: You’re right. I never thought of it this way. Here the term “naive art” is used for artists who are self tought and did not go to art schools. This is why their art usually lacks perspective and the proportions are sometimes unusual. Nevertheless some of them became quite popular even on an international level. July 28, 2015 at 5:04am Reply

        • Victoria: I think that’s how it’s used in general. It actually reminded me of how some perfumers today rally against the self-taught perfumers, saying that they shouldn’t use the title, etc, etc. The ironic thing is that until the past decade or two, most perfumers were self-taught. There were no schools, or if they were, they were limited. Great perfumers like Sophia Grojsman, Maurice Roucel and Dominique Ropion learned on the job, and Roucel has no qualms calling himself self-taught. He didn’t attend any school or formal perfumery classes. July 28, 2015 at 11:33am Reply

          • Neva: Exactly. Talent can’t be acquired at school, it can only be cultivated. On the other hand – without talent the formal education is shallow. The perfumers you mentioned are certainly among the very best and it’s interesting to know they are self-taught. July 28, 2015 at 4:23pm Reply

            • Victoria: Plus, there are many different ways of learning. Schooling that’s too rigid and formal doesn’t always allow people open up fully.
              Sophia Grojsman often jokes that if she had to go through the perfumery school today, she would fail. Doubt that, but I can see how the typical schooling structure wouldn’t suit her personality. July 29, 2015 at 6:04am Reply

  • Mary K: The art work and colors are so beautiful! Thank you for sharing this with us and providing a bit of the history of the area where it comes from. I also like the idea of the cats’ contribution to the painting. July 27, 2015 at 3:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: The artists in residence have their favorite felines, but I didn’t spot cats in the paintings. 🙂

      Thank you for reading. July 27, 2015 at 4:05pm Reply

  • claire: These images are so vital and exuberant! I was in Prague very briefly this summer and brought home some beautiful eggs decorated in the traditional wax-resist style. Four of the 6 actually survived ;(. I was very intrigued to learn that each design was associated with a different region. I have always loved them, as I have so many traditional crafts, and I made some of my own years ago, when I was still a young girl at home. I still have the little wax drawing tools (somewhere).
    I have always been surprised when people are condescending concerning the artistic merit of “craft”. It’s true that crafts are defined by tradition, yet I have always felt that learning traditional crafts (embroidery, knitting, felting, spinning, dying, Japanese and Western paper making, linoleum cutting, woodworking, boat building, what ever) only serves to enhance one’s understanding and ability to make creative work in a non-traditional format, if one so desires, but preserving these traditions is very worthwhile and valuable.

    Whenever I travel ( or go to yard sales) I seek out the traditional crafts to be found. Sadly, they are more and more difficult to come by, usually because there has been no one to pass the traditional techniques on to and/or they have been replaced with cheap imitations made with cheap labor in China or elsewhere.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful tradition! July 27, 2015 at 7:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: Like you, I love discovering local arts. So, yes, I completely agree with you. What’s more, much of what we call art now has started out as regimented, guild-prescribed crafts. Plus, the crafts may be based in tradition, but the individual artists add their own elements and ideas.

      Cheap, mass-produced imitations are crowding out the traditional techniques. It happens with everything, including perfumes, but it only means that artists should be supported. I don’t necessarily think that it should only be the job of the government (maybe, even best if the government doesn’t meddle too much), but Ukrainian government does so little to support culture that it’s enough to make anyone depressed. The previous administration has enacted some particularly ruinous policies, but the current one still hasn’t done much to reverse them. July 28, 2015 at 9:11am Reply

  • AndreaR: Exquisite! And, such interesting history behind it. July 27, 2015 at 7:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: I very much enjoyed visiting the town. It’s charming. Dnipropetrovsk was also very interesting and had some beautiful old building and majestic views over the river. July 28, 2015 at 9:12am Reply

  • rosarita: This was so interesting to read! I have always admired this form of art and knew nothing about it. So beautiful. July 27, 2015 at 7:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Glad to share and very happy to know that you’ve enjoyed it. July 28, 2015 at 9:13am Reply

  • zari: This is probably one of my most favorite posts ever on this blog. Thanks for this treat for the eyes, mind, and heart. I also appreciate the song you linked by Nina Matvienko. So sad and lovely. Thank you! July 27, 2015 at 8:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much! It makes me so happy to hear this, Zari.
      If you liked the song, here is another one by the same artist and Veryovka Choir (famous for its renditions of traditional music): July 28, 2015 at 9:22am Reply

      • zari: I actually listened to two more of her songs after my original comment last night. But thank you for this one too! July 28, 2015 at 10:03pm Reply

        • Victoria: It reminds me that I need to find a good recording of her songs. I have a CD of different performers, and I often end up replaying her songs a few times. July 29, 2015 at 6:05am Reply

          • zari: 🙂 🙂 July 29, 2015 at 9:50pm Reply

  • irem: Thank you, Victoria. Your blog never fails to enrich and add beauty to my life.
    This is such a beautiful but bittersweet read. I wish the artists were in better conditions. July 27, 2015 at 9:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: It was a treat just to look through the photos on this grey, rainy weekend as I put the article together. Yes, the artists deserve better conditions and more opportunities. It’s a shame that the guild can’t even afford to support young artists at this point. July 28, 2015 at 11:12am Reply

  • Olga Bodnar Talyn: My father resently passed away and I buried him in the Ukrainian cemetary in Boundbrook NJ. Since then a great beautiful crow watches me everytime I go out on my deck and calls to me. When he passed a large gathering of beautiful little birds flocked on my dogwood tree and sang. I used to sing that song that Nina sings as well as another song I used to sing in recitals about a cuckoo. Ah Sozulenka ,Cu Cu, COO COO , nahshto Ya terbluu, takoo mukoo( I don’t have cyrilic on this computer). I treasure the pieces of this art that I own. Mama brought them back from Ukraina years ago. I often go to the Ukrainian Museum for events and will certainly go to see this exhibit. Somehow your post has brought me some comfort after the loss of my Tato. Thank You Victoria
    Olya Bodnar Talyn July 27, 2015 at 11:44pm Reply

    • Michaela: Sorry about your loss!
      And thank you for sharing. These birds are fantastic. I hope you will go and see the exhibit with great joy. These colors are meant to drive away sorrow. July 28, 2015 at 6:32am Reply

    • Karen: Thank you for sharing your beautiful words Olga. The loss of a parent is such a profound thing, I love how the birds bring you comfort. July 28, 2015 at 8:07am Reply

    • Victoria: Olga, I echo what others have said and join in with my condolences. Thank you very much for sharing this poignant story. In the Ukrainian songs, nature often offers consolation and comfort, and I find it again and again how much it helps–a walk in the park or even my little jasmine plant. Last year, during a particularly trying period, I noticed a black bird coming every evening on our balcony and singing its heart out. After a while, I started looking forward to his visits, and I missed him when he migrated to a warmer place.
      Many hugs to you. July 28, 2015 at 11:30am Reply

    • zari: Olga, I’m sorry for your loss. Losing a parent has to be one of the most difficult things we can endure. peace and blessings to you. July 28, 2015 at 10:06pm Reply

  • rickyrebarco: So beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. The art is so intricate and the brushstrokes so amazing. July 28, 2015 at 3:44am Reply

    • Victoria: The interesting part is how the delicate ones are combined with bold, lusty strokes. It gives such a bright but airy quality to the finished pieces. July 28, 2015 at 11:31am Reply

  • yellow_cello: This is absolutely stunning! So beautiful, thanks for sharing, I’d never have heard of it otherwise! July 28, 2015 at 7:42am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much. 🙂 July 28, 2015 at 11:37am Reply

  • Aurora: Thank you so much for making me discover the tradition of Petrykivka, I can only concur with all the comments, these paintings are superb; I adore the colours – that real Russian (I should say Ukrainian) red like no other – and the highly stylized motifs, also love the blue painting, and your photos do them justice. July 29, 2015 at 9:27am Reply

    • Victoria: I do too. Red is one of the most popular colors in Ukraine, as in many other cultures, because it symbolizes happiness, luck, beauty. Even the Ukrainian name for the month of June, “cherven'” is derived from the color red, or rather, “chervets”, cochineal. That’s when in the ancient times cochenille rouge was gathered to dye fabric.
      Oh, yes, Ukrainian red in this particular case, please, as this art form has nothing to do with Russia. July 29, 2015 at 10:16am Reply

  • Liz G.: I love folk art and those pictures are absolutely breathtaking. I always thought they were just painted in a conventional way so reading about the technique was very educational. I have a whole new appreciation for the art. Thanks for sharing! July 29, 2015 at 11:31am Reply

    • Victoria: I also didn’t know about all of the technical nuances before. Petrykivka was ubiquitous around our house, and during the Soviet times, there were factories churning stuff decorated with it. But there were also beautiful artistic works and individual, recognized artists. July 30, 2015 at 9:53am Reply

  • Figuier: Thanks so much Victoria for a particularly lovely post. Both the images and the text are beautiful and uplifting – if, as others have noted, bittersweet in that the art is at risk of dying out. I’ve been googling Petrykivka since and enjoying the myriad variations of the nonetheless distinctive images…I’ve made one of cranes my laptop ‘wallpaper’! July 30, 2015 at 1:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: I love Marfa Timchenko’s work, for instance. Her paintings are personal and intricate, and I had her Christmas painting on my desktop for a while. Now, it’s a garden with white geese. Whenever I look at the examples f art form that has survived for so long and with such verve, I somehow feel optimistic about the future. August 1, 2015 at 5:42am Reply

      • Figuier: Thanks for mentioning her – some of those landscapes and flower images are glorious! August 1, 2015 at 5:57pm Reply

        • Victoria: And when you see them in person–such beauty. All of those details are so fine and delicate. August 1, 2015 at 6:58pm Reply

  • Chrisd: We’re lucky enough to live in NYC and were able to see the exhibit and the Ukrainian Museum. I’m always excited when I discover a new art form. I’ve never been big on folk art; petrykivsky painting transcends the genre. I’d be happy to hang a piece with our other paintings and photographs.
    FYI, there was a second exhibit about the avant-garde in theater productions in the 1910’s-1920’s that was revelatory.
    The Ukrainian Museum is a small jewel. August 10, 2015 at 11:09am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so happy to hear this Chris! Yes, petrykivka is in a category of its own. I’m definitely going to return again.

      I saw a similar exhibit in Kyiv, and I agree, it was a revelation. In the Soviet times all of this art was concealed and its history obliterated, so rediscovering it is such a thrill. August 10, 2015 at 2:44pm Reply

  • Kelsey: So, you have gotten me totally hooked on this beautiful form of art. I found a seller on Etsy that I am buying a custom cutting board with a lovely petrykivka painting on it – are there other resources you know of where someone in the US can buy these pieces? August 28, 2015 at 3:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m not sure, Kelsey. I’ve only seen it at the Ukrainian stores in Chicago years ago. One idea might be to ask at the Ukrainian Museum in NYC. I’m sure they can help. August 31, 2015 at 5:06am Reply

  • Myroslava: Thank you,Victoria,for such a beautiful smile of my beloved Ukraine! September 17, 2015 at 7:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you enjoyed the article, Myroslava! September 18, 2015 at 1:49pm Reply

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