Postcard from Ukraine : Lavra and Cornflowers

One of my first rituals on returning to Kyiv is to visit the Kyivo-Pecherska Lavra, the 11th century Monastery of the Caves, to see the painting of Ukrainian artist Kateryna Bilokur (1900-1961) in The Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art. At a time when the only acceptable art style was socialist realist, her paintings of flowers were subversive. She was refused admittance to art school or even a transfer out of her village, although her paintings were exhibited abroad as a showcase for the success of Communism–“see, even our peasants can create art.” Pablo Picasso once said of her work, “If we had an artist of this level of skill, we would make the whole world talking about her!”

Those of you who shall be joining me on the Ukrainian Scent and Taste Adventure this year will be discovering more about Ukrainian art as part of the trip. And those who are planning a trip to Kyiv shouldn’t miss a visit to the Lavra complex. I recommend setting aside a whole day for it, because besides The Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art and the stunning churches (each with different wall paintings), you can descend into the caves bearing the remnants of the saints who came to this hill above the Dnieper River as early as 1057.

You can use this self-guided walk to plan your visit. As you stroll around the complex, feast your eyes on Ukrainian baroque. Ukraine’s spirit is generous and irrepressible, and this art form with its predilection for whimsical designs and ornate details expresses it best of all.

If you could scent the second image, which is a detail of Kateryna Bilokur’s painting, what would you select?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Tamara: The colors are beautiful! Such delicate brushwork too. February 7, 2020 at 8:43am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree, it’s exquisite. February 11, 2020 at 9:17am Reply

  • kayceebee: Jour D’hermes! February 7, 2020 at 10:00am Reply

    • AndreaR: I’ll second that! February 7, 2020 at 2:04pm Reply

      • rickyrebarco: I agree as well. Jour d’Hermes is perfect for that photo. February 8, 2020 at 4:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds perfect. February 11, 2020 at 9:18am Reply

  • Brenda Shipley: It sometimes seems to me that the painting of flowers is taken seriously in historic and educational journals first, and for pure enjoyment second. Though I am not comparing this artist to her, it puts me in mind of Canadian folk artist Maude Lawrence – whose floral works were sometimes passed off as immature and non- professional. Of course, true art always lies in the eye of the beholder. I enjoyed your post and thank you. February 7, 2020 at 10:47am Reply

    • Victoria: I took a look at Maude Lewis’s paintings, and they are beautiful.
      Another artist I’d recommend is Seraphine de Senlis. February 11, 2020 at 9:22am Reply

  • Brenda: Apologies / that was to be artist Maude Lewis. February 7, 2020 at 10:51am Reply

  • WENDY MAZURSKY: I imagine that scene would smell like warm, humid, grassy late spring/early summer air. Not floral, more hay/grass. February 7, 2020 at 11:55am Reply

    • Victoria: I like imagining this scent. February 11, 2020 at 9:24am Reply

  • KatieAnn: This whole tour sounds absolutely heavenly! I so wish I could be there. Maybe next time…. 🙂

    I love this whimsical painting. I think Twilly (the original) by Hermes captures the feeling of it nicely; powdery, floral, a little sweet, with a hint of spiciness. Really beautiful. February 7, 2020 at 12:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: I like the idea of Twilly too. February 11, 2020 at 9:28am Reply

  • AndreaR: Amazing that her work was subversive. The flowers in her painting do represent the flowers found in the wreathes of Ukrainian folk costumes. Maybe that was a consideration?
    I also love the wild work of Maria Primachenko.
    The Ivan Honchar Museum is close to Kyivo-Pecherska Lavra and worth including. February 7, 2020 at 2:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: The Ivan Honchar Museum is another favorite place that I visit whenever I return to Kyiv. So inspiring. February 11, 2020 at 9:29am Reply

  • Lorie McMillin: Victoria, it’s going on my list! I’m so excited to join the tour this summer!! February 7, 2020 at 7:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also can’t wait!
      I will give more suggestions, but you can definitely spend an entire day at the Lavra. It’s the heart of Kyiv. February 11, 2020 at 9:32am Reply

  • Aurora: Ukraine is now firmly on my list to visit, thanks to your wonderful description.
    To match the field flowers of the painting I would select Eau de Givenchy, my favorite floral for summer. February 8, 2020 at 2:58am Reply

    • Victoria: I didn’t think of Eau de Givenchy first, but it works. February 11, 2020 at 9:32am Reply

  • Muriel: I find it hard to find subversiveness in those flowers… they are a pure enchantment and remind me of the fields of my childhood. There was a path between a wheat field and a sugar beets field and lots of wildflowers grew there. The ones I found most interesting were angelica flowers (with tiny insects on them). So…I think I’ll just spray Angéliques sous la Pluie to accompany this painting 😉 February 11, 2020 at 8:09am Reply

    • Victoria: This memory of yours already sounds like a Bilokur painting, and I like your choice of perfume very much. In fact, you’ve inspired me to find my bottle and wear it. February 11, 2020 at 10:00am Reply

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