Kateryna Bilokur, Ukrainian Folk Artist
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Kateryna Bilokur is a self-taught master who worked in primitive art (Naïve Art or Primitivism style) and decorative folk painting and loved to paint flowers. Kateryna Bilokur painted flowers and fruits in gardens, orchards and fields; still lifes; and several portraits and self-portraits. Her paintings display originality, vivid coloring, and great attention to detail.
The story of artist Kateryna Bilokur is an amazing one. If circumstances were different, she might be revered as one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century. But because she was born to poverty in a remote village in Ukraine, relatively few people knew of Bilokur’s work in her lifetime. Despite this, she was recognized as one of the greatest artists ever to emerge from the Ukraine.
Kateryna Vasylivna Bilokur was born in 1900 in Bogdanivka, an out-of-the-way village in the vast Ukraine. She received no formal education and her daily life was one of hard physical labor and household chores. But her desire to paint was extreme. So eager was she to pursue her art that she fashioned her own paintbrushes and formulated her own paints from beet juice, berries, onions, herbs and whatever she could find. She was often at labor all day and painted during the night until she could no longer stay awake.
The majority of her creations feature extremely vivid, vibrant and colorful floral scenes displaying lush collections of flowers and fruits in natural settings. She tried to enter the art school in 1920, but since she had no certificate of having completed “seven-year-school,” so she had no chance. She also had little opportunity to see and study the work of other artists.
Kateryna Bilokur painted her heart out and began to produce such works of art that others could not help but notice. Her works became known in the late 1930s and 1940s for their interest in nature. Her work caught the eye of a famous Ukrainian singer, Oksana Petrusenko, who helped get her art placed in shows and galleries where it could gain wider appreciation from the art community.
In 1954 three paintings by Bilokur were exhibited at an international exhibition in Paris where, among others, they were highly praised by Pablo Picasso. Picasso suggested that if her works were widely known, Bilokur would be the talk of the world.
In 1956 Katerina Bilokur was named the “People’s Artist of Ukraine,” an incredibly high honor. He image was also issued on a Ukrainian coin. She died in 1961. Her work is preserved at the National Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art. Albums of her paintings were published in Kyiv in 1959, 1975, and 2010. Her magnificent work will live on for centuries among the masterpieces of the world.
The memorial museum-manor of the national painter of Ukraine Kateryna Bilokur is situated in the village of Bogdanovka, Kyiv Region, where she spent all her life.