In dictionaries, Petrykivka painting is defined as decorative and ‘ornamental’ folk painting. It would be possible to dwell on the mentioned wording in the coverage of the topic, but no, because the Petrykivka painting is a real treasure of Ukrainian art.
Genesis, traditions and features
To this day, it has yet to be known when precisely the art of Petrykivka painting arose. However, locals believe that this happened around the 17–18th centuries.
The first studies of painting date back to the beginning of the 20th century and are connected with the name of the Ukrainian historian Dmytro Yavornytskyi. He became the first scientist to start collecting, studying and storing Petrykivka and later popularised works of this art.
More than a century has passed since the world learned about the Petrikovsky painting, and in 2013 UNESCO included it in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Let’s return to the history of the intangible cultural heritage, which originates in the village of Petrykivka in the Dnipro region. There was never serfdom in Petrykivka. Cossack winter camps were located here. The free Cossack life, full of bright events, was reflected in the paintings.
Traditionally, Petrykivka is applied on a white background because it originated on the whitewashed walls of huts. Later, residents began to decorate stoves, windows, doors, dishes, other interior items, clothes and even weapons. One of the main elements of the ornaments is a flower, symbolising lush nature, and a firebird, a symbol of kindness and prosperity. People believed the Petrykivka was a protection and a talisman against teaching. In the village, owners who did not paint their houses with bright ornaments were not respected.
There are many techniques for creating a Petrykivka. The unique is drawing with the help of a ‘koshachky.’ It is a brush made from a small tuft of cat fur. Another interesting method of applying Petrykivka patterns on the background is poking with a finger. As a rule, artists use this technique when painting viburnum. The craftsman has to leave his mark because the viburnum will be considered genuine only after this.
An essential rule by which an experienced artist is defined is that he can draw without a pre-planned outline. It is almost the ideal of perfection in Petrykivka, which all masters should reach.
The most diligent artists are called ‘chepurushky.’ They teach drawing techniques and share pattern-making secrets with the next generation.
Modern record-breaking works: the tragic fate of two of the largest murals in Ukraine
Petrykivka paintings have repeatedly entered the Book of Records of Ukraine. We spoke with the craftswoman who wrote two works that became Ukrainian record holders.
Olha Cheriomushkina has been engaged in Petrykivka style for almost thirty years. She created a painting measuring more than 130 meters on the fence around the Ukrainian ex-president’s country house, Viktor Yanukovych (pro-Russian fugitive president — ed.). The woman also wholly painted the Church of St. Petro Mohyla and the Church of the Assumption of Mary in Mariupol. Both works entered the Book of Records of Ukraine. Unfortunately, both are located on Ukrainian territory temporarily occupied by Russian troops.
Olha said the second work had already been destroyed due to Russian shelling. ‘Unfortunately, the church in Mariupol was destroyed by the Russians. In the last video I saw, it is visible that bullets and shrapnel cut the church’s walls. The walls are not ruined, but the painting cannot be preserved,’ said the craftswoman.
She did not say anything about the first work but expressed concern about its possible damage or destruction.
Despite the story’s tragedy, the craftswoman does not lose her optimism. She emphasised: ‘There is still a lot of work to do. The war has reset everything, but we will live and create a lot more!’
Olha is now in Germany. The artist admitted that the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war impacted her life, but this did not affect her work in any way. ‘The war affected everything, but not colours or patterns. The war made it clear that we don’t have much time to, as Lina Kostenko (the Ukrainian poet — ed.) wrote, ‘do something, leave it after you.’ So we have to live and create,’ she explains.
Olga continues to create the art of Petrykivka painting in Germany, organises small exhibitions, conducts master classes for Ukrainians and Germans, and plans to participate in New Year’s fairs. In this way, the craftswoman popularises Ukrainian culture abroad.
Petrykivka is a place to get acquainted with the painting culture
To get acquainted with the fantastic Petrykivka painting, you must go to its birthplace, Petrykivka village, in the Dnipro region. The place is simply fabulous because the tradition of painting houses, fences, bus stops and other objects has remained to this day. The entire territory is actually an exhibition.
There is also a folk art museum in Petrykivka, where some of the best examples of Petrykivka paintings are presented. During the excursion, visitors are told about the peculiarities of artwork, and interesting facts, traditions, legends and tales are shared. In the museum, you can see local artists’ works and try yourself as an artist. Masters will be happy to hold a master class for everyone.
The Petrykivka painting is an extraordinary artistic treasure that Ukraine presented to the world. Be interested, get to know each other, and explore Ukrainian!