Taras Shevchenko – great Ukrainian poet and artist.
The childhood of the poet.
“Kobzar” – first collection of poetry.
Arriving to Ukraine.
Activity at the Kyrylo – Methodius Society.
Shevchenko’s arrest and exile.
The cycle of poems “In the Dungeon”.
Coming back to Ukraine.
Taras Hryhorovich Shevchenko, the great Ukrainian poet, artist and thinker, was born on March 9, 1814, in the village of Moryntsi in central Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. His parents were serfs on the land of V.Engelhardt.
His grandfather, who was a witness of the Haidmak movement, had a significant influence on Taras. Taras’s father was literate, and he sent his son to be educated as an apprentice to a deaсon. In 1823, Taras’s mother died, and his father married for a second time. In 1825, his father also died. For some time little Taras, now an orphan, served as a houseboy. A talent for drawing showed itself in the boy quite early. When he was 14 years old, he became a domestic servant to P.Engelhardt.
In the spring of 1829, Taras traveled with P.Engelhardt to Vilnius. There he studied painting under an experienced craftsman. The Polish rebellion for national liberation from Russia began in November 1830, and Engelhardt left for the Russian capital, St.Petersburg. Shevchenko stayed with the lord’s servants in Vilnius and was witness to the revolutionary events. Shevchenko went to St.Petersburh at the beginning of 1831.In 1832, the lord left him with the master painter V.Shyryayev, with whom the lad experienced a hard school of professional training.
Noted writers and artists bought Shevchenko out of serfdom. The 2,500 rubles required were raised through a lottery in which the prize was a portrait of the poet, Zhukovsky, painted by Karl Bryullov. The release from serfdom was signed on April 22, 1838.A committee of the Association for the Encouragement of Artists had examined drawings by Shevchenko and approved them. In 1838 Shevchenko was accepted into the Academy of Arts, practicing in the workshop of K.Bryullov.
In the library of Yevhen Hrebinka, the became familiar with anthologies of Ukrainian folklore and the works of I.Kotlyarevsky, H.Kvitka – Osnovyanenko, and the romantic poets, as well as many Russian, East European and world writers.
Shevchenko began to write poetry even before he was freed from serfdom. In 1840, the world first saw “Kobzar”, Shevchenko’s first collection of poetry. Later Ivan Franko wrote that this book, “immediately revealed a new world of poetry. It burst forth like a spring of clear, cold water, and sparkled with a clarity, breadth and elegance of artistic expression not previously known in Ukrainian writing”. In 1841, the epic poem ‘Haidamaky” appeared as a separate volume. In September of that same year, Shevchenko got his third Silver Medal – for his picture “The Gypsy Fortune Teller”. A significant work is the painting “Kateryna”, based on his poem.
Shevchenko also tried his hand at writing plays. In 1842, a fragment of the tragedy “Mykyta Hayday” appeared, and in 1843 he completed the drama “Nazar Stodolya”.
In this period, the full genius of Shevchenko was apparent, and the main characteristic of his poetry – a deep national sense – was evident. All his life, the poet was devoted to his nation. ”Body and soul I am the son and brother of our unfortunate nation,” he wrote.
Opposition to the social and national oppression of the Ukrainian people grew in Shevchenko. Tsarist censorship deleted many lines from his works, and created problems for the printing of the writer’s poetry. None of the critics of the “Kobzar”, however, was able to deny the great talent of Shevchenko.
In 1843, the poet left St.Petersburg, and at the end of May he was in Ukraine. In Kyiv, he met M.Maksymovich, P.Kulish and others, and did many paintings.