About the Collection

Jurii Maniichuck and Rose Brady

Jurii Maniichuk and Rose Brady

Jurii Maniichuk, my late husband, collected close to 150 Ukrainian paintings of the Soviet era while living and working in Kyiv in the 1990s. At that time, the newly-independent country was undergoing tremendous political and economic change. The art world was no exception. Like many other state institutions, art museums reeled from financial pressures. Impoverished artists scrambled for paint and canvases, sometimes painting over earlier works. Suddenly, the official art of the Soviet period was discredited as mere propaganda. Museums and other institutions removed Soviet-era paintings from their walls and placed them in storage.

Worried that many examples of this period of Ukrainian and Soviet art history could simply perish, Maniichuk made it his mission to assemble a collection of museum-quality Ukrainian paintings of the Soviet era for study by future generations. Together with art specialists from leading museums, he visited studios, art academies, palaces of culture, and museums in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Donetsk, and Sumy, acquiring works directly from artists or their families, or from art institutions. In 1999, the first major conference to examine the legacy of the Ukrainian socialist realist tradition was held at the National Art Museum in Kyiv. The majority of the collection is pictured in the book, Realism and Socialist Realism in Ukrainian Painting of the Soviet Era, which was published in Kyiv in 1998. Major contributors to the work were the late art critics Boris Lobanovsky and Irina Blyumina, as well as Maniichuk.

What drew my husband to this art? In the introduction to the volume cited above, he wrote: “The original impetus in the creation of the collection came with the realization that the eyes of our contemporaries have witnessed the change of epochs. In my opinion, the past epoch is most fully materialized in its art, which became a sphere of spiritual activity for the people.” The works in the collection, which spans the 1950s-1980s, were painted by leading artists who had studied and taught at Ukraine’s top art academies in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and other cities. Whatever the required political or social themes, Maniichuk strongly believed the paintings represented the high professional and artistic standards of classically-trained painters. (See the original introduction page for his own description of the impetus for the collection in his original website, created in the late 1990s.)

Since the state commissioned paintings for public display in the Soviet era, works had to win approval from the Ministry of Culture to be exhibited. Maniichuk, who met many of the artists or their families, recounted their stories of demands made by censors before paintings could be approved. Nevertheless, not all paintings in the Maniichuk-Brady collection are ideological. If you examine the works carefully, you will see that many do not represent a sunny portrayal of life in Soviet Ukraine. In post-Stalinist Ukraine, despite continued censorship, artists began to experiment carefully with Ukrainian cultural symbols and symbolic political meaning.

Jurii Maniichuk brought his collection to the U.S. in 1999. In 2000, when we married, I became involved. He believed—and I agree-- that the works he assembled may well represent one of the largest and finest collections of Ukrainian realist and socialist realist painting in private hands in the U.S. Sadly for me and for the Ukrainian art world, my husband died unexpectedly while visiting Kyiv in December 2009. Now, my goal is to find opportunities to exhibit the paintings at museums, universities, or other public venues in the U.S. or elsewhere—to fulfill his goal of preserving them for future study and appreciation.

--Rose Brady, journalist, author, and administrator of the Maniichuk-Brady collection.