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Vasyl Yermylov

This is a longread about the life and work of Ukrainian avant-garde, graphic artist, monumentalist and designer.
We dedicated it to the Kharkiv City Day with a desire to tell more about a person who, in a short career typical for a Soviet creator, was able to become the author of a visual image for the entire era.

Here it is — the path from a colorful pathos of the revolution to oblivion in the dark attic of history.
"Father of the Ukrainian avant-garde", "Picasso from Kharkiv", "Pirosmani of formalism"
Ru
Ua

Vasyl Yermylov

This is a longread about the life and work of Ukrainian avant-garde, graphic artist, monumentalist and designer.
We dedicated it to the Kharkiv City Day with a desire to tell more about a person who, in a short career typical for a Soviet creator, was able to become the author of a visual image for the entire era.

Here it is — the path from a colorful pathos of the revolution to oblivion in the dark attic of history.
"Father of the Ukrainian avant-garde", "Picasso from Kharkiv", "Pirosmani of formalism"
The tailor's son starts learning early
At the age of 11, Yermylov entered the art and craft workshop of the Kharkiv Literacy Society. His mentor was Ladislav Trakal, a pioneer of Ukrainian symbolism and also a representative of Czech-Ukrainian Art Nouveau.
He continues his studies at the Kharkiv Art School, where he got admitted without exams. He also studies in the studio of Eduard Steinberg and Alexander Grot, and shows interest in fresco painting and mosaics.
Moves to Moscow and attends Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture — together with Vladimir Mayakovsky and David Burliuk.
Works in the workshops of Ilya Mashkov and Pyotr Konchalovsky. At the same time, he takes lessons from the etching master Georgy Gamon-Gaman, and also visits the room of engravings in the Rumyantsev Museum.
Vasyl returns to Kharkiv and starts visiting Steinberg's studio again. He earns for a living mainly by painting walls and facades.
Receives a diploma as a ''master of decorative painting'' at the Kharkiv Art School.
Yermylov himself considered 1914 to be the dawn of his work. At that moment he was in Moscow and saw the works of Pablo Picasso for the first time. The young artist was impressed by the cubist compositions, made several copies and got inspired heavily for the creation of his own style.

Vasyl accepted the 1917 revolution with all his heart, believed in the upcoming changes and connected his art with them. The new world demanded utilitarian and bright solutions. Yermylov was busy decorating the streets of his native Kharkiv, worked on the painting for a propaganda train "Red Ukraine". In his posters for UkROSTA, books and magazines covers, Vasyl developed his own font, which soon became a part of graphic design books. The artist worked with any available colors and materials, and quite often turned to folk art, choosing its most powerful motives and forms.
Believed in the upcoming changes and connected his art to them
"Yermylov build not a garden city, but rather a garden train, that ran back and forth across the country" — Igor Dyachenko, art historian, collector.
Sketch for the painting of the agitation train "Red Ukraine". 1921 year. NHMU, Kiev
Agitation train "Red Ukraine". The carriages painted by Vasily Ermilov. 1921 year. TSGAMLIU, Kiev
Agitation train "Red Ukraine". The carriages painted by Vasily Ermilov. 1921 year. TSGAMLIU, Kiev
Aesthetics of minimalism
The 1920s and 1930s were very fruitful: Yermylov was absorbed in ''the art of designing things'', created concepts for matchboxes and cigarette packages, took part in international exhibitions. On his initiative the Art and Industrial Institute was created on the basis of the Kharkiv Art School, where Vasyl Dmytrovych became the head of the graphic workshop. He experiments a lot with various materials — wood, metal, ropes, plywood. A French art critic once called Yermylov "the most laconic constructivist in the world'' because he was able to create a composition with only two lines.

At the same time, Yermylov met Velimir Khlebnikov, with whom they both, according to the artist, were attracted to the poetess Katerina Neymaer. For her poetry collections Vasyl created illustrations and collages. Book design was another aspect of Yermylov's art. Despite it being a massive part (during the lifetime, artist designed about 40 books), many works were lost, and this direction of his work is remembered rarely.
"Vasya". A sketch for a wall painting in Vasily Ermilov's apartment in Kharkov. 1921 year. NHMU, Kiev
"Extinct steam locomotives, standing factories are waiting for Donbass coal." Sketch of a panel poster. 1920 year. NHMU, Kiev
Cigarettes "RSFSR - USRR". Sketch of a box for Tabaktrest of Ukraine. 1920s. NHMU, Kiev
Cigarettes "Ilyich". Sketch of a box for Tabaktrest of Ukraine. 1920s. NHMU, Kiev
Cigarettes "Ukrainian". Box sketch. 1920s. NHMU, Kiev
Lenin cigarettes. Sketch of a box for Tabaktrest of Ukraine. 1920s. NHMU, Kiev
Historical attic
Yermylov spent almost his entire life in the attic of a Kharkiv house, from where he stubbornly did not want to move. Almost everything here was done by the artist's hands, and here once stood the famous inscription "Vasya", a sketch of which is kept in the National Art Museum of Ukraine.

The place was visited by various characters of the "urban bohemia" of that time. This particular attic Eduard Limonov describes in his autobiographical work "A Young Scoundrel", recalling the touching tea party arranged by the artist. Now the look of the workshop can only be restored from the memories of visitors.
From memories of Dmitry Gorbachev — art critic, art historian.
"He met me upstairs, in his attic. You had to bend a little to get in. His workshop was very comfortable. You just had to watch out not to hit your head on one of the beams. Back then small housing areas had everyone suffering. And he had even less than average. But everything necessary for living and working was planned and arranged very conveniently.''
Interior design project of the Palace of Pioneers and October in Kharkiv. 1934-1935.
Paper pasted on cardboard, gouache, graphite pencil.
In the early 1930s, Yermylov was invited to work on a large-scale project — to design first Palace of Pioneers and Octobrists in country. He had to create a concept for a whole children's paradise. More than 150 laboratories: a photographic laboratory, toy laboratory, railway transport room, and also — a winter garden with palm trees, and aquarium with fishes. By their principles, all these premises were consonant with the Bauhaus workshops, with which the author was undoubtedly familiar. Yermylov not only developed a design project for the entire building, but also put his hand in the creation of some objects. This work was in many ways a guarantee for the sense of self-confidence and satisfaction that the artist demonstrated in the first half of the 1930s.

Unfortunately, during the Second World War, the building was damaged and its restoration process was not a priority.
Bauhaus in the Kharkiv Palace Of Pioneers And Octobrists
Palace of Pioneers and Octobrists. Kharkov. Tram Trust Laboratory. archive D. Gorbachev, Kiev
Palace of Pioneers and Octobrists. Kharkov. Tram Trust Laboratory. archive D. Gorbachev, Kiev
All the troubles began when, together with Valerian Polishchuk, the artist was working on the publication of the almanac "Avantgarde". In the chronicle of "Anonymous Notes" appeared a text saying following: ''Designer Vasyl Yermylov creates the bed of love — a perfect mating machine. His wife helps him with advices." Such a joke turned out to be unforgivable for its time, and public condemnation soon overtook everyone who was involved in the publication. Although Polishchuk took all the blame on himself, stating that Yermylov had nothing to do with it, the chasing could not be avoided.

he social circle around the artist narrowed, the repressive machine devoured the fate of various figures with whom Yermylov was friends or collaborated — Khvylovy, Khotkevych and others. Accusations of formalism, which the Soviet government considered "useless and hostile art," forced the artist to leave his teaching at the university. In 1949, a new wave of purges began, cosmopolitanism was added to the accusations against Vasyl and he was expelled from the Union of Artists.
Formalism is a useless
and hostile art
In 1962, a personal exhibition of Ermilov took place, he continued teaching. However, past glory did not return to the artist. His health was gradually taking its toll with years.

Vasyl Yermylov died in 1968.
In 1961-1962, the charges against Yermylov were dropped. He was allowed to return to the Union of Artists. They could not simply "restore" Vasyl, because any governmental decision was considered fully correct. And since someone was expelled earlier, the entire path of entry had to be repeated.
“There were not many artists like me in the 1920s. I have no doubt that glory will come to me''
Memory
The majolica paintings by Vasyl Yermylov have been preserved on the facades of KSADA to this day.
In 2014, the documentary "Vasily Yermilov the Constructor" was released, directed by Oksana Sigareva (Koklonskaya). The film became a winner of the youth screen arts festival "Golden Frame".
In 2012, the book "Vasily Yermilov Is Waiting for Spring" was written by Tatyana Pavlova.
In 2012, the first city Center of Contemporary Art "YermilovCentre" was opened in Kharkiv.
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This longread is a non-commercial project created by a small team of authors in their free from hustle time:

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