Considered to be the father of modern Ukrainian literature, Taras Shevchenko (1814 to 1861) was a poet, writer, public and political figure, and artist. His life and work has been celebrated for more than a century, and he is especially revered in Ukraine. Shevchenko is often referred to as Kobzar Taras, or Kobzar. A kobzer is a bard in Ukrainian culture.
Shevchenko was born into serfdom, and was orphaned early in life. He grew up in extreme poverty. His freedom was purchased while he was studying at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg. Upon the completion of his studies, he returned to Ukraine and was appalled anew at the conditions under which his country folk were forced to live.
He saw it as his duty to, in any way he could, fight against the injustices inflicted by the tsardom and prevailing system of serfdom. For Shevchenko, the best way to rebel was through his art and writing.
In his writing and art, Shevchenko strove to establish and celebrate a Ukrainian national identity.
In 1847 Shevchenko was convicted and exiled for promoting the independence of Ukraine, writing poems in the Ukrainian language, and ridiculing the Russian tsardom. Throughout his exile, he continued to write and create art, even though he was expressly forbidden to do so by Tsar Nicholas I.
After his exile, Shevchenko tried to return to Ukraine, but was not allowed to. He spent the last years of his life in St Petersburg. He continued to write and create art, but was still under strict surveillance, which hampered his freedom of movement and subject matter.
Shevchenko passed away in 1861 in St Petersburg at the age of 47, the years of exile having taken its toll on his health. He was buried in St Petersburg, but as per his wishes, his friends arranged to have his remains moved to Ukraine. He was reburied Chernecha Hora, today called Taras Hill, near the Dnipro River and Kaniv.
Taras Shevchenko’s impact on Ukrainian art and literature is immense, and he continues to be revered by Ukrainians throughout the world today. His work to establish a and his impact on Ukrainian literature is immense.
Taras Shevchenko has created more than 1,000 works of art, of which about 278 paintings are considered to be lost forever.
The scanned images of original paintings used in Immersive Shevchenko: Soul of Ukraine are provided by the National Museum of Taras Shevchenko in Kyiv. On Saturday, February 26th 2022, aggression by Russian Armed forces near the museum resulted in all his original art pieces being packed up and taken to safety, in wooden crates built-in 1941 to evacuate the same works out of Kyiv before Nazi occupation.