Kontratovych, Ernest (b. May 17, 1912, Kalna Roztoka [Hungarian Kingdom], Slovakia) — painter and pedagogue in Subcarpathian Rus’. While studying at the *Uzhhorod Greek Catholic Teachers’ College (1928-1932) Kontratovych also attended the Public School of Painting operated by Iosyf *Bokshai and Adal’bert *Erdeli. After completing his education, Kontratovych taught elementary school in several Rusyn villages (Velykyi Bereznyi, Sukhyi, Uzhok); he began to exhibit his paintings in 1938.
Kontratovych continued the traditions of the *Subcarpathian School of Painting while at the same time carving out his own form of expressionist style. In paintings like Sviachennia vody (Blessing of the Water, 1938), Pokhorony bidniaka (The Burial of a Poor Man, 1939), Sumni melodii (Songs of Lament, 1940), and Vedut’ areshtovanykh (Leading Away the Arrested, 1943) he was able to capture dramatic episodes in the life of Rusyn mountain dwellers on the eve of and during World War II. He also painted in these years two epic series of canvases entitled “Karpats’ki madonny” (Carpathian Madonnas, 1939-1972) and “Ievreis’ki kladovyshcha” (Jewish Cemeteries). During the period of Communist rule after 1945 Kontratovych pretended to be unstable and driven by fantasies, a mask which allowed him to evade the Socialist-Realist guidelines imposed by the Soviet authorities on all forms of artistic creativity in Subcarpathian Rus’/Transcarpathia. Instead, he continued to render Carpathian landscapes in an expressionist manner and to depict genre scenes from traditional Rusyn life, thereby remaining one of the last practitioners of the Subcarpathian School of Painting.
Bibliography: Valentyna Martynenko, Ernest Kontratovych (Kiev, 1973); Stepan Hapak, “Ernest Kontratovych—spivets’ zhyttia i doli selian,” Duklia, XXX, 5 (Presov, 1982), pp. 56-60.
Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.