Mykyta, Volodymyr (b. February 1, 1931, Rakoshyno [Czechoslovakia], Ukraine) — painter and cultural activist in Subcarpathian Rus’ of Rusyn national orientation. After completing the Russian gymnasium in Mukachevo (1941-1945) Mykyta studied under Iosyf *Bokshai and Adal’bert *Erdeli at the School of Applied Art in Uzhhorod (1947-1950). During his student years Mykyta exhibited along with his teachers and, in effect, became a true inheritor of the pre-World War II *Subcarpathian School of Painting. Not only did he learn technical skills from his mentors, he was imbued as well with their philosophy of life, in which art was dedicated to the service of one’s people and homeland.
Mykyta is equally proficient in creating portraits, genre scenes, landscapes, and still-lifes filled with philosophical reflections on human existence and the basic problems faced by modern society during the last third of the twentieth century. He reached full creative maturity in the late 1960s, after which his work was characterized by four basic conceptual directions: the psychological portrait; the nobility of working the land; the philosophically-inspired landscape; and art as ecological protest. A creative landmark was the appearance of Iahniatko (The Little Lamb, 1969). From then on Mykyta’s canvases were filled with images of stalwart and serious village people, all of whom were driven by a sense of internal dynamism as they planted orchards, grazed sheep, cut wood and vines, or brought in the hay (Zbyrannia kartopli/Picking Potatoes, 1970; Obid u poli/Luncheon on the Field, 1971; Zvoziat’ sino/Gathering the Hay, 1971; Vesniani turboty/Springtime Anxieties, 1973; Zbir iabluk/Gathering Apples, 1985). With these canvases Mykyta introduced into Soviet Ukrainian artistic circles a new understanding of how to treat themes based on traditional life.
Mykyta’s portraiture begins with the lyrical Moia mamka (My Mother, 1967) followed by portraits of several of his contemporaries: Likar Snihurs’kyi (The Doctor Snihurs’kyi, 1968), Khirurg Fedynets’ (The Surgeon Fedynets’, 1969), and Khudozhnyk Kontratovych (The Artist Kontratovych, 1970). It was his rendition of the painter Fedir *Manailo (Khudozhnyk Manailo, 1976), however, which raised Mykyta to the rank of a leading contemporary master of philosophical portraiture. Mykyta’s landscapes have also been quite extraordinary; they include depictions of the Carpathian Mountains (Z verkhu na verkh/From Hilltop to Hilltop, 1973; Pislia doshchiv/After the Rain, 1979; Osinnii motyv/Autumn Motif, 1982) and protests against the rape of the land (Rany Karpat/Wounds of the Carpathians, 1983; Nezhyve/Lifeless, 1989; Zona/The Forbidden Zone, 1990) as well as expressions of disgust at contemporary society’s lack of spirituality (Gotyka/The Gothic Scene, 1989; Kolochava/The Village of Kolochava, 1989; Dzvinytsia/The Bell Tower, 1990).
Mykyta has played an important role in the cultural life of Subcarpathian Rus’ in the last years of Soviet rule and in post-Communist Ukraine. He served as head (1966-1999) of the Transcarpathian regional branch of Ukraine’s Union of Artists, and for his achievements he was awarded the title of National Artist of Ukraine (1991), corresponding member of the Academy of Arts in Ukraine (1997), and the Steven Chepa Award for Outstanding Service to Rusyn Culture (2001). He has spoken out against the crass commercialization of artistic creativity during the economic and spiritual crisis of independent Ukraine in the 1990s, all the while playing an active role in the recent Rusyn national revival. A firm believer in the idea that Rusyns constitute a distinct nationality, Mykyta organized a major retrospective exhibit of Rusyn painting and sculpture in conjunction with the Fifth *World Congress of Rusyns held in Uzhhorod (1999).
Bibliography: Hryhorii S. Ostrovs’kyi, Volodymyr Mykyta: zhyvopys (Kiev, 1983); Ivan Pop, “Volodymyr Mykyta,” Obrazotvorche mystetstvo, XXVIII, 2 (Kiev, 1997) pp. 52-54.
Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.