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Myllyi, Dezyderii/Milly, Dezider

Myllyi, Dezyderii/Milly, Dezider (b. August 7, 1906, Kijov [Hungarian Kingdom], Slovakia; d. September 3, 1971, Bratislava [Czechoslovakia], Slovakia) — artist, professor, and civic and cultural activist among Rusyns in Slovakia. After completing the gymnasium in Levoca (1917-1922) Myllyi studied at the Teachers’ College in Presov (1922-1926) and with Josef Schusser and Arnost Hofbauer at the Advanced School of Art and Industry/Um Prum in Prague (1926-1933). He taught in a Rusyn elementary school at Orlov in eastern Slovakia (1934-1943), and also in Presov at the *Rusyn State Teachers’ Academy (1943-1945) and the Russian gymnasium (1944-1945). At the close of World War II he was for a short time a member of the *Ukrainian National Council of the Presov Region and head of the Department for Ukrainian Schools in Kosice. In 1946 he moved to Bratislava, where he taught at the Advanced School of Fine Arts/VSVU (docent/associate professor, 1949; rector, 1953-1957; full professor, 1958).

As a painter, Myllyi developed a unique style that combined the tragic expressionism of the Norwegian Edward Munch and the Dutchman Vincent van Gogh, the romanticism of the Frenchman Paul Gauguin, and the philosophical rationalism of the Czech Jan Zrzavy. As early as 1933 Myllyi’s student works, shown at his graduation exhibit, elicited widespread critical praise; they were subsequently exhibited in Stockholm, Sweden. His graphic works were no less original. They included a series of lithographs from 1933-1934 using the technique of pencil on stone. Among them was a rendition of the nineteenth-century Rusyn national awakener (Dukhnovych-poet/Aleksander Dukhnovych the Poet), although most were inspired by the unhappy status of Rusyn women (Neshchaslyva/The Unfortunate Woman; Akt/A Nude; Vidchai/Despair; Nizhnist/Tenderness). The most often reproduced of these lithographs was Nas osud: vyhnani z pody (Our Fate: Driven from the Land, 1934).

While teaching in the Presov Region village of Orlov, Myllyi was inspired by the mountains of his homeland to create a series of paintings that showed a fairy-like Carpathian landscape; in this series he finally freed himself from the mannerisms of the post-Impressionists and was able to create his own style. In the foreground of a generalized Carpathian landscape Myllyi always included his muse, the figure of a sad sorceress. His next series presented an abstract generalized depiction of what he called the Kryvyi iarok (The Crooked Brook, 1944) dominated by mountains in the center of the composition from which flowed snake-like parallel paths and streams.

Myllyi’s active participation in the political and cultural life of post-World War II Communist Czechoslovakia had a negative impact on his artistic creativity. His paintings became little more than highly politicized figurative illustrations. This applied as well to his series entitled Tokaik (1959), based on the tragic wartime shootings of the village of Tokajik’s Rusyn inhabitants, an event which had deeply moved the artist. In the 1960s Myllyi moved away from his narrow politicized vision and began to create large-scale decorative panoramic landscapes. As if making up for the creative time lost during the post-1948 Communist era, Myllyi began in the last years of his life to paint a series of landscapes in his unique prewar style. While he was influenced by the various new artistic currents of the twentieth century, Myllyi’s true artistic roots were embedded in the realities of his native Carpathian region. Since his death, a permanent exhibit of his work is on display at the Dezyderii Myllyi Art Gallery (est. 1983), which is part of the *Museum of Ukrainian-Rus’ Culture in Svidnik, Slovakia.

Bibliography: J. Repcak, Dezider Milly: personalna bibliografia (Kosice and Presov, 1966); Mykhailo Dubai, “Dezyderii Myllyi,” Naukovyi zbirnyk Muzeiu ukrains’koi kul’tury u Svydnyku, VIII (Bratislava and Presov, 1976), pp. 381-393; Vladyslav Greshlyk, Dezyderii Myllyi (Svidnik, 1986); Silvia Ileckova, Dezider Milly (Bratislava, 1987).

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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