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Sholtes, Zoltan

Sholtes, Zoltan (b. July 21, 1909, Priekopa [Hungarian Kingdom], Slovakia; d. December 16, 1990, Uzhhorod [Soviet Union], Ukraine) — priest and painter in Subcarpathian Rus’. Sholtes completed the gymnasium (1929) and Theological Seminary (1933) in Uzhhorod, and at the same time attended studio classes at Iosyf *Bokshai and Adal’bert *Erdeli’s Public School of Painting. Ordained a Greek Catholic priest (1933), Sholtes was assigned to serve the parish in the mountain village of Uzhok (1933-1939) near the Carpathian pass of the same name. Thanks to him, Uzhok became the “Barbizon” often used as an epithet to describe the *Subcarpathian School of Painting. There he was joined by students and colleagues, who painted their landscape and genre scenes. Depiction of the wooden church of Uzhok became a kind of yardstick used to judge the ability of the Subcarpathian School’s older (especially Iosyf Bokshai) and middle generation of painters.

Sholtes himself was one of the leading representatives of the second generation of the Subcarpathian School. He was, in particular, a master impressionist of the Carpathian landscape (Beskidy/The Beskyd Mountains, 1952; Zhovtnevyi den’/An October Day, 1954). If his teacher, Bokshai, was best known for depicting autumn scenes, Sholtes became the poetic painter of winter (Zymovyi vechir/Winter Evening, 1931; Zyma v seli/Winter in the Village; Khyzhi zymoiu/Village Houses in Winter, 1952, among others).

The priest-painter was faced with a major crisis forced upon all Greek Catholic clergy by the Soviet regime in 1947: join the Orthodox Church or renounce the priesthood. Sholtes chose the latter course and as a result was effectively left without any means of supporting himself. Eventually he found employment working the night shift as an assembler in an Uzhhorod furniture factory (1947-1952). It was only during the period of the Khrushchev thaw in the late 1950s that Sholtes was finally recognized by the authorities as an artist. In return, he was expected to—and did produce—several works in the Socialist-Realist mode (Kolhospna ferma/The Cooperative Farmer; Novobudovy Zakarpattia/New Buildings in Transcarpathia; Elektrostantsiia v horakh, among others). Such works allowed him to be named an Artist of Merit/Zasluzhenyi khudozhnyk of the Soviet Ukraine (1975).

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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