In 1952, following the order of the Soviet leaders, the works of outstanding Ukrainian artists were destroyed in the courtyard of the National Museum in Lviv. Then about a thousand works were burned, including the works of the prominent muralist Yulian Butsmaniuk.
The artist spent his youth in the struggle for the Ukrainian state; he was one of the first to work on the design of symbols and insignia of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen Legion. Butsmaniuk also used to work with several publications and recorded in detail the epochal events in the epicenter of which he was. Thanks to him, we know many interesting details about the life and struggle of Ukrainians in the first half of the 20th century.
However, his greatest merit is the unique paintings of temples – outstanding works of art.
Prominent teachers and glorious patrons
Julian Butsmaniuk (1885-1967) was born in the Radekhiv district but grew up in Lviv, where his family moved shortly after his birth. He lost both parents at an early age and had to earn his living at a young age.
Butsmaniuk started painting in school, and his teacher was an outstanding Lviv muralist Tadeusz Rybkowski. The master noticed his student's talent and often involved Yulian Butsmaniuk to work on serious projects he was working with. This had a significant impact on the formation of Butsmaniuk's personality and his author style in the future.
It is difficult to tell about Yulian Butsmaniuk without mentioning some fateful acquaintances. In particular, with the artist Modest Sosenko and Metropolitan of the UGCC Andrey Sheptytsky.
With Sosenko, the young artist worked on the wall paintings of churches in Slavsk and Rykiv, and eventually, he contributed to Butsmaniuk's entry to the Krakow Academy of Arts (1908 - 1914).
Andrei Sheptytsky became Julian's patron, paid for his education, and always helped with finances. Not without the support of Metropolitan Sheptytsky Butsmaniuk was involved in the restoration of the Church of the Virgin Mary in Krakow. Bishop Andrey also helped the artist to get a job in the reputable stained glass company of Zhelensky, to visit Germany and Italy.
An artist in military uniform
After World War I began, Julian Butsmaniuk joined the Legion of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen, and later fought for the establishment of Ukrainian statehood as part of the Ukrainian Galician Army.
Butsmaniuk had to smell the powder: he was a participant of several battles, was wounded, and received high ranks.
His achievements on the artistic front are no less outstanding: Yulian Butsmaniuk was a photo reporter who documented the course of events he witnessed, contributed to various publications, and was the first to develop the design of symbols and insignia of the Legion of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen. His works looked like a series of colorful and informative postcards.
Unfortunately, in the early 20th century the circumstances were not very favorable for the Ukrainian struggle.
In the language of dry facts, both the Ukrainian People's Republic and the Western Ukrainian People's Republic were defeated. A few years later, Yulian Butsmaniuk was in an internment camp in Czechoslovakia, he was even offered military service in the local army, but the artist refused.
Therefore, he went to study at the Prague Academy of Arts. For several years, he worked with various objects in Lviv and near the city, and later moved to Krakow, then Vienna, Munich and in 1950 – to Canada.
The amazing world of artworks
Not many works by Yulian Butsmaniuk have survived to the present day, but this fact only increases the value of the existing ones. Moreover, each of them is a separate and amazing world that will impress you.
Butsmaniuk is one of the most original masters of Ukrainian modernism whose works should see every Ukrainian. The first outstanding experience of the artist was his participation in the creation of murals in the main reading room of the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv Scientific Library.
These unique works associate with Butsmaniuk's teacher Tadeusz Rybkowski and Julian Makarewicz, but Julian Butsmaniuk was also involved in their creation.
The symbolism of the four faculties from which the university began, images of open books, Latin and Greek sayings - we can see these and many other things in the library.
The most mature and distinctive works of Yulian Butsmaniuk are the paintings in the church of the Basilian Fathers in Zhovkva (today the Monastery of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Heart of Christ).
During the 1930s he created there masterpieces that have no analogs in the whole of Ukraine – it is really an amazing combination of biblical and national motifs.
Thus, in the church in Zhovkva, you can see Jesus dressed in vyshyvanka, characters of Ukrainian history: Bohdan Khmelnytsky, Ivan Mazepa, Mykhailo Hrushevsky, Yevhen Petrushevych, and finally – God, copied from Metropolitan Sheptytsky and an allusion to the events of the Holodomor. St. George's Cathedral, St. Sophia Cathedral, and even Lviv City Hall are all in one church in Zhovkva.
Today, the personality of Yulian Butsmaniuk and all aspects of his work remain insufficiently disclosed. Unfortunately, Ukrainians are poorly aware of this page of our history. The situation is complicated by the fact that part of his creative heritage was destroyed.
It is especially unpleasant that some of the pieces were destroyed already during the independence. It is nice that Julian Butsmaniuk also worked in Canada – during 1957-1967, he painted the interiors of the Ukrainian Cathedral of St. Josaphat in Edmonton. This way, he left a glimpse of his uniqueness and originality, of the Ukrainian soul there as well.