The Russian bombardment of the Ukrainian coastal city of Mariupol has claimed the Kuindzhi Art Museum, which is devoted to the life and work of local realist painter Arkhip Kuindzhi.
The news was first reported by the Lviv-based culture website Local History. The chairman of Ukraine’s artists union, Konstantin Chernyavsky, later confirmed in a Facebook post that the institution was destroyed by an airstrike on March 20.
Born in Mariupol in 1842, Arkhip Kuindzhi earned a following in both Ukraine and Russia for his masterly use of light and color. Early in his career he was associated with the influential 19th-century Russian realist group known as the Wanderers, but he parted ways with the painters to pursue his own vibrant landscapes, such as Red Sunset on the Dnieper (1905–8), which is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The museum opened in 2010 in an Art Nouveau landmark. In its collection are more than 600 paintings by 20th-century Ukrainian artists.
Chernyavsky told Local History that the three original paintings by Kuindzhi in the collection—a sketch for Red Sunset, and two preparatory works, Elbrus and Autumn—had been removed from the premises prior to the bombing. Their current location is unknown.
On Facebook, Chernyavsky vowed that the museum would be rebuilt, writing “Glory to Ukraine.”
Kuindzhi made headlines in 2019 when a man grabbed the painting Ai-Petri. Crimea (1898–1908) off a wall at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow in broad view of security and walked out of the institution, the $1 million painting swinging from his hand. He was later apprehended, and the work, on loan to the Tretyakov from St. Petersburg’s State Russian Museum, was recovered.
Among the works believed to have been destroyed in the airstrike were paintings by Kuindzhi’s peer Ivan Aivazovsky, the Russian Romantic painter known for his striking seascapes, as well as pieces by contemporary Ukrainian artists.
The Russian military has been accused of indiscriminate bombing of urban spaces amid the invasion of Ukrainan, claiming thousands of civilian lives and leveling cherished landmarks. In February, Russian troops burned down the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum in Ivankiv, a city northwest of the capital Kyiv, that was home to dozens of paintings by the Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko. On March 20, Russia bombed the G12 art school in eastern Mariupol, where 400 civilians were sheltering.