Anastasia Rak continued the traditions of Ukrainian folk painting on glass. She is a deeply national artist who is genetically connected to the land where she was born and lived. The strength and beauty of Poltava region feels in her every work. Anastasia Rak takes us to the original foundations of folk creativity, to the mythopoetic and fairy-tale thinking.
Народилася Анастасія Трохимівна Рак (дівоче прізвище – Діхтяр) 27 листопада 1922 року у селі Васильки Лохвицького району на Полтавщині. Змалечку захоплювалася народними картинами на склі, фанері, полотні, які бачила у рідній хаті, у сусідів та на лохвицькому базарі.
Drawn with a relaxed line, using oil paints, varnishes and foil, these paintings warmed the house with their naive but refined beauty. All these images were deeply imprinted in young Anastasia’s soul, along with the nature’s beauty and hand-made towels with an embroidered Tree of Life, painted chests, and ancient folk clothes.
She tried to draw by herself: first with chalk and a stick, and later, as a schoolgirl, she painted her friends’ songbooks with flowers, and made drawings for embroidered towels.
She was also a talented set designer, when the play Natalka-Poltavka was staged in the village club, where Anastasia Rak sang the part of the main character Natalka, whom she resembled in her virtues.
"The Man and the Girl by the River" (1994/1994) by Anastasiya RakNational Center of Folk Culture "Ivan Honchar Museum"
"The Man and the Girl at the Well" (1990/1990) by Anastasiya RakNational Center of Folk Culture "Ivan Honchar Museum"
"Deer" (1990/1990) by Anastasiya RakNational Center of Folk Culture "Ivan Honchar Museum"
During the Second World War, Anastasia was taken to Germany as a forced laborer. After her ostarbeiter shifts at a factory, she would make drawing to earn her piece of bread. There, her talent was noticed by the local amateur artist Wilhelm Kapler, who became her teacher. Later, his wise instructions influenced the formation of A. Rak as an artist, and the development of her individual style and unique expression.
"There we walked in shoes..." (1998/1998) by Anastasiya RakNational Center of Folk Culture "Ivan Honchar Museum"
After the war, Anastasia worked as a primary school teacher in a village school, teaching children how to draw. And then there was a period with no time for creativity: marriage to an officer, trips, birth of children, troubles... Therefore, the dream of drawing was postponed for the future.
"The Cossack and the Girl" (1991/1991) by Anastasiya RakNational Center of Folk Culture "Ivan Honchar Museum"
The time of creative inspiration and respect for Anastasia’s work came at the end of the 1980s and throughout the 1990s. Throughout those years, more than two hundred works appeared from her brush.
Her first exhibitions were held in the Taras Shevchenko National Museum, in the Ivan Honchar Museum, and other leading Ukrainian and foreign museums.
"The young couple and their girlfriend go to invite them to the wedding" (1991/1991) by Anastasiya RakNational Center of Folk Culture "Ivan Honchar Museum"
Real recognition awaited the artist in Paris at the Musée de l'Homme in 1999-2000, where, as part of the Days of Ukraine in France, she had a personal exhibition that lasted, not the usual three but eight months, and was a true hit. French and museum guests from all over the world admired paintings. Because of that, Europe got a true idea of what Ukraine really is.
From the first Anastasia Rak’s works after a long hiatus, it became clear that a new name appeared in Ukrainian culture. Her merit as an artist is that she revived the forgotten tradition of Poltava painting on glass and enriched it with her own interpretations of subjects and plots.
This can also be said about her unique drawing technique, which she creates with a pen and ink on glass. Even without color, this preparatory graphic drawing, with its expressiveness and perfection of form, is perceived as an independent and complete work. Anastasia Rak's talent is also characterized by her exceptional psychological and internally tense coloring. She has an absolute sense of color.
She manages to create harmonious combinations of random color spots ranging from numerous halftones. The picturesqueness of her works is enhanced by colored sketchings, the use of colored ink and varnishes, as well as the use of cloth, foil and colored cardboard as plaster underlays.
While preserving the traditional folk pictures by selecting the canonical plots (Girl at the well, Cossack Mamai, Cossack and a girl, Angel who saves the children, Bouquet, Still life with watermelon), Anastasia Rak creates a number of new, sometimes autobiographical paintings: Christmas. Bringing of Didukh, Carolers, During Ivan Kupalo fest, There we walked in wooden "shugas", I'm waiting for children to visit me, Natalka-Poltavka and others.
Along with the flatness, multi-scaleness and generalization of traditional painting, the artist partly uses elements of aerial perspective, as well as inverted perspective inherent in ancient iconography.
As a researcher, Oleksandr Fedoruk noted: "She [Anastasia Rak] came to us by some distant paths. Without her paintings, the perception of our culture would be incomplete, something would be missing from it. It would be incomplete without tenderness, it would be incomplete without chastity, it would be incomplete without her new picturesque language."
"The Man and the Girl at the Well" (1997/1997) by Anastasiya RakNational Center of Folk Culture "Ivan Honchar Museum"
Still life with watermelon (1997/1997) by Anastasiya RakNational Center of Folk Culture "Ivan Honchar Museum"
"To Church for Christmas" (1997/1997) by Anastasiya RakNational Center of Folk Culture "Ivan Honchar Museum"
The magic of Anastasia Rak's makes her paintings become collectable all over the world.
The ideals of the people formed in a traditional environment were carried by the artist throughout her life and multiplied by her own experience, so today she brings them back to us in her works.
"Wedding" (1999/1999) by Anastasiya RakNational Center of Folk Culture "Ivan Honchar Museum"
Idea: Petro Honchar
Concept and text:Tetyana Poshyvaylo
Project curator: Tetyana Poshyvaylo, Volodymyr Rak
Historical advisers: Viktoriya Kutsuruk, Volodymyr Rak, Iryna Danyleyko
Proofreading: Yuliya Patlan
Translation: Hanna Shendryk
Photographer: Anastasiya Telikova
Photo editing: Olha Vashchevska
Exhibition design: Yuliya Novoseltseva
The material is licensed under Creative Commons NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)