Russian Empire born painter, lithographer, etcher and designer, Marc Chagall was born in Vitebsk in the north of Belarus into a deeply religious Jewish family. His first artistic instruction was under Jewish artist Yehuda Penn, a local painter and Chagall then spent 1907-10 in St Petersburg, where he entered the Imperial School for the Protection of the Fine Arts, and later studied under Leon Bakst. He lived and exhibited in Berlin, lived in Paris between 1910 and 1914, where he met Apollinaire, Delaunay, Leger, Modigliani and Lhote and later he lived and worked in the USA as a refugee.
Belarus boasts other renowned artists with Jewish heritage, either those who were born there such as Chaim Soutine from Smilovichi or those who moved there to work alongside Chagall such as El Lizzitsky. Léon Bakst born Leyb-Khaim Izrailevich (later Samoylovich) Rosenberg was born in Grodno (then in the Russian Empire), into a middle-class Jewish family, was a painter and scene and costume designer. He was a member of the Sergei Diaghilev circle and the Ballets Russes, for which he designed exotic, richly coloured sets and costumes.
So as we give a nod to the incredible Belarusian Jewish artists of the past and everything they gave to us and the impact they had and continue to have, what then of the present? As we develop our projects in Belarus around community and Jewish cultural heritage, so our paths cross with new people, new information comes to light and new talent reveals itself. It is truly a most fascinating journey and we are very excited to bring a new face to our Together Plan team, Minsk born artist and musician Bogdan Dovgyalo. Bogdan is 26 years old and his grandfather was Jewish. A graduate of the Minsk Musical College, Bogdan’s specialist instrument is cello. He is a fifth year student at the Belarusian State Academy of Music and for two years he worked as a cello teacher at a music school in Minsk.
In 2021 Bogdan participated in two exhibitions, the first an exhibition of the masterpieces of Gustav Doré at the Libra Gallery in Minsk and the second exhibition displaying the works of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Along with some of his paintings Bogdan exhibited a pair of designer shoes from ‘Sutoria’ which he hand illustrated.
In August 2022 at the Gallery of the Union of Designers in Minsk, Bogdan opened a personal exhibition called ‘Minsk Before Me’ and at the opening he performed the Klezmer music. Many of Bogdan’s drawings and paintings feature Jewish buildings and wooden synagogues and he says that the beautiful architechture connects him to his Jewish family.
In 2022, in association with a Minsk publishing house, Bogdan published comics called ‘Suez Rubicon’ on the subject of the Yom Kippur war and ‘53 Trolley Bus’ which is dedicated to stories about Minsk. Bogdan travelled the route of the number 53 Minsk trolleybus’ and drew important heritage buildings along the route.
In his Jewish paintings, Bogdan draws slightly distorted representations of the Jewish life as a part of Belarusian life. He has a specific interest in the Industrial Revolution, in particular the railways and the freight stations in industrial England. Bogdan is a comic artist and book illustrator and works in ink, pen, watercolour and alcohol based inks.
We are delighted to share with you a selection of Bogdan’s works. Here Bogdan’s depiction of a typical shtetl Jewish home captures some superb details.This drawing, evocative of another time, shows the seven branched menorah, the ceiling suspended oil lamp, and could the building on the hill that we see through the window be the synagogue? Compare and contrast with the image of the interior of the Zaniomanskaya wooden synagogue, Grodno (no longer standing) and we see the very same lamp and a chanukiah that bears a close resemblance to the menorah conjured by Bogdan.
We are delighted to have Bogdan on board supporting the development of our charity projects in Belarus and we hope you are too.
If you would like to commission a piece of art by Bogdan Dovgyalo with part of the commission helping to support The Together Plan’s charity projects in Belarus, please get in touch using: email@example.com