Gomel-style ‘beehive’

[b]The geographical intersection of France-Belarus-Italy is currently appearing in the Belarusian city of Gomel. The starting point for the unique creative project is early 20th century Paris and its famous La Ruche (Beehive) — an international society of artists. These represented the Parisian school and included Belarus-born painters, who entered the history of world painting forever. Gomel has decided to set up a youth pictorial art laboratory, inspired by the Beehive, with assistance from its partners: Italia Aid Association and its organisations[/b]Everything began this summer, when the Chairman of the National Commission for UNESCO in Belarus, Vladimir Schastny, presented his book — Parisian School Artists from Belarus — at Gomel’s Rumyantsev and Paskevich Palace. It was a true revelation for those able to attend. He took nine years to write the book and even more time to collect material. Back in Soviet times, he came across a catalogue of 1927 French paintings in Moscow and found that half of the Parisian artists came from Russia; four even had Belarusian roots — Miestchaninoff, Chagall, Kikoпne (born in Gomel) and Krйmиgne.
The geographical intersection of France-Belarus-Italy is currently appearing in the Belarusian city of Gomel. The starting point for the unique creative project is early 20th century Paris and its famous La Ruche (Beehive) — an international society of artists. These represented the Parisian school and included Belarus-born painters, who entered the history of world painting forever. Gomel has decided to set up a youth pictorial art laboratory, inspired by the Beehive, with assistance from its partners: Italia Aid Association and its organisations

Everything began this summer, when the Chairman of the National Commission for UNESCO in Belarus, Vladimir Schastny, presented his book — Parisian School Artists from Belarus — at Gomel’s Rumyantsev and Paskevich Palace. It was a true revelation for those able to attend. He took nine years to write the book and even more time to collect material. Back in Soviet times, he came across a catalogue of 1927 French paintings in Moscow and found that half of the Parisian artists came from Russia; four even had Belarusian roots — Miestchaninoff, Chagall, Kikoпne (born in Gomel) and Krйmиgne.
Mr. Schastny worked at the Belarusian Foreign Ministry and was the Belarusian Ambassador to the UK from 1995 to 2000. He has travelled all over the globe and always wondered about representatives of the Parisian school. He bought a book about Chaпm Soutine in New York and was overwhelmed by the painter’s fate. Later, the first articles on Soutine appeared; he had been born to a large, poor family in Smilovichi (Minsk region). Suddenly, everyone was talking of those pheno-menal artists who had conquered Paris and, accordingly, the whole world.
Mr. Schastny gathered material on 14 Belarus-born masters of the Parisian school, whose works originated in early 20th century and were closely connected with the appearance of the Beehive. Members met at Villa Mйdicis, purchased by sculptor Alfred Boucher, in the Passage Dantzig, in Paris’ centre, in 1902. The unusual roof of the building looked like a Chinese hat, and still attracts curious tourists. Early 20th century Paris became an artistic ‘Mecca’ for Picasso, Lйger, Soutine, Modigliani and Chagall.
In 1912, Marc Chagall rented one of the largest, light filled studios on the upper floor. Later, he said, “One could either die or become famous in the Beehive.” The masters’ fates were very different. Chaпm Soutine was the tenth child in the family of a Smilovichi tailor (30km from Minsk). He drew with coal on the stove, until he stole two frying pans and exchanged them for pencils. His father sent him to Minsk to study shoemaking, but Soutine’s brother-in-law apprenticed him to a photographer. When, in 1906, a drawing school opened in Minsk, the fate of the future painter was set. In Paris, Soutine became friends with Amedeo Modigliani. After the latter’s death, Soutine created his Pastry Cook in Blue Cap, which brought him world glory and fame. Soutine’s fame in Belarus has only begun recently; a museum dedicated to the painter has now opened in Smilovichi.
Michel Kikoпne was born in Gomel and studied at Minsk’s artistic school, where he became friends with Chaпm Soutine. Later, they both moved to France. The painter from Gomel spent 15 years in the Parisian Beehive before his paintings began to sell well at galleries and salons. He died at his studio in Brйzin Street in Paris in 1968.
Oscar Miestchaninoff was born in Vitebsk to a merchant family and received his primary education at Yuri Pen’s drawing school. His sculptural works were exhibited from 1915-1916 in Petrograd. He travelled all over Burma, Siam and Cambodia and died in Los Angeles in 1956.
Nadezhda Khodasevich was born in Dokshitsy’s district’s Osetishchi. At the beginning of WW1, she was evacuated to Russia’s Tver province and, in 1921, entered the Warsaw Academy of Arts. She later visited the Fernand Lйger Painting Academy and, in 1952, married Lйger. In 1970, she visited her native Belarus and donated several of her works.
“The book describes how the Beehive society was established — a shelter for young and talented artists, who later performed a true revolution in painting,” notes Oleg Ryzhkov, Director of Gomel’s Palace and Park Ensemble. “We’ve decided to create a youth painting creative centre, which new artists currently lack.”
The major goal of Gomel Beehive is to become a centre and a laboratory for young painters setting out on their path to success and acknowledgment. It aims to encourage innovation, supporting creative thinking and self-expression in those from Gomel region and Belarus. No such laboratory yet exists in Belarus. Experienced museum employees will be involved in organising exhibitions and installations by the young painters, since suitable venues can be hard to find. These shows may become the starting point for training, allowing the study of the creative process across all genres and trends.
The site for Gomel’s Beehive has already been chosen: a building in the city centre, dating from the late 19th-early 20th century. It is registered on the State List of Historical and Cultural Treasures and is to house chamber exhibition halls, a master class room and a coffee bar, where discussion of creative ideas will be encouraged. The courtyard will be used to exhibit architectural, sculptural and landscape pieces. The coffee bar’s interior will showcase artworks from the museum dedicated to the history of tea and coffee in Belarus, looking at the evolution of the traditions of tea and coffee drinking. Items from Gomel’s Palace and Park Ensemble museum are also to go on show: samovars, dishware, household utensils and furniture. The artistic association will unite education, interesting communication, leisure and opinion exchange.
The project has aroused interest from our Italian partners, with a protocol of intentions signed between the Italia Aid Association, Gomel’s Palace and Park Ensemble State Historical and Cultural Institution and the International Charitable Helping the Children of Chernobyl Public Association in late October. The Italians are to invest funds in reconstructing the creative centre building, with further cultural collaboration planned.
“We envisage the creation of a Belarusian-Italian cultural centre, as well as a whole range of cultural and educational exchange projects. These will take place both in Belarus and Italy,” continues Mr. Ryzhkov, speaking about the future plans. “We’re now involved in presenting this project to European donor organisations. We hope it’ll stir interest.”
The organisers of the project invite all those wishing to take part in the creation of the ‘art laboratory’ to get in touch. Architecture students from the Belarusian State Transport University are already working on the reconstruction project and, early next year, will present their own ideas for Gomel’s Beehive.

By Violetta Dralyuk
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