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eng Automatic Translation

Vitebsk Folk Art School

1919 – 1941
Formerly: Yudel Pan School of Drawing and Painting. Other names: First Higher Art School, Free State Art Workshops, Higher State Art and Technical Workshops, State Art and Practical Institute, Vitebsk Art College, Belarusian Art College, Vitebsk Art College

Associated Documents

Articles on KALEKTAR

Art school in Vitebsk. The school was founded by Marc Chagall. Within the walls of the institute, Kazimir Malevich, Vera Ermolaeva, El Lissitzky taught, and the art group UNOVIS was created.

From the founding of the BSSR in 1922 until 1941, an art educational institution was never created in Minsk, so Vitebsk was not only the cultural capital, but also the main educational and pedagogical center of the fine arts of the republic.


Selected dates:


The Private School of Drawing and Painting by Yudel Pan was reorganized by Marc Chagall into the Vitebsk Folk Art School. In the conditions of the civil war, in front-line Vitebsk, with a shortage of premises for hospitals and barracks, Chagall managed to secure the allocation of a nationalized mansion with all the furnishings for the educational institution, which previously belonged to one of the directors of the joint-stock company "Vitebsk Tram" I. V. Vishnyak at ul. Bukharinskaya, 10 (now Pravda street, 5). In many ways, Marc Chagall was supported and promoted by the Fine Arts Department of the People's Commissariat of Education and its head D. Shterenberg. The People's Art School was organized as a labor school. Art and production workshops were planned to fulfill orders, posters, slogans, advertising signs, etc. were planned.

November 11, 1918

The first enrollment in the school took place. The Vitebsk press published the program of the school, which indicated that the functioning of such workshops should contribute to the beautification of the city. Along with practical subjects, there were also theoretical ones, for example, "theoretical acquaintance with the methods of contemporary 'leftist art'". Marc Chagall writes in his article "About the Vitebsk Folk Art School": "Dreams that the children of the urban poor, lovingly soiling paper somewhere at home, would join art, come true ... We can afford the luxury of" playing with fire " , and within our walls, guides and workshops of all directions from the left to the "right" inclusive are presented and function freely.

Chagall invited artists from Moscow and Petrograd to Vitebsk to teach, led the organizing committee for the construction of an art school and a communal workshop. He accelerated the enrollment of students and endowed the communal workshop with a monopoly on artistic production work in the city.

December 1918

A competition was held to make sketches of artistic signs for schools and cultural and educational institutions, the jury members of which were Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Marc Chagall, J. Tilberg and others. On December 20, 1918, a telegram arrived from Petrograd: "The board approved the Dobuzhinsky director, the leaders Radlov, Tilberg, Chagall, Lyubavina."

January 28, 1919

Solemn opening of an educational institution by Marc Chagall, commissioner of the Collegium for Arts in the Vitebsk province. Dobuzhinsky soon left the school, and in February-March 1919 it was headed by Marc Chagall, continuing to implement his idea of the school as a system of free workshops, the leaders of which were artists of different directions with their own vision of the tasks and methods of teaching. The "Shagall stage" in the history of the educational institution is distinguished by democracy and loyalty to the artists-teachers. Under Chagall, a system of art education began to take shape in the province, art schools (studios) were opened in the county towns of Velizh, Nevel, Lepel, Orsha, Polotsk. All of them did not last long and, due to the termination of funding, were closed in the early 1920s.

  • 1919-1920

  • The school is called the First Higher Art School.

From the middle of 1919

Marc Chagall invites his teacher Yudel Pen to run a workshop at the People's Art School, and Pen's studio becomes a branch of the school.

Spring 1919

Vera Ermolaeva arrived in Vitebsk and started working at the art school as the head of the workshop and deputy director of the school.

May 1919

At the invitation of Chagall, El Lissitzky arrives in Vitebsk from Moscow. He teaches the basics of architecture, graphics and printing.

October 1919

At the invitation of Marc Chagall, Vera Ermolaeva and El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich arrives in Vitebsk. The Vitebsk period of Malevich's life was characterized by a struggle with Marc Chagall for the reorganization of the teaching system at the art school until Malevich's departure to Petrograd. Together with like-minded people, whom he found here in great numbers, he creates the UNOVIS group and works hard, creating the theory of a new art.

"Lissitzky finds himself in a difficult ethical situation of choosing between his teacher Chagall and Malevich, the leader of the radically minded artistic youth. Having taken the side of Malevich, Lissitzky becomes his follower, adept and experiences a powerful impulse from the influence of the Suprematist concept."

End of May - beginning of June 1920

Marc Chagall, tired of the confrontation with Kazimir Malevich and the administrative and organizational burden that overshadowed creative tasks, left Vitebsk, Ermolaeva became the head of the school, which now became known as the Vitebsk State Free Art Workshops. The round seal of the school during the winter-spring of 1920, that is, even during the time of the directorship of Marc Chagall, had two inscriptions: in the center - "1st Vitebsk Higher Folk Art School", and in a circle - "Free State Art Workshops". This explains why both variants of the name of the educational institution were used in the documents of 1920.

Summer 1921

Lissitzky was recalled to Moscow to teach a course in the history of architecture and monumental painting at VKhUTEMAS.


  • The institution was renamed into the Higher State Artistic and Technical Workshops.

Late 1921 - early 1922

The school received the status of the Artistic and Practical Institute, whose rector was Vera Ermolaeva and was until her departure to Petrograd in August 1922. The educational process in the Vitebsk State Free Art Workshops began to be carried out on the basis of the system developed by Kazimir Malevich and UNOVIS members. In the "Almanac of UNOVIS No. 1" (Vitebsk, 1920), the Program for a unified audience of painting by the UNOVIS collective was published. It began with an introductory course on the development of pictorial and sculptural form, volume, plane, then assumed a consistent study of Cezanne, Cubism, Futurism, Suprematism. Malevich promoted his own method of creativity, being the only theorist and researcher on the new art. He created the educational life of a number of educational groups of workshops and left Vitebsk at the turn of 1921-1922, when an atmosphere of misunderstanding and hostility thickened around the art-practical institute, the financial situation of teachers became critical, and further productive work was out of the question. Some Vitebsk associates of Malevich left the institute and followed him to Petrograd - Ermolaeva V. M., N. I. Kogan and some graduates of the institute.

May 1922

Passed the first and only graduation at the Vitebsk Art and Practical Institute. 11 people received graduation diplomas, another 17 students were transferred to higher art educational institutions in Moscow and Petrograd. The graduates of the Institute were T. Beinarovich, Suprematist Ivan Gavris, N. Gusev, Mikhail Veksler, Nina Kogan, Georgy Noskov, Nikolai Suetin, Lazar Khidekel, Ilya Chashnik, Lev Yudin, Solomon Yudovin; -constructivist. An interesting detail: some of the graduates, while still students, were at the same time the heads of the Vitebsk free workshops, then the institute. These are M. Veksler, N. Kogan, Georgy Noskov, Solomon Yudovin, and Ivan Gavris from the autumn of 1921 was even the deputy of Vera Ermolaeva and led the institute during her business trips.


The academic year was the last year of the existence of the art-practical institute. By autumn, 5 teachers, a secretary and a minister remained in his staff. Ivan Gavris became the acting rector, to whom Vera Ermolaeva handed over the affairs before leaving for Petrograd.

Autumn 1922

At the moment of a deep crisis at the Vitebsk Art and Practical Institute, at a general meeting, Yudel Pen was elected vice-rector for academic affairs and a member of the board, and Solomon Yudovin was elected vice-rector for economic affairs. The training workshops were also managed by A. Brazer and E. Minin.

  • 1922-1923

  • The workshops were renamed into the State Artistic and Practical Institute.

  • Early April 1923

  • A revision began at the institute, as a result of which the Artistic and Practical Institute in August-September 1923 was reorganized with a lower status - into the Art College (VHT), which was marked by a strong conflict between teachers and the new director. The provincial authorities not only decided to reorganize the art-practical institute, but also attracted a team of artists-teachers from the art school in Velizh, located not far from Vitebsk, to teach at the technical school. Graduates of the Academy of Arts Mikhail Kerzin, V. Volkov, M. Ende and M. Lebedeva came from Velizh to Vitebsk, V. Khrustalev joined them a little later.

  • September 1, 1923

  • The Institute was reorganized into the Vitebsk Art College.

  • Since 1923

  • As a technical school, the institute was located in the premises of the former synagogue on the street. Volodarskaya (now Suvorov street). The commission of teachers, which included Yudovin S. B., could not resist the transfer of the educational institution from the mansion (“Vishnyak's house”) to the street. Bukharinskaya in the unadapted building of the former Lubavitcher synagogue on the street. Volodarsky, 15. Then the new director, Mikhail Kerzin, decided to double-check the knowledge of all former students and began to single-handedly decide on the organization of training. Considering this humiliating, Yuri Peng (vice rector for academic affairs), Solomon Yudovin, Yevgeny Minin and a group of students by September 23, 1923, issued a collective statement of resignation and left the institute. Yudel Pen, until his tragic death on the night of March 1, 1937, continued his studies with young people on a more modest scale in his workshop on Gogolevskaya Street.

  • 1923–1932

  • Mikhail Kerzin was the director of the technical school, after which he was transferred to Minsk. After him, Vitaly Volsky was appointed director.

  • April 1924

  • Vitebsk, together with several districts of the Vitebsk province, became part of the BSSR, and the Vitebsk technical school was called the Belarusian Art College (until 1934).

  • 1925-1930

  • Departments of painting and sculpture were created at the technical school. In this five-year period, ceramic artist Nikolai Mikholap trained specialists at the pottery and ceramics department.

  • 1930-1936

  • There was a printing department. The technical school was transformed into a school in connection with the urgent need for teachers of fine arts for the schools of the republic. The curriculum was supplemented by such disciplines as pedagogy and methods of teaching drawing.

  • 1934–1939

  • The technical school was renamed into the Vitebsk Art School.

  • 1941

  • Due to the Second World War, the school stopped working.