Vitold  Kaetanovich Byalynitsky-Birulya

Vitold Kaetanovich Byalynitsky-Birulya

1872 —1957
  • People's artist of the BSSR
  • People's artist of the RSFSR
  • Member of the Academy of Arts of the USSR
  • Member of the Union of Russian Artists
Vitold Byalynitsky-Birulya was a prominent Soviet and Belorussian artist with great creative talent. He was a master of lyrical landscape and a committed follower of realism movement in his art which demonstrates extraordinary freshness, devotional attitude to mother nature, and poetic quality. There are many Byalynitsky-Birulya's significant works that are inextricably linked with the nature of his native Belarus as he was extremely impressed by it as a child. The ability to convey subtle changes in the state of nature was attained as a result of an incessant study of nature and persistent development of his artistry. Hence the freshness of his works and the genuine, candid reaction that they evoke. Byalynitsky-Birulya's peaceful, harmonious landscapes infused with a sophisticated colour palette represent the artist's thoughtful reflections on the eternity and grandeur of nature. Byalynitsky-Birulya was born on February 12, 1872, in a small village named Krynki, in Mogilev Region, Belarus. The artist has recalled his childhood years: 'My father served as a lessee, later - in the Dnieper's shipping company. Going to voyages along the Dniepr, Pripyat, Soji rivers, he often took me with him. It was the greatest happiness and joy for me, because it was then, in those trips, that I had discovered the unparalleled nature of my native Belarus'.

The artist was living with his elder brother Alexander in Kiev in the early 1880s and studied in the Vladimir Cadet Corps. Around 1885 he graduated from the five-year course and entered the Kiev Drawing School of Nikolai Murashko where Byalynitsky-Birulya has taken his first steps in drawing and painting and acquired the basic knowledge of arts. Soon after the end of his studies in the school in 1889, the artist went to the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture under the mentorship of the Wanderers (Peredvizhniki) Illarion Pryanishnikov, Sergei Korovin, Vasily Polenov, and Nikolai Nevrev. The Wanderers, a group of Russian realist artists, who evolved into the Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions in 1870, were highly inspirational for Byalynitsky-Birulya and had a considerable impact on the formation of the artist's taste and artistic style. Byalynitsky-Birulya was a diligent and determined student and, following his successful graduation, his paintings started to attract the attention of other artists and eminent collectors. It was highly encouraging and exciting for such a young artist to be recognised at such an early stage in his artistic career. For instance, one of his works, which was made during the studies, 'From the Vicinity of Pyatigorsk' (1892) was acquired by the famous Pavel Tretyakov. Another source of inspiration and incredible motivational force was a fortuitous acquaintance with Isaak Levita. These subsequent meetings in the Levitan's studio were filled with work and conversations which were profoundly beneficial for Byalynitsky-Birulya and his momentous decision to dedicate his career to landscape painting.

Following the advice of Levitan, from 1897 Byalynitsky-Birulya began to show his work at exhibitions of the Moscow Association of art lovers and the Moscow Society of Artists as well as at various international exhibitions where his paintings were gradually becoming favoured and noticeable. The artist's name was listed in the catalogue of the Society of Travelling Exhibitions for the first time in 1899 and, since then, he has frequently been mentioned. In 1904, Byalynitsky-Birulya was elected as a member of the Society of Traveling Exhibitions, and four years later he received the title of Academician of Painting at the Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts. The artist was repeatedly awarded medals for participation in numerous competitions such as one in Munich in 1909 and Barcelona in 1912. Another significant artistic friendship in Byalynitsky-Birulya's life started in 1908 with Ilya Efimovich Repin, and the attitude of the distinguished virtuoso Repin, presented in their correspondence, has confirmed that Byalynitsky-Birulya had established himself as one of the worthy and well-known part of the artistic community. In his letter of January 14, 1910, Repin spoke with a great warmth and admiration about Byalynitsky-Birulya's works: 'I am so used to freshen my heart with your living creations of truth, simplicity and freedom'.

The later, more mature period of Byalynitsky-Birulya's artistic career still reflects the artist's acute, sensitive, greatly observant perception of nature. Before the revolution, he was generally representing his native Belarus and the nature of Central Russia. Though the change in the political situation, the beginning of the Soviet time did not affect the philosophy of the artist and his way of painting, in 1917 the range of Byalynitsky-Birulya's interests and subject matters considerably expanded. The artist himself told that he only could see the face of the country truly in 'post-October days'. This revelation is also related to Byalynitsky-Birulya's journeys to the North, and the time spent in the Arkhangelsk region, on the White sea, on the river Volga. Byalynitsky-Birulya was taking an active role in the Soviet society, and he became one of the founding members of the Associations of artists of revolutionary Russia in 1922. Also, at the time of the Soviet years, the artist has found a new niche for himself in Soviet painting and became the creator of a memorial landscape. His most important series of memorial landscapes include Lenin's Hills, Tolstoy's Yasnaya Polyana, Pushkin's Mikhailovsky, the estate of P. Tchaikovsky in Klin. During his whole life, Byalynitsky-Birulya has managed to preserve dedication to realism in his art without any deviations toward contemporary, cutting-edge tendencies in art. In 1944, Byalynitsky-Birulya was awarded the title of people's artist of the BSSR, in 1947 - people's artist of the RSFSR, full member of the USSR Academy of arts, honorary academician of the BSSR Academy of Sciences. In 1947, the artist answered the call of nostalgia and returned to his homeland, Belarus. Also, in the same year, a large solo exhibition of the artist was held in Moscow. Byalynitsky-Birula died on June 18, 1957, on his dacha 'Seagull' in Moscow at the age of eighty-five. He was buried at Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow. His works can be found in the Tretyakov Gallery and across numerous museums in Russia and Belarus.

Bibliography: Available at:–-1957) (n.d.). Бялыницкий-Бируля Витольд Каэтанович (1872 - 1957). [online] Available at:
История русского искусства. (1980) В 2т. Т.2. "Искусство второй половины XIX века." Под ред. Неклюдовой М.Г., Милотворской М.Б. (Москва: Изобразительное Искусство)
Калашникова Т.В. (под ред.) Энциклопедия русской живописи. (1999) Москва: Олма-Пресс. 
Хоряк, А. (n.d.). К 140-летию В.К. Бялыницкого-Бирули (1872 – 1957) - Национальный художественный музей Республики Беларусь. [online]