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Case-lesson “The magical artistic world of Maria Pryimachenko”
Case-lesson “The magical artistic world of Maria Pryimachenko”

Category: Universal values

Level (grade): 5 - 9

Subject: History of mankind

Objective: To familiarize students with art, life and artistic path of a talented Ukrainian artist – Maria Pryimachenko.

What information is waiting for me here?

  • What special is it about the talent of Ukrainian artist – M. Pryimachenko?
  • Why did Maria Pryimachenko choose such a fantastic style of drawing her pictures?
  • What is so attractive about the art work of Maria Oksentiivna?
  • What fundamental and practical knowledge will I need?
  • Where can you see Maria Pryimachenko’s works?
6 scans of the subjects, phenomena and practices:

How do artists create their masterpieces? What does induce them to art? What emotions do you feel when looking at various works of art? You will find the answers to these questions in this case-lesson.

The person who draws sunny flowers, fantastic animals from tales, gives people joy and wishes everybody good and agreement is a talented Ukrainian master – Maria Pryimachenko. Her peculiar creations are filled with the breathing of her motherland, warmed with love, wisdom and kindness of folk poetry.

While working with this case-lesson you will be able to “touch” the mysteries of art masterpieces’ creation, gain important knowledge in school subjects and acquire numerous of useful competences.

The ability to understand art, ability to learn, positive thinking, emotionality, creativity, independence of thinking, savvy, the ability to listen and hear, the nurture of taste, the existence of a hobby, team work – these competences in particular this case teaches.


Although she didn’t have the artistic education, her pictures were successfully exposed all around the world. She didn’t own any artistic technique, but created the true masterpieces. Pryimachenko’s pictures cannot be messed up with others, because they are brilliant and have a unique artistic style. The master’s paintings radiate heat; they glow with rich variety of colors, charm with fantastic images and amaze with unusual compositional solutions. It is said that Pablo Picasso himself had admired the paintings of the artist. What do you know about the life and work of this talented Ukrainian?

Everyone who takes even a slight interest in the art of their country knows the name and paintings of the genius Ukrainian artist – Maria Pryimachenko. She is the representative of so-called naïve art. Maria Pryimachenko had created a huge number of spectacular paintings, not similar to anything and shocking with their themes and colors.

Mari was born on December 31, 1908 in a village Bolotnia, Ivankiv district of Kyiv region, Ukraine, where she spent most of her days. The master’s parents were also artistic people. Maria’s father, Oksentiy Hryhorovych, was a virtuoso carpenter and was making yard fences. And her mother – Paraska Vasylyivna, was acknowledged as a master of embroidery. She passed this gift to her daughter. Maria Pryimachenko all her life was wearing shirts she sewed herself and decorated with embroidery.


Maria Pryimachenko’s talent for painting exposed itself unexpectedly. Her first pictures the future painter depicted on sand and at the age of 17 she painted the house with blue clay. After that she started developing her first clients. Maria painted houses, ovens and stoves with charming flowers and exotic animals.

The girl was suffering from poliomyelitis since birth and later she developed the incurable paralysis of her leg. Her life was extremely difficult and only with the strong will, unbreakable spirit and great desire to create, she continued to draw and feel like a full family breadwinner. Perhaps drawing was some kind of art therapy for Maria, because in each of her paintings there are pain and joy, light and darkness.


Maria Pryimachenko was unpretentious to life. All her life she lived in a simple rural house under a thatched roof. The artist even refused to use wallpapers because she wanted everything to remain the same as it was before. Although she had a sick leg she still had a fairly large farm. She was keeping pigs, chickens, geese and even a horse.

Maria Pryimachenko is among the most famous Ukrainian artists of the twentieth century. During the life she was awarded the title of Honored Artist and in 1966 she became the laureate of the National Prize of Taras Shevchenko. Her works are stored in private collections and museums of the world.

In the last years of her life Pryimachenko, while being bedridden, continued to paint. The artist died on 89th year of her life in 1997 and was buried in her native village Bolotnia near Kyiv.

In 2009 the genius Ukrainian artist could reach the age of 100, and by UNESCO this year was declared the year of Maria Pryimachenko, one of the few artists who have received international recognition.


Maria Pryimachenko had created her own world – fairy and fantastic. Images, created by the master, are a unique artistic and cultural phenomenon. Her fabled images have combined the traditions of folk art and personal talent of the artist.


In Maria Pryimachenko’s works lyricism and simplicity hide some philosophical quests of the artist, surreal motifs. Ahead of the time, she had created her own reality and this reality is amazing, unfathomable and unprecedented.

In bizarre drawings of the artist pagan beliefs are crossed with ancient legends, Ukrainian folklore and children's drawing. But all of these things are harmonically intertwined and internally organized. In Pryimachenko’s paintings we can feel a kind of mastery that has successfully combined bright and deep colors, rhythm, emotion and inspiration.

Animals, depicted on the artist’s paintings, are unusual and fantastic. These animals do not exist – they are the work of genius imagination of the master. But all these eccentric and bizarre beasts are imbued with kindness and naivety, which represent the struggle between the good and the evil. Indeed, if you look closely, they all have kind and innocent gazes.


Interestingly, Maria had never visited the zoo and created her exotic monkeys and crocodiles when she saw them on TV. Perhaps that’s why all the animals on the pictures are so weird and unique.


Some thought of Maria Pryimachenko as a weirdo. She was drawing whimsical animals, amazing flowers day and night. It was her inner calling and self-expression. It was her fiction world and Maria Pryimachenko had been keeping this amazing and childish naivety for the rest of her life. Perhaps her paintings and creativity helped her live despite the serious illness.


In their paintings artists of different nations at all times reflected the world as they saw it. In those pictures they tried to convey their feelings, emotions, colors, shades and play of shadows, as they understood it. They created new painting styles and techniques.

Although the fine art can be divided into several categories, they will fail to show the whole picture and create the right impression.

Today the fine art is represented by such categories as:


In what painting style are the pictures of Maria Pryimachenko performed? Hey paintings hardly fit in any of these categories. The artist’s works have a lot in common with folk art, but the system of drawing is individual and unique. Pryimachenko was using a very special principle of decorative generalization of real forms. That is why this seeming simplicity of images so aptly conveys the richness and depth of the content.


Maria Pryimachenko didn’t stick to any particular style. She had created her own unique artistic and recognizable style, so-called “primitive art”. Art critics put distinctive creativity of Pryimachenko on a par with world-renowned primitives like Henri Rousseau and Niko Pirosmani. But in the paintings of the talented artist there is not only primitive naive art, but also folk surrealism, expressionism and symbolism.

The names of the paintings themselves demonstrate the folk-poetic basis of Pryimachenko’s art work. Her drawings are not just illustrations for folk tales and songs but free variations of their themes which intertwine with thoughts, mood and emotions of the artist.


Although the paintings of Maria have a lot in common with folk art, at the same time her imagery system is individual and totally unique. Her works have no professional tricks. For her paintings Pryimachenko was even using materials uncharacteristic for our time. She was drawing on a simple whatman paper, using columns brushes, gouache or watercolor. Why did she prefer such a simple paint? Because she was certain that these paints particularly produced lush, tight expressive stain with a clear silhouette. Firstly the artist was drawing with a pencil, outlining the contours, and then deftly applied color.

But the most important, perhaps, is the nature of the artist's talent. She had a very special principle of decorative generalization of real forms. Maybe this is why so seemingly simple images in Pryimachenko’s paintings turn into the richness and depth of content.


Bouquets in the talented artist’s paintings are not just ornaments but a kind of generalized image of flowers that expresses a mood of feelings. Her floral arrangements radiate kindness, smiles, and good memories.

There are not only fairy paintings among her works, but also symbolic and allegorical. In such paintings as “The Threat of War” or “there is enough milk but they still encroach tn someone else’s” Pryimachenko had managed to convey the image of human misery and vices.

In her works Pryimachenko skillfully and subtly conveys color, for which she uses a very interesting compositional technique. A picture is divided into frames that follow one another, creating a spatial effect. She subconsciously conveys a deep sense of rhythm, color, plastics of lines and harmony.


Pryimachenko was taking visions for her pictures from her home Polissya nature. A school of folk art and many centuries’ culture of the nation can be felt in her pictures.


It was represented by the majority of the most talented artist’s of the 20th century paintings. Bright flowers, fantastic birds, extraordinary animals similar to fairy monsters, and many other artist’s works fascinate sight and don’t leave indifferent neither adults nor children.


Let’s watch the video material of “The wonderful world of Maria Pryimachenko’s paintings”:

At this exhibition you can explore Maria’s talent and look into sincere, childishly pure and naive world of the artist.


At first glance, all Maria’s pictures are childishly naive but performed unexpectedly brilliantly.

Charlun transports kochubyrky across the river

Fantastic “animal series” of Maria Pryimachenko has no analogues in Ukrainian and world’s art.


Exhibitions of works of the talented Ukrainian artists were held in many countries. In Warsaw, Paris, Kyiv, Prague, Sofia, Montreal such famous pictures as “Black beast”, “Blue Lion”, “Beast in the golden boots”, “Dog in the cap”, “Mermaids dance”, “Golden berries” were presented.

M. Pryimachenko’s works have gained great success t the World Exhibition in Paris.

The artist was even awarded a gold medal there.

Besides drawing Maria Pryimachenko was fond of painting and embroidery. At the exhibition painted decorative plates and embroidery work “Chapai” can be seen.


Following the motives of the fantastic characters of Pryimachenko’s paintings, sculptor Oleksii Shevchuk has created his sculptural version:


Oleksii Shevchuk has brought a special meaning into the exposition. He allegedly animated some characters of fantastic animals from Pryimachenko’s paintings. Wisent, lion, cow, tortoise and other animals by talented sculptor are made of hay. All these amazing animals look like they’ve descended from paintings of Maria Oksentiyivna and they are perceived as a 3D-format.


Oleksii Shevchuk has approached his hay work rather philosophically because this natural material is as “naive”, as the artist’s style.

During her life M. Pryimachenko had created about 5000 works. Many of them are kept in the national institutions. The largest collection is presented at the Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art. You can familiarize yourself with some of her works in art museum in Zaporizhia, the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Everyday Life.


The talent of Maria Oksentiivna Pryimachenko is multifaceted. Not only is she a unique and beautiful artist, but also a talented poet. For each of her paintings Maria had invented rhymed names.

“Years of My Youth, Come Visit Me”

Pryimachenko realizes herself as a poet in her proverb signatures to the pictures.

• “Three storks are still living in peas here...”;

• “Partridges are dancing and plowing bread”;,

• “Puppy Ada doesn’t fear the cerastes”;

• “The raven had two wives – and hugged them both”;

• “Spring horns – cheerful birdies” and etc.

“A horse in sadness”

Since the animals in the paintings of the artist are not quite ordinary but strange and bizarre, some of them can be identified only through poetic names of the paintings.

“Wild Otter Caught Bird”

Sometimes Maria even wrote little poems-bywords for her works and gave names to the animals, which had first appeared in her imagination and then – in the paintings.

“A billion years have passed and there were no such monkeys”

The artist created these short poems-bywords for her paintings and presented them on her personal exhibition.

• Cunning fox tells the bear: “Eat corn – you’ll put on weight”, and takes a chicken for herself and drinks honey – they are power. • Piet says: “Chip-chip-chip! Oh, where will we sleep?” — On the oven. — What will we drink? — Vodka because we came for a girl. • Grouses are worrying: “The winter is coming, and we have no shelter.” Bunny replies: “I’m not afraid of winter; I’ll hide in the snow”. Happy New Year, happy new spring, new happiness to all people of Earth”.

These poetic and independent writings include rhymes, irony, subtle humor and sharpness.

• “This beast yawns and doesn’t have friendship AT ALL”; • “Cobra when gets tired – will reach the sky, but to reach the sun – we need five cobras”. • My house is waiting for a soldier, ‘have already finished the laundry, ‘have already finished the weaving and sewed, people, what have worn”. • Ukrainian goat all carrots devoured”.

Every now and then Pryimachenko made up short stories for her paintings and gladly shared them:

• “And I’m grazing geese. And suddenly I hear: “chichirk” – it’s the crocodile “chichirking” with a piet. I look up – the willow has bended, and onto the willow – the crocodile. And next to the crocodile – the monkey, wife of his. He – into the mink, she – on the willow. That is, when you marry a beast – they have theirs and you have yours.” • The horny ram has lost its way, so it ran into the garden where girls were cutting flowers and weaving wreaths, putting them on water – at Midsummer telling fortunes on their fiancés.”

Illustrations for children's books reveal another side of the talent of the folk artist. They conquer with their proximity to childish imagination, joyful directness and organic combination of words and images.

M. Stelmakh had offered Maria Oksentiyivna to create illustrations for his books, which were written for kids: “Grey little horses”, “Stork taking a shower”, “You reap what you sow”.


But later a book of bywords called “Woman pounding poppy seeds” by Maria Pryimachenko was published, which she wrote and illustrated herself.


All of the artist’s illustrated books have been translated into English, French and German and had great success. And one of them even awarded a diploma of the 1st degree.

Maria Pryimachenko was quite an ignorant person. Because of the severe illness she had studied at school for only four years. In the captions to her pictures and in bywords she almost didn’t apply any punctuation and used folk dialect.

And another dream of Maria Oksentiyivna was to gather up artists and paint houses in cities: “... what miracles could we produce – not only Kyiv gardens would blossom. Houses would laugh to people…”


Apart from painting, weaving and pottery Maria Pryimachenko was also tailoring for the whole village to earn money. Her method of sewing the original wedding dresses was rather interesting: she didn’t use scissors, just tore the fabric and selected the style and cut “by eye”.

The art of Maria Pryimachenko has found its application in the design dressing by Olesya Telizhenko. She produces collections based on Pryimachenko’s works, with Scythian ornaments.


In the 2006 collection “My kind beast”, some outfits were made based on Maria Pryimachenko’s art work.


A stage costume of Nina Matvienko was presented from this collection.

Maria Pryimachenko’s works are highly valued abroad and not only as exhibition material, but their reproductions are used in residential interiors.

Lesson summary:


The contents


The results of the case-lesson can be complemented with findings of students



What three websites helped find important information?



To help student and couch:



Where can you get information for the case?


Location of the lesson:

The case-lesson takes place in the classroom. It is possible to conduct the lesson at museum or library.



Teams of boys and girls.

The score of the competition between teams was:….

Tasks for them:

  1.      Attend the museum that presents the exhibition of Maria Pryimachenko’s works. Conduct a lesson, dedicated to discussion of the master’s artwork.
  2.      Write an essay on the topic: “What do make M. Pryimachenko’s paintings unique?”



  1.      Tell about life and artistic paths of M. Pryimachenko.
  2.      Characterize the artist’s painting style. 
  3.      What, else except for painting, was the artist doing?
  4.      Do you believe that this artistic style is unique? Give your reasoning.
  5.      Where in the real life M. Pryimachenko’s style can be used?



90 min (double lesson)



The possibility to conduct the lesson with a student-understudy:



The acquired knowledge and developed competence:

  •   Familiarize students with the art, life and artistic path of the talented Ukrainian painter – Maria Pryimachenko..
  •   Knowledge about the meaning of personality in historical processes.
  •   Ability to find the information on the topic quickly.
  •   Gaining practical skills and ability to apply the acquired information.
  •   Acquiring concrete knowledge in philosophy, literature, technology and other branches (given in the scans).




Maria Pryimachenko, Ukrainian artist, master, primitive style, fairy animals, extraordinary flowers, folk art, folk surrealism, bywords



PautynkaSvitlana Anatoliivna


Participated in the case upgrading:


The End

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