Sonia Lewitska was born on March 3, 1874 in Vilhovtsy in Zhytomyr region. Quite late becoming interested in drawing, from 1894 she undergoes a year’s training at the private art school of Kazanovskys in Zhytomyr. Marriage with a doctor Justyn Manilovsky was unsuccessful. Not having known family happiness, the young woman with a little daughter Olga in her arms moved to Kiev, plunging into the creative atmosphere of the city, and then in 1905 – to Paris!

Many Ukrainian artists gained experience in foreign lands. In Sonia’s case, her fate was closely intertwined with the French cultural world. After much hesitation, her parents sent her to Paris in 1905, where Sonia Lewitska graduated from the Paris Academy of Arts. Her successes in her studies were so significant that after a year she was allowed to make copies of paintings in the Louvre. During this period, Sonia became fascinated by the works of Delacroix, Fragonard and Puvis de Chavannes.

Parisian Influence and Personal Style

Studying at the Paris Academy of Arts is the first step of Parisian life and probably the decisive one on the way to the artist’s creative success. Her life on the bohemian Montparnasse takes place in the atmosphere of creative search of young people who rebel against the dogmatism of conservatives and traditionalists, proclaim and create a new modernized aesthetics of art of the twentieth century. The main means of expression is color.

Amidst the search for new means of expression and the formation of new modernist currents and trends, accompanied by loud polemics and scandals, the artist from Ukraine manages to avoid influences and inheritance of styles and find her own, original one, surprising the refined French critics with a very personal, almost instinctive view of things, delicacy of creative writing, a rare sense of artistic taste and a subtle understanding of the nature of the world. She participates in exhibitions, her works are immediately marked by close attention.

Soon Sonia Lewitska becomes a member of the committee of the Autumn Salon, which is a great achievement for a stranger in Paris, recognition of his great talent. At the first exhibition of cubists in the Autumn Salon in 1911, Sonia Lewitska’s works are highly praised by Guillaume Apollinaire himself, at the second assembled exhibition of cubists in 1912, her paintings were presented next to the works of Alexander Arkhipenko. With very positive reviews passes the first individual exhibition of the artist in the gallery B. Weigl in 1913.

The joys and hardships of Parisian life Sonia now shares with a new companion artist Jean Marchand. Their modest family home on the rue Colencourt becomes a kind of creative salon, where every Thursday gathers many Parisian celebrities. With a meager income from creative labor, the hostess tries to welcome her guests with true Ukrainian generosity.

Later Life and Legacy

In the 20-ies every summer Levitskaya traveled to the south of France, where she painted Provençal landscapes and portraits. Along with painting a lot of attention devoted to graphics. Sonia Lewitska’s original graphic art nouveau in France was closely connected with the traditions of Ukrainian folk art.

1921 opened another facet of Sonia Lewitska’s talent: together with the poet Roger Allard, she translated into French “Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka” and illustrated with inexhaustible imagination and sparkling humor immortal work by Nikolai Gogol. She was a versatile artist, drawing portraits (they guaranteed her some earnings), landscapes, decorative projects for fabrics and carpets, layouts for Lyon silk factories. Her favorite colors were green, ochre and blue. But she achieved a special skill in wood engraving, as evidenced by the Gogol cycle, as well as illustrations for “The History of St. Louis” by Jean de Joinville, which with their perfection and filigree execution, refined style reminiscent of ancient engravings.

Critics noted the artist’s innate gift for elegant stylization, which was particularly original in the design of Paul Valéry’s poem “Le Serpan”. A brilliant bibliophile edition of only 250 copies saw the light of day in 1925 and delighted connoisseurs and the author himself: “We can not imagine anything more consonant with the work, nothing can not more discretely emphasize its idea, as these decorative thoughts – so arbitrary and at the same time so accurate. I bow my head before the exceptional talent of Mrs. Sonia Lewitska.” And in a letter to Emile Verharn, Valéry wrote about her: “I am happy that I had the opportunity to meet a person of the highest quality.”

The exceptional talent of Sonia Lewitska confirmed also with illustrations for the deluxe edition of “Le Jardinet” Godefroy de Lusha, to the “Almana de Cockaigne”, the design of the “Revue Musicale”, “Trésor de la bibliothèque”, posters for the Autumn Salon.

In 1932, Sonia Lewitska’s works were exhibited at exhibitions of Ukrainian graphics in Berlin and Prague, as well as at an exhibition of contemporary graphics in Lviv, Ukraine. These were the last glimmers of the lifetime triumph of the great artist’s talent: the incurable disease began its destructive irreversible path… In the early 1930s, she showed the first signs of mental illness. Sonia still fights, does not succumb to fate, still draws. But the colors in the paintings are getting darker and darker, the images are getting sadder, and there is not enough strength to complete what she has planned.

In 1938 the Association of Sonia Lewitska’s friends organized posthumous exhibitions of her works in the gallery of A.Sambon. Here is one of the many responses of the Parisian press to these events: “S.Lewitska died in Paris in 1937. This is a vulnerable artist, full of imagination, a powerful and gentle talent who managed to leave her own personality in France“ (Madeleine Daillot).”

Her name has forever entered the history of French graphic art of the XX century. There are almost no works of the artist in Ukrainian museums and private collections, only single works by Sonia Lewitska are preserved in France. Sonia Lewitska’s works are represented in the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, Vienna Albertina and other museums. There are not many printed materials, studies and memoirs about her, except for references in the contemporary French press.

Sonia Lewitska “Flowers” in Malab’Art Gallery

This watercolor piece captures an intimate interior scene, dominated by a vibrant bouquet of flowers in a vase. This incredible piece, “Flowers,” is housed in the Malabart Gallery in London, where it continues to enchant and inspire viewers with its delicate beauty and emotional depth.

Composition and Color

The composition is balanced and thoughtfully arranged, with the flowers as the central focal point. Lewitska’s use of watercolor creates a soft, almost ethereal quality, allowing the colors to blend seamlessly. The flowers are depicted in bold hues of red, orange, and white, standing out against a more muted background. This contrast draws the viewer’s eye immediately to the floral arrangement.

Technique and Style

Lewitska employs a loose, almost impressionistic technique in this painting. The brushstrokes are fluid and suggestive rather than detailed, giving the piece a dreamlike, abstract quality. The background elements, including the figure and the furniture, are hinted at rather than explicitly defined, adding to the painting’s sense of intimacy and immediacy.

Mood and Atmosphere

The overall mood of the painting is serene and contemplative. The soft blending of colors and the gentle depiction of light contribute to a warm, inviting atmosphere. This piece exemplifies Lewitska’s ability to convey emotion and atmosphere through subtle details and a masterful command of color and form.

Context and Significance

Sonya Lewitska was a notable artist of the early 20th century, and her work often reflects the influence of the Fauvist movement, characterized by bold colors and a strong sense of composition. “Flowers” is a testament to her skill in capturing the beauty of everyday life through her unique artistic lens.

Sonya Lewitska’s painting “Flowers” is a stunning example of her delicate and expressive style.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here