Palesse Giant

Palesse Giant

The National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus Main building

On December 21, 2023 at 18.00 at the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus (Lenin St., 20, the gallery) the grand opening of an exhibition of paintings by the People's Artist of Belarus Gauryil Vashchanka (1928–2014) titled “Palesse Giant”, dedicated to the 95th anniversary of the artist’s birth, will take place.

The exhibition will feature about 60 paintings from the collection of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus and the artist's family.


2023 is the year of the 95th anniversary of the birth of Gauryil Vashchanka – an outstanding personality of Belarusian fine art. The beginning of the year was marked by the opening of an exhibition, “The Dynasty”, at the Republican Art Gallery “The Palace of Arts”. It presented Gauryil Vashchanka’s iconic works from the funds of the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus, the National Centre for Contemporary Arts of the Republic of Belarus, the collection of the artist’s family, as well as his son Kanstantsin Vashchanka’s and granddaughter Angelina Vashchanka’s works. The “KRYLY” (WINGS) project was held in March at the Polatck Art Gallery (a branch of the Polatsk National Museum-Reserve of History and Culture), presenting paintings and graphic works from the collection of the artist’s family. On the master’s birthday, June 20, an exhibition of his works was opened in the Gomel Art Gallery dedicated to the artist.

The exhibition project “Palesse Giant” in the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus is an excellent final chord of the maestro’s anniversary year. The project’s curators faced an interesting task, as making a retrospective exhibition is both difficult and simple. There is always the risk of being too rigidly straightforward in reading a certain theme... However, Gauryil Vashchanka’s rich and multifaceted creative heritage almost makes it possible to avoid such pitfalls. The project “Palesse Giant” focuses on showcasing the paintings from the museum’s collection. 

Palesse is not just the embodiment of “small motherland” for Gauryil Vashchanka, People’s Artist of Belarus. In the context of this exhibition, one’s native land is considered not only as the place where a person spent their childhood. Palesse emerges as is a mighty hymn to man and nature in the works of the artist, who spoke about this special place with warmth and sincere admiration. He was convinced that “every true creator embodies his motherland”. Vashchanka can be considered one of the first in Belarusian fine art who explored the land of Palesse with its authenticity rooted in centuries past. His epic and at the same time poignantly lyrical landscapes of various years are comparable to monumental wall paintings and tapestries. The works on display vividly showcase Gauryil Vashchanka’s signature painting style, which unites the traditions of Belarusian icon painting and fresco painting with contemporary monumental art, the founder and pioneer of which Vashchanka is considered to be. 

Gauryil Vashchanka was a giant of the arts. He lived and thought in large-scale terms, and he felt the pulsating nerve of existence itself... His best works (be it a genre painting, a portrait, a landscape, a still life) embodied an entire epoch with its search for ideals as well as painful disappointments, complex social changes and human tragedies. When he turned to the problems of his time and to issues which concerned him personally (the tragedy of the Great Patriotic War, the Chernobyl disaster, mythological and Christian themes, etc.), Gauryil Vashchanka avoided any direct readings, artificial scenes and excessive narratives. The master always embodied this through allegorical, somewhat even mythological images, which are based on philosophical meanings, analytical perception of reality, aimed at the creation of a generalised, symbolic painting.

“Recognition provides only one advantage: it prohibits you from working worse than you can. And on the contrary: it forces you to work better than you can”, – this is what the maestro said... and every time he proved it to the world, but, above all, to himself...

The exhibition will run until February 4, 2024.

Exhibition curators: Sviatlana Kot, head of the Department of Belarusian Art of the 20th–21st century, Natallia Sialitskaya, leading researcher at the Department of Belarusian Art of the 20th–21st century.