Kyriak Kostandi
«100 years later. Kyriak Kostandi»
October 1 – January 10

Kyriak Kostandi, Greek by nationality, is a tireless worker, a caring family man, a father, a devoted friend, and a wise teacher. He worked hard to support a large family – he gave private lessons and taught at art school and women’s gymnasiums. The active public activity of the chairman of the Society of Southern Russian Artists (TPRH), membership in the Literary and Artistic Society, and participation in the exhibitions of the «Wanderers» and «Southern Russians» took a lot of time, and very little was left for personal creativity. But he managed to create and create, for which he gained respect among critics and colleagues.

Kyriak Kostandi

A God-given teacher. He taught his students to accept a thorough understanding of art in a quiet voice, calm manners, patience, gentleness, and expertise. When he entered the classroom, everyone fell silent, catching every word, look, remark or instruction. The reason for this is not the severity but the authority that Kostandi had among the students. The best moment in their studies, they considered breaks, when they could listen to the teacher!

Many monographs have been written about the artist’s work: the first steps were made in the press in 1910 by Oleksandr De Ribas, a renowned historian of Odesa, and Kostandi’s pupils Peter Nilus, Tatiana Edwards (wrote under the pseudonym TED), and Symeon Volodchenko, while the city widely celebrated the 25th anniversary of Kyriak Kostandi’s artistic and pedagogical activity.

Kyriak Kostandi was born on October 3rd, 1852. His parents were Greek Konstantin Santurynskyi and his lawful wife Fotina Pavlovna – both of the Orthodox faith. According to the decree of the Kherson Spiritual Consistory of 1902, changes were made on January 11th, 1909: the surname Santurynskyi was crossed out and changed to Kostandi.

According to the Greek canons, names in families alternate through generations according to a specific rule. The first son is named after the grandfather on the father’s side, the second – after the grandfather on the mother’s side, and the third – after the grandfather’s brother on the father’s side. While the eldest daughter is named after the grandmother on the father’s side, the second is after the grandmother on the mother’s side, and the third is after the grandmother’s sister on the mother’s side. And then the names alternate with divergent generations. Interestingly, the names Cyril, Kyriak, Cyrus, Kiratsa (Kyriaka) come from the Greek κύριε – Mr., Mrs.

However, at the Odesa Art School and later at the Imperial Academy of Arts, Kyriak was called Cyril Kostandi. The Slavic name Cyril changed to the Greek Kyriak in December 1881. Kostandi took Russian citizenship — most likely only because it was required by the instructions of the Imperial Academy of Arts to obtain documents on its completion.

Kostandi graduated from Odesa Art School, receiving the medal for his apprenticeship in 1873. In 1874 he was awarded a silver medal for a drawing from the statue of Venus Medici and sent to the Imperial Academy of Arts competition. While studying at the academy, the talented student received several medals: February 28, 1876 two Second Small Encouragement for drawing and sketching; May 5, 1879 – The first large silver for drawing, May 16, 1881 – The first large silver for artistic works in full-size and painting class. In 1884 he made his debut at the 12th exhibition of the Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions with the painting «Sick Friend» Kostandi was elected a full member of the «The Wanderers» in 1897.

In 1887, Kostandi traveled to Europe with artists Mykola Kuznetsov and his younger brother Dmytro. To do this, Kostandi requested to grant him a vacation from March 27, 1887, until the end of the holidays. After that, there were two more trips abroad: the second – in 1894, and 1900 – the third and last one, to the World’s Fair in Paris, where Kostandi’s work «Early Spring» was honored with a bronze medal.

The very first trip to Europe with the Kuznetsovs was fateful. First, it brought artists together creatively, and secondly, it brought them together. After returning to Odesa on February 5, 1888, a wedding ceremony of a nobleman Mykola Kuznetsov and the daughter of retired non-commissioned officer Anna Protsenko. The guarantor of the bride was the artist Kyriak Kostandi.

Kyriak Kostandi got married at the age of 36 to Yefrosynia Kniazieva. Their daughter Lyubov:«My mother was born in 1865, shortly after her father’s death. He was a merchant of the third guild. It seems that they traded in Romanov’s fur coats and lived in Peresyp in their own house. My mother drew when she was young but did not study. Yes, in itself, and it was before the children. I did not see her drawings, but there was a sketch of my father – where my mother draws in the Kuznetsov estate. But it wasn’t serious. Before the children appeared, my mother went to the estate of the Kuznetsov’s, with whom my father maintained friendly relations before his marriage and even went abroad with them»

In the twentieth century, Kostandi was already a well-known artist and educator who enjoyed the family idyll. A sizable, friendly family lived in Navrotsky’s house, № 46 on Kherson Street, and spent every summer at the dacha on the Great Fountain. At first, the cottage was rented, and then Kostandi bought the site from Zusman. The dacha became not only a joy for the artist but also a place for social meetings.

And in 1907, the Imperial Academy of Arts appreciated the merits of Kyriak Kostandi, and by a resolution of October 29, 1907, recognized and honored Kyriak Kostandi as an Academician for his fame in the field of art.

February 8, 1910, marked the 25th anniversary of the artistic and pedagogical activities of Kyriak Kostandi; the celebration took place on February 7 and was widely celebrated by the public. The holiday was so solemn that it was transcribed by city press correspondents – first in the building of the Art School, then in the restaurant «Dodi» in the St. Petersburg Hotel opposite the City Theater. Reading 110-year-old newspapers, you wonder how much love and respect Kyriak Kostandi was surrounded by. The sincere and enthusiastic lines of the report emphasize the greatness of the artist’s personality.

After the suicide on July 30 (August 11) 1915 of the first curator of the museum Volodymyr Kurovsky, on August 11, 1915, at a meeting of the OTKM Council, in the presence of M. Braikevich, K. Kostandi, O. Popov, A. Todorov, I. Khoyn the question of choosing the curator of the City Museum of Fine Arts was raised. The meeting began by honoring the memory of Kurovsky, then unanimously elected the curator of the museum K. Kostandi notified the Odesa City Council and thanked the artist Dvornikov for substituting as a curator.

The city council did not approve Kyriak Kostandi and appointed Volodymyr Kurochkin, a graphic arts teacher, to this position, which was firmly disagreed with. The conflict lasted for two years until, in March 1917, OTKM Vice President Mykhailo Braikevych was elected mayor, who immediately resolved the issue. On March 23, 1917, 65-year-old artist and educator Kyriak Kostandi accepted a new challenge – taking on the curator duties of the City Museum of Fine Arts.

In addition to creative and pedagogical activities, Kostandi taught art at the Higher School of Art, von Hirsch-Brahm Gymnasium, and photography courses of Mikhail Muchkin, and he got yet another responsibility – managing the museum. He began his work in this position by changing the exposition. Still, apart from that, it also included the reception of new exhibits, the organization of exhibitions, all kinds of correspondence, compiling annual reports on the museum’s activities, a vast administrative and economic burden, although in 1918, the staff of the City Museum of Fine Arts consisted of only three people: the curator of the Museum Kyriak Kostandi, the doorman Ivan Nemirovsky and the servant Mikhail Melnitsky.

In 1920, Kyriak Kostandi received a letter stating that his middle son, Andrii, had died of typhus. The news was a great shock to a loving father. The death of his son crippled Kyriak Kostandi, he became weak, and then doctors diagnosed him with heart disease and recommended leaving all business and rest at the dacha. However, Kostandi’s heart failed him, and he died on August 31 (October 18), 1921.

In Kostandi’s obituary, written on November 3, 1921, Oleksandr Kipen writes: “Throughout his life, he was poor, never had a comfortable workshop, and was always full of depressing worries about the needs of his large family. I remember that deep sadness with which he informed me of the death of his beloved son, a wonderful young man who had died far from home, at the front of typhus. And then I saw a 68-year-old man on the street, exhausted under the two-pood weight of academic rations received on four cards for the whole family. In the last year of his life, he had to freeze in winter because the Great Fountain Executive Committee did not allow him to take out of his dacha a few trees he had cut down….»

n 1972, in the pages of the newspaper «Komsomolskaya Iskra» Yevhen Holubovsky and Serhiy Lushchyk in the article «Enchanted by the Odesa sun» described Kostandi’s legacy for Odesa: «Kostandi. Today it is the name of the street on the Big Fountain. But most importantly – the color of Odesa, the charm of its lilac, sun, and gardens, the appeal of its elusive spirit. The paintings of Odesa begin with Kostandi. The paintings depicting Odesa continue — and there is not a single artist in whom Kostandi’s sprout has died»

Author of the text: Oleksandr Dmitrenko

Portrait of Kyriak Kostandi
1910. Photo of A. Gornstein. OAM Archive (the Odesa Fine Arts Museum)

Photo of Kyriak and Euphrosyne Kostandi

Members of the Marazli Club bought a photo of Kyriak and Euphrosyne Kostandi on the Violity website and donated it to the museum’s archives. The photo was given to Oleksandr Roytburd.

Now, thanks to the Marazli Club, everyone can see the original photo at the exhibition 100 years later. Kyriak Kostandi at the Odesa Fine Arts Museum.

You can also join the Marazli Club and help the Odesa Fine Arts Museum.