Taras Shevchenko opened a new epoch in the development of the Ukrainian literature and in the social and cultural life of the whole Ukrainian people. A brilliant people’s poet and artist Shevchenko became a true innovator and lifted Ukrainian literature onto the broad highway of realism. His very first book «Kobzar», a collection of poems (1840), and the poem «Haidamaky» (1841) were of great significance. He also wrote dramatic works («Nikita Gaidai*), novels in Russian.
Taras Shevchenko was born into a serf’s family on March 9, 1814. He lost his mother at the age of nine. There were five children in his family. Though his father was a shepherd he could read and write and it was possible for him to teach his children. Taras’s childhood was very hard. At home there were always quarrels, fights between the children and also between his father and his stepmother.
In his story «Princess» he wrote about his awful life in his childhood, about his quarrels with the stepmother’s son Stepan, about Stepan beating him.
When Taras was 11 his father died. His stepmother made him a shepherd. Then the boy was taken by his uncle (his father’s brother) into his family. And he began working for him. But it was very difficult for him to live in his family too. He took a decision to leave him and fled in terror. For a long time he could not adjust to life.
Starvation became a real possibility for him. But the boy had a talent for drawing. And his lifetime dream was drawing. He painted everywhere and always. He drew with chalk and a piece of coal. He drew on the walls, gates and doors. And soon Pavel Engelhard, a young gentleman, helped Taras to find a job as a pupil-painter. The master of this art studio was Ivan Rustam in the town of Vilno in Poland. Here he became acquainted with Russian and Polish culture. In Vilno Taras learned to speak Polish. He used to meet many famous people. One of them was Adam Mitskevich.
Taras began taking lessons of drawing from later fa¬mous painter Vasil Shyriaiev. It was he who made Taras a real painter.
Soon several artists took notice of him. They collected the money necessary to buy his freedom. Due to the efforts of these painters Shevchenko was even admitted to the Petersburg Academy of Arts. He used to study under Bryullov who considered him to be his favourite student. However Shevchenko took his
Town line in art. Aserf himself he was closely connected with thе enslaved people, with their thoughts and aspirations.
He devoted his talent and his art to the struggle for thf liberation of the working people. A deep understanding oi Ukraine enabled him to create pictures of acute social conflict. In 1839 he was awarded a silver medal fox his pictures.
In 1842Taras Shevchenko painted the picture «Katherine». Just as in the poem, in the picture Shevchenko expressed his own strong protest against the tragic conditions of the seTf woman of that time.
He was famous for his illustrations to books by Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov and Shakespeare.
Shevchenko was not only an artist, hut first he was a great poet. His literary activity began to he lively since 1838. From this time he began writing more and more.
Taras Shevchenko wrote very many poems, some of which became songs.
He had many famous friends in St. Petersburg at that time. Here he got acquainted with Yershov — the author of the well-known story “Koniok-Gorbunok”, V. Dal — the author of the defining dictionary, Benediktov — the poet-ro-manist, Venetsianov — the painter.
He wrote poems about brave men that fought for freedom. In his poems he called upon the people to rise up and fight against their oppressors. His «Kobzar» (1840) became the book most read by common people.
In 1847 Shevchenko was arrested because of his verses being written against tsar autocracy. Nicholas I sentenced him to enforced military service. He was sent to Kazakhstan for ten long years. The tsar forbade him writing and painting. But he continued to write many works in secret.
Taras Shevchenko wrote and painted much and his fame grew. However, his health was greatly undermined due to the conditions of his life, which was full of hardships, and he died in 1861.