The Artist Who Sailed With Saints

Nikifor, “Railway Station in Nowy Sacz”

On the second floor of the Ukrainian Museum in the East Village, visitors are transported to the distinctive landscape of the Carpathian Mountains through more than 100 watercolors and sketches by the self-taught artist Nikifor (1895–1968). Born with a speech impediment that made him unintelligible to many people, Nikifor turned to drawing as a means of communication. He almost obsessively depicted the world around him, creating anywhere from a dozen to 100 sketches and paintings a day. Orphaned and born into poverty, he would sketch on whatever paper he could find: discarded packaging, old posterboard, used administrative forms, and other scrap paper. To call him prolific is an understatement: he produced an estimated 30,000 works in his lifetime. The pieces on view at the Ukrainian Museum represent just a tiny fraction of Nikifor’s output, but with The Ultimate Outsider curator Myroslava Mudrak has grouped them into five sections that provide a compelling introduction to the artist, who is largely unknown in the United States despite being one of Central Europe’s most famous outsider artists.

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