Serhii Kolos was born on October 8, 1888 to a family of the St. Petersburg Land Bank servant. He received secondary education at the Sea Cadet Corps but did not join the Navy. In 1910 Kolos moved to the Galician Ukraine, where he enrolled in the Philosophy Department at Lviv University. Under the influence of Ivan Franko, whom he knew personally, Kolos grew fond of culture and life of Hutsul region, went on a trip to the Carpathians to collect folklore and make drawings of unique costumes of the locals. This, in fact, influenced Kolos’ decision to become an artist.
Kolos went to Europe and began his studies at the Institute of Fine Arts in Naples, later in the period between 1912 and 1914 he studied painting and drawing at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. After receiving profound art education in the studio of Professor Anton Azbe, where experimenters of avant-garde art Wassily Kandinsky and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin studied at one point, Kolos returned to Ukraine in 1914.
During the World War I he somewhat lost his artistic skills. Later he engaged in political and statehood activities – in 1917 Kolos was elected a member of the Presidium of the Ukrainian National Congress and, thus, a member of the Central Council.
In 1918 at the age of 30 he became a student again – this time at the Ukrainian Academy of Art. First he studied at the studio of Vasyl Krychevsky and then at the studio of Mykhailo Boichuk. Kolos participated in the collective creation of murals for caserns of Lutsk regiment, decoration of the building of the Kyiv Opera for the First Congress of Soviets, illustrated the book Ukrainian Folk Dance published by Chas Publishing House. Among the art works created by the artist in this period there are easel paintings Divchyna, Yaka Rozchysuie Kosu (A Girl Combing Hair), Portret Ivana Padalky (Portrait of Ivan Padalka), and Khudozhnyk (Artist).
After graduation Kolos taught drawing, painting, and composition at the preparatory courses at the Academy. Yelyzaveta Piskorska, sister of the artist Kostiantyn Piskorsky, who studied in these courses remembered: “Then I first encountered ‘boichukizm’ in the spirit of which Kolos was teaching.” Kolos also worked in Kyiv textile workshops. In 1925 the artist, after becoming a member of the Association of Revolutionary Art of Ukraine (ARMU), chaired the textile department of Kyiv Institute of Art, went on a mission to Tashkent on “scientific purpose for the study of art and textile industry.”
In 1929 the artist received the title of a professor and his creative collection enlarged with carpets Ptakh i Sobachka (A Bird and a Dog) and Oi, Letila Zozulenka (Oh, a Cuckoo was Flying) (1923). Pioneering and experimental searches of Kolos that were the examples of harmonious color combinations, ornamental planar interpretation of floral, animal, and architectural motifs, laid the base for the first samples of thematic carpet creation development in the 1920s and the 1930s.
In the period of 1936-41 Kolos, Associate Professor of Leningrad Textile Institute, as a recognized expert on issues of artistic textiles delivered lectures at the Academy of Arts of the USSR. At the same time he lived “under the watchful eyes” of the NKVD.
During the World War II Kolos stayed in the Urals and right after it ended he met his family (who miraculously survived in besieged Leningrad) in Kyiv in 1946. While working as a senior research fellow of the Institute of Art Studies, Folklore, and Ethnography, Artistic Director of the Kyiv School of Applied Art, the artist-researcher wrote a lot about monumental art, carpet-making, handicrafts, traditional clothing, and textile art. In his lectures for the students, in numerous articles on art (published in albums, collections of scientific works and professional journals, as well as manuscripts that are carefully preserved by the artist’s family) he defended the traditions of the national art, “fought against its simplification and vulgarization.”
During the Khrushchev thaw, when in 1962 a Club of Creative Youth “Prolisok” was established and Les Taniuk was elected its head, on June 22 the section of fine art, that brought together Viktor Zaretsky, Alla Horska, Halyna Sevruk, Leonid Panchenko, Veniamin Kushnir, Valentyn Zadorozhny, Halyna Zubchenko, and others, began its work. One of the program regulations of the section was the revival of the interrupted traditions of the Ukrainian art of the 1920s-1930s, including creative work of repressed Boichukists. Among the regular lecturers of the Club, who desperately fought for rehabilitation of Boichukists, there were Ivan Vrona and Kolos. But soon on the “ice pass from ‘Khrushchev thaw’ to ‘Brezhnev stagnation’” the Club suffered from official harassment. In 1963 the play Otak Zahynuv Huska (That was how perished Huska) by Mykola Kulish staged by creative tandem of Taniuk and Horska at Maria Zankovetska Lviv Theater was banned, Shevchenko stained glass in the lobby of Shevchenko University in Kyiv created by Alla Horska, Opanas Zalyvakha, Liudmyla Semykina, Halyna Sevruk, and Halyna Zubchenko (1964) was smashed with hammers, many of these artists were excluded from the artistic unions. The 75-year-old Kolos was among those who fell into disgrace – he was removed from teaching, lecturing, and journalistic activities.
He had only creative work and a small circle of friends left. The artist kept in touch with the remaining associates in Kyiv: Biziukov, Nahai, Vrona, Kostyrko, corresponded with Pavlenko, Ivanova, and Kravchenko. In a letter to Kravchenko in April of 1969 Kolos sadly wrote: “Our exhibition of monumental art has finally opened. They threw out artifacts from the exhibition of art of the 1920s the way they pleased. Very little was taken from the museum too, they said that it looked nothing like cardboard drawings for monumental painting. We are not supposed to even mention the name of Mykhailo (Boichuk). They even did not indicate on the enlarged photos of designs of Lutsk caserns and the Opera Theater for the First Congress of the Soviets that they were made under the guidance of Mykhailo (Boichuk). My carpets Karl Marx (1926) and Druzhba Narodiv (Friendship of Peoples, 1967) miraculously were included into the exposition.”
It was painful to see human meanness, the renewal of repressions against the Ukrainian nation also the next year – Kolos’ heart could not bear it any longer and on December 20, 1969 he passed away…
We now only have art works and memory of a man, who during his life was faithful to his youthful ideas of creating new national art in Ukraine.