Shevchenko, Taras (täˈrəs shĭvchĕnˈkō) [key], 1814–61, Ukrainian poet and artist. Born a serf and orphaned early, Shevchenko passed a wretched childhood in the service of a brutal sexton. He was apprenticed to icon and mural painters until he was bought and freed in 1838 by a group of intellectuals who recognized his talent. Shevchenko became a prominent realist painter and his Ukrainian ballads, dealing with peasant life, were published in Russian. He joined a Ukrainian nationalist society, writing bitterly against serfdom and Russian autocracy. The Heretic (1845) professed his dream of a free brotherhood of all Slavs. Banished to an appalling military existence in Central Asia for his liberal ideas, he wrote exquisite lyric poetry and numerous novels in exile (1847–57). Dogged by terrible misfortune in love and life, the poet died seven days before the Emancipation of Serfs was announced. Shevchenko had tremendous influence on Ukrainian literature.
See editions in English of his work by C. A. Manning (1945) and C. H. Andrusyshen and W. Kirkconnell (1964); R. Smal-Stocki, Shevchenko Meets America (3d ed. 1964).