Joan Baez paints Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Article Contributed by Sacks and Company | Published on Thursday, March 31, 2022

Joan Baez never imagined painting a portrait of a war hero. But since Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, she has been moved by the “unequivocal and astounding bravery” of its besieged president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and has honored him with a portrait meant to convey the sadness of war, the resilience of the Ukrainian people and the desire for peace.

“If I were to meet Zelenskyy today, in the heat of the ghastly battle he has inherited, though I’m deeply saddened by the organized violence, I would have no advice, no judgment, only a humble salute to his monumental courage,” Baez says.

Surrounding the Ukrainian leader on the canvas are the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag, a spray of sunflowers and a pair of white storks, both official symbols of the Ukrainian nation. The president’s name is printed across the bottom in Cyrillic script.

The portrait is being released in a limited-edition series of 250 prints signed and numbered by the artist. Priced at $500 plus shipping and handling, the archival pigment print is 23”x16 3/8” on paper generously donated by the Legion Paper Company. Full details can be found HERE.

All sales go to the International Medical Corps, whose teams inside Ukraine and in the surrounding region are providing desperately needed medical and mental health services as well as working to aid refugees.

Since the invasion, more than 3.5 million refugees have been forced to flee Ukraine. That tragedy, Baez says, “reminds us of the less publicized struggles in countries where deadly strife has also resulted in millions of displaced people.”

While the war rages on, she dedicates the Zelenskyy portrait to the Ukrainians who have engaged in nonviolent resistance—standing in the path of Russian tanks, confronting invading troops with the truth about this unjust war and engaging in countless acts of compassion and respect for human life.

“There are the reports that bring us heart and a way to work through our grief,” she says. “This painting honors their courage as well.”

Since retiring from touring, the iconic folksinger and activist has devoted herself to her visual art, painting portraits of inspirational people who have brought about nonviolent social change. They have been shown in two exhibitions, “Mischief Makers,” at the Seager Gray Gallery in Mill Valley, California.

Before he was elected president in 2019, Zelenskyy was a popular comedian and actor who once appeared on the Ukrainian production of “Dancing with the Stars.” A devoted dancer herself, Baez longs for the time when the light-footed president feels free enough to dance once again.