Elena Danko Elena Danko-Oleksenko was born 21 December 1897 (2 January 1898) in the village of Parafievka (formerly Ichnyansky District, Chernigovskaya Region, Ukraine) in a family of Narodnaya Volya revolutionaries and railway workers. Her parents were Yakov and Olga Danko. Her older half-sister was the sculptor and ceramicist Natalia Danko. She spent her childhood in Moscow and Vilnius. In 1908, she entered the private E. A. Kruger Gymnasium for Girls in Kiev, and in 1915 she graduated with a gold medal. She began her artistic studies at Aleksandr Murashko’s painting school in Kiev. In 1915, she moved in Moscow, where she studied at the studios of Ilya Mashkov and Fyodor Rerberg. As an artistic, she was influenced by Alexei Sidorov. She also studied etching under Aleksandr Manganari. From 1916 to 1918, she worked in the office of the Engineering and Construction Department, and then she went to work at the People’s Commissariat for Education. She met Olga Forsh and Konstantin Fedin, who would become her literary mentors. She was interested in anthroposophy and attended Andrei Bely’s lectures. In 1918, she moved to Petrograd, where she lived until the end of her life.
From 1918 to 1922, she wrote poetry, and it was compiled in a collection: Danko, Elena. Prostye Myki. Petrograd, 1922. In 1919, she became a member of the Free Philosophical Association (Volfila). She participated in Volfila’s activities until 1924. Beginning in February 1919, she worked as a technical assistant and then a puppeteer at the Studio puppet theater under the direction of Lyubov Shaporina, who would become the artist’s closest friend. She adapted stories for puppet theater performances (“Little Red Riding Hood,””The Tale of Emelyan the Fool,” “Gulliver in Lilliput” (1928), “The Gingerbread House,” “Don Quixote,” and others).During the period from 1920 through the 1930s, performances of adaptations by Danko were constantly being shown on the puppet stages of Leningrad. She became a member of the literary collegium of the Theater for Young Viewers. From 1919 through 1924, she worked at the Petrograd (Leningrad) Porcelain Factory as an artist of porcelain paintwork. Danko’s first works on porcelain had an ornamental or floral character (“Wreath with Gray Rose,” “Cornflowers and Green Birds”) relating to peasant themes or depicting landscapes. From 1924 to 1925, she studied at the Academy of Arts in Petrograd (a class with Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin), matriculating there at the request of the porcelain factory. She left the institute due to disagreement with their methods of teaching painting. In the early 1920s, she created several small-scale models (done jointly with her sister, Natalia Danko). The most popular works were The Awakening East (Turkish Woman), Georgian Woman with Jug on Her Shoulder, and Pioneer with Drum. In mid-1924, she was let go from the factory. During her time in the painting studio, Elena Danko created many important works, many of which were exhibited at different times at exhibitions in the Soviet Union and abroad.
She began studying the history of ceramics in 1922. In 1923, the journal Khudozhestvenny Trud (Art Work) published her article on Soviet artistic porcelain. Later, she wrote a series of popular books on the history of porcelain: Vaza Bogdykhana (Vases of the Chinese Emperor) (Moscow and Leningrad: Raduga, 1925), Farforovaya Chashechka (Porcelain Cups) (Moscow and Leningrad: State Publishing House, 1925), and Kitaisky Sekret (Chinese Secret) (Leningrad: State Publishing House, 1929; illustrated by Nikolai Lapshin). In the 1930s, she combined literary and artistic work, returning to work at the State Porcelain Factory, where she worked on paintwork for small objects. She studied the history of the Leningrad Porcelain Factory and worked in its archives. She worked on the book Farforovy Zavod v 18 veke (The Porcelain Factory in the 18th Century; never published). In early 1941, she completed editing the first part of this work. A chapter of this book was published as the introduction to the catalogue Gosudarstvennu Farforovy Zavod im. M. V. Lomonosova (The Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory; Leningrad: State Reference Books and Catalogues Office, 1938). In August 1941, the Leningrad Division of the Artistic Foundation of the USSR applied to evacuate Elena Danko to Tashkent, but she rejected evacuation. She spent the Blockade Winter of 1941—1942 in Leningrad. On 27 February 1942, she evacuated the city along with her sister, Natalia Danko, and her mother, Olga Prosviryakova-Danko. A few days later, Elena and her mother died from the effects of exhaustion on the train from blockaded Leningrad to Yaroslavl and Irbit; she is buried at one of the stops along the way.
(Levshenkov. V. Tvorchestvo Sester Danko. 2012, 424.)