Shevchenko's historical poem 'Ivan Hus,' aka 'Ieretyk' ( 1845), introduced another of Shevchenko's major themes. Dedicated to Pavel Šafařk, it depicts the trial and burning of Jan Hus in Konstanz in 1415 to promote the Pan-Slavism of the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood.
Shevchenko wrote his poetic cycle 'V kazemati' (In the Casemate) in the spring of 1847 during his arrest and interrogation in Saint Petersburg. It marks the beginning of the most difficult, late period of his life (1847–57). The 13 poems of the cycle contain reminiscences (the famous lyrical poem 'Sadok vyshnevyi kolo khaty' [The Cherry Orchard by the House]); reflections on the fate of the poet and his fellow members of the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood; and poignant reassertions of his beliefs and his commitment to Ukraine. Shevchenko's stand was unequivocal, and he exhorted his fellow Cyrillo-Methodians and all of his compatriots to 'Love your Ukraine / Love her ... in the harshest time / In the very last harsh minute / Pray to God for her.' Throughout his exile, Shevchenko's views did not change. But his poems grew more contemplative and reflective. In his 'bootleg booklets' he continued writing autobiographical, lyrical, narrative, historical, political, religious, and philosophical poems. Of special interest is his long poem 'Moskaleva krynytsia' (The Soldier's Well, 1847, 2d variant 1857), which reveals Shevchenko's preoccupation with the themes of inhumanity and the capacity to accept and forgive. A comparison of its two variants provides an insight into Shevchenko's maturation as a poet and thinker.
Shevchenko's autobiographical poems include such lyrical works as 'Meni trynadtsiatyi mynalo' (I Was Turning Thirteen, 1847), 'A. O. Kozachkovs'komu' (For A. O. Kozachkovsky, 1847), 'I vyris ia na chuzhyni' (And I Grew Up in Foreign Parts, 1848), 'Khiba samomu napysat'' (Unless I Write Myself, 1849), 'I zoloto i doroho' (Both Golden and Dear, 1849), and 'Lichu v nevoli dni i nochi' (I Count Both Days and Nights in Captivity, 1850, 2d variant 1858). But personal reflection also occurs in some of his 'landscape' poems, especially where Shevchenko describes the paysage of his captivity—eg, 'Sontse zakhodyt', hory chorniiut'' (The Sun Is Setting, the Hills Turn Dark, 1847) and 'I nebo nevmyte, i zaspani khvyli'(The Sky Is Unwashed, and the Waves Are Drowsy, 1848). Varied and rich are the poems devoted to narratives and description motivated by his memories of peasant life. Shevchenko uses folk-song elements to depict sadness, parting, loneliness, folkways, motherhood, women's harsh fate, and the longing for happiness. His poetic style is marked by the use of simple language, concrete descriptions, metaphors, and personification. Shevchenko consistently refined his use of folkloric material. He expanded the use of ancient symbolism and made full use of the expressivity of folk songs. His adaption and transformation of folkloric elements was so successful that many of his poems became folk songs (such as Reve ta stohne Dnipr shyrokyi [The Mighty Dnieper Roars and Bellows]) in their own right.
Shevchenko sporadically reiterated his political convictions and continued pointing to the tsarist enslavement of individuals (serfdom) and nations. In his poem 'Poliakam' (To the Poles, 1847), he once again called for a Polish-Ukrainian pan-Slavic brotherhood. Shevchenko used a Kazakh legend in his short poem 'U Boha za dveryma lezhala sokyra' (Behind God's Door Lay an Ax, 1848) to describe in allegorical terms the Kazakhs' misfortunes under Russian rule. Satire remained part of his poetic arsenal. In the poem 'Tsari' (Tsars, 1848, revised 1858) he presented killing, debauchery, incest, and adultery as typical of royal courts, including those of King David of Israel and Grand Prince Volodymyr the Great. The successful combination of an offhand burlesque style with bitter invective gave Shevchenko a powerful but somewhat veiled weapon in his attack on monarchism in general and tsarism in particular. Much more direct are his accusations against the tsars in 'Irzhavets'' (1847, revised 1858).
Parallel to the motifs of the seduced girl and the unwed mother, which occur frequently in Shevchenko's poems, is the motif of incest. It appears in 'Tsari' and 'Vid' ma' and forms the basis for 'Kniazhna' (The Princess, 1847). Although in many of his poems Shevchenko harshly attacked the hypocrisy of the church and clergy, he remained steadfast in his belief that divine justice would triumph one day not only in Ukraine, but throughout the world. His millenarian vision appears in many of his poems, but it is perhaps best encapsulated in the following lines from 'I Arkhimed i Halilei' (Both Archimedes and Galileo, 1860): 'An d on the reborn earth / There will be no enemy, no tyrant / There will be a son, and there will be a mother, / And there will be people on the earth.'
The last period of Shevchenko's creativity began after his return from exile in 1857 and ended with his death in 1861. It is marked in his works by more frequent allusions to the Bible and classical literature and by the increasingly dominant role of contemplative lyricism. The period contains such longer poems as 'Neofity' (The Neophytes, 1857), 'Iurodyvyi' (The Holy Fool, 1857), the second redaction of 'Vid'ma' (1858), 'Nevol'nyk' (The Captive, begun in 1845 and finished in 1859), and 'Mariia' (1859). There are also renditions of biblical texts—'Podrazhaniie Iiezekiliu, Hlava 19' (Imitation of Ezekiel, Chapter 19, 1859), 'Osi, Hlava 14' (Esau, Chapter 14, 1859), 'Isaia, Hlava 35' (Isaiah, Chapter 35, 1859), and 'Podrazhaniie 11 Psalmu' (Imitation of the Eleventh Psalm, 1859)— in which Shevchenko turns to the Scriptures for analogies to the contemporary situation. In the latter poem he proclaims what could be considered the motto of his creativity: 'I will glorify / Those small, mute slaves! / On guard next to them / I will place the word.' This last period also contains some of Shevchenko's most profound contemplative poems. The period ends with a reflective poem addressed to his muse, 'Chy ne pokynut' nam, neboho' (Should We Not Call It Quits, [My] Friend), written in two parts on 26 and 27 February 1861, eleven days before his death. Like many of Shevchenko's last poems, it is full of allusions to classical mythology, including a reference to the river Styx, which he was preparing to cross.
The novellas Shevchenko wrote while in exile were not published during his lifetime. They reflect the influence of the satirical-expos prose of Nikolai Gogol, but also contain many asides (excursions into the past, inserted episodes, authorial comments, reminiscences, and commentaries). Although written in Russian, they contain many Ukrainianisms. The first two of them—'Naimichka' (The Servant Girl, 1852–3) and 'Varnak' (The Convict, 1853–4)— share the anti-serfdom themes of Shevchenko's Ukrainian poems with the same titles. 'Kniaginia' (The Princess, 1853) is similar in theme to his poem 'Kniazhna.' The remaining six novellas—'Muzykant' (The Musician, 1854–5), 'Neschastnyi' (The Unfortunate Man, 1855), 'Kapitansha' (The Captain's Woman, 1855), 'Bliznetsy' (The Twins, 1855), 'Khudozhnik' (The Artist, 1856), and 'Progulka s udovol'stviiem i ne bez morali' (A Stroll with Pleasure and Not without a Moral, 1856–8)— are not thematically similar to any particular poems. Shevchenko also kept a daily diary in Russian; it is of great value in interpreting his poetic works and an important source for studying his intellectual interests and development.
Shevchenko has held a unique position in Ukrainian intellectual history, and the importance of his poetry for Ukrainian culture and society cannot be underestimated. His Kobzar marks the beginning of a new era in Ukrainian literature and in the development of the modern Ukrainian language. Through his poetry, Shevchenko legitimized the use of Ukrainian as a language of modern literature. His poems' revolutionary and political content found resonance among other captive peoples. The earliest translations of his poems—mainly into Polish, Russian, Czech, and German—appeared while he was still alive. By the 1990s parts of the Kobzar had been translated into more than 100 languages. Shevchenko's poetry has also become a source of inspiration for many other works of literature, music, and art.
Although Shevchenko is known primarily because of his poetry, he was also an accomplished artist; 835 of his art works are extant, and another 270 of his known works have been lost. Although trained as an academic artist (see Academism) in Saint Petersburg, Shevchenko moved beyond stereotypical historical and mythological subjects to realistic depictions on ethnographic themes (see Genre painting), such as his painting A Peasant Family (1844), often expressing veiled criticism of the absence of personal, social, and national freedom under tsarist domination. His portraits have a broad social range of subjects, from simple peasants (eg, Praying for the Dead, 1857) and petty officials to prominent Ukrainian and Russian cultural figures (eg, Portrait of Vasilii Zhukovsky , Portrait of Mykhailo Maksymovych ), Ukrainian historical figures (eg, Portrait of Vasyl Kochubei ), members of former Cossack starshyna families (eg, Portrait of Hanna Zakrevska , Portrait of Platon Zakrevsky , Portrait of Illia Lyzohub ), and members of the imperial nobility (Princess Keikuatova , Portrait of Nikolai Lunin ). They are remarkable for the way Shevchenko uses light to achieve sensitive three-dimensional modeling. He painted or sketched over 150 portraits, 43 of them of himself. He also painted and drew numerous landscapes and recorded such Ukrainian architectural monuments as The Vydubychi Monastery (1844), Bohdan's Church in Subotiv (1845), The Ascension Cathedral in Pereiaslav (1845), The Ruins of Subotiv (1845), The Pochaiv Monastery from the South (1846), and Askoldova Mohyla (1846). While in exile he depicted the folkways of the Kirghiz and Kazak people (eg, By the Fire , Kazak on a Horse , The Baigush , The Baigush under the Window ) and the landscapes of Central Asia (eg, The Raim fort on the Syr-Darya , Fire in the Steppe , Dalismen-Mula-Aulye , Turkmenian Sepulchres at Kara Tau ) and the misery of life in exile and in the imperial army (eg, In Prison [1856–57], In the Stocks [1856–57], Running the Gauntlet ). Shevchenko frequently turned in his paintings and drawings to literary, historical, and mythological motifs (eg, Diogenes , Narcissus and Echo , Saint Sebastian , Robinson Crusoe , Mermaids ). He was also very proficient in watercolor, aquatint, and etching. On 2 September 1860 the Imperial Academy of Arts recognized his mastery by designating him an academician-engraver.