The article focuses on the early works of Ernest Kontratovych (1912-2009), one of the founders of the cultural and artistic centre in Subcarpathian Ruthenia. His period of creative formation occurred between the 1930s and the 1940s. At that time, Subcarpathian Ruthenia, as part of the Czechoslovak Republic, suffered from the effects of irregular agrarian reform and the Global economic crisis that has affected all of Europe. The mountainous areas of Verkhovyna, where government action and the crisis have led to poverty and famine, have suffered the most. After graduating from the Uzhhorod Singing and Teaching Seminary (1932), Kontratovych was sent to remote villages in mountainous areas for pedagogical work. There he witnessed the events that led to the choice of themes for his early works. Tragedies, such as the depopulation of villages, famine, and impoverishment of the people of Verkhovyna, and resulted in a picturesque series with images of the disadvantaged people, the cripples, the beggars. These experiences made a lasting effect on Kontratovych’s work. He peculiarly interpreted the theme of war. The lack of images of military activity is compensated by images of war victims – the orphaned children, crippled people, beggars. The study examines Kontratovych’s expressionist style in the context of the tasks perceived by the artist as his responsibilities to recreate and convey to the audience the tragedy of the contemporary situation. Exaggeration and deformation of form, as well as displacement of objects, emphasized the emotional intensity of the works. At the same time, he frequently turned to the daily life of the people of Verkhovyna, which created a counterbalance to these dramatic works. Traditional events such as wedding processions, preparations of the bride, and dances are shown in an optimistic, joyful palette in a similarly expressionist style.