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Russian folk art

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T here are four traditional centres of miniature lacquered box painting in Russia, which today have become the most famous. They are Fedoskino, Palekh, Mstera and Kholui. They make up a tightly knit family, influencing each other and enriching each other, with each one having its own individual character. Mstera holds a special place in this group, due to its more ancient and maybe more colourful traditions. A special place in the Mstera icon painting tradition was held by Byzantine art, the successors of which were first and foremost the Vladimir and Suzdal icon painters.The Byzantine technique of painting with flux and Byzantine icon painting was preserved in Mstera for many centuries, right up until the start of the 20th century.

Icon "The Virgin of Vladimir"

"The Virgin of Vladimir"
17th century icon

     In Russia, at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, it was no accident that the creation and development of the science of restoration of ancient Russian art was closely associated with the names of the Mstera icon-painters and restorers. It was they who became the main medium for the reintroduction of "forgotten" ancient Russian art among the St. Petersburg and Moscow professors of the history of art. Almost the whole Mstera population was involved to some extent with the icon-painting industry. As a rule, icon-painting workshops were handed down from generation to generation and were a family business. One of the largest icon-painting workshops was that of Suslov (a man who came from the shores of the White Sea) and the oldest was that of the Old Believer, Yantsev.
     After the revolution, the private icon-painting workshops in Mstera were closed. The hungry years after the revolution forced many inhabitants of Mstera to move to the bread basket provinces. But the majority stayed on in their home town of Mstera, where a new life was gradually starting to come into being. In January 1923, the first group of former Mstera icon-painters was formed.

A.Brgaquin. "Ilya Muromets and the Bandit Nightingale"

A.Bryaguin. "Ilya Muromets and the Bandit Nightingale"
Casket. 1937

     In January 1931, the cooperative decided to send a group of artists to Moscow to study papier-mache art. In addition another group was sent to Fedoskino to study lacquering and polishing. It was then that a group of artists was formed to paint objects made out of papier-mache. The 1930's played a very important role in the further development of the genre. This was because the art of miniature lacquer painting was based on the traditions of Mstera icon-painting, which had existed in that area for many centuries and the experienced icon-painters and restorers became the basis for this new art form.
     The leading Mstera artist among the painters of miniatures should by right be Nikolai Klykov (1861-1944). It was he, who for a long time was the driving force behind the search for an original style for the Mstera lacquered miniatures. His former way of life no longer existed and he was forced to find new ways of developing Mstera art. In his early work, he used the traditions of the ancient Russian miniatures of the 15th to 16th centuries. The most attractive style for the artists was the Stroganov style. He believed that the great delicacy and colourful variety of this style was most ideally suited to papier-mache miniatures.

N.Klykov. "A landscape"

N.Klykov. "A landscape"
Casket. 1940

     It is characteristic for the period of "atheism", that the Mstera artists did not stop depicting the sky in their miniature lacquered works (unlike the Palekh artists who started to paint on black lacquer). In this way, they were able to keep their spiritual traditions going back to icon-painting, in which the depiction of the sky as the real and celestial frontier of this world, had enormous meaning. The 30's see many topical works by N.P.Klykov. These works stand out due to their sweet naivety, but it is this very naivety that often borders on the sublime. And it is here that we see a harmonious, stable and colourful way of life. Klykov painted works depicting Russian folk tales and episodes from the works of Russian writers, but hardly changed the landscapes in which his contemporary heroes found themselves. In 1937, at the World Exhibition in Paris, Klykov's work "Dubrovsky", received a diploma and a gold medal.

I.Mamina."Honey summer"

I.Mamina  "Honey summer"
Coffer.  2005

     The second generation of Mstera miniature artists were born after the revolution and were trained at the technical and artistic school that had been set up in 1932. Besides, the creative talents of these young miniaturists was interrupted by the Second World War. New period for the development of Mstera miniature lacquered art was the start of the 1960s. At that time, the visual arts, witch also included lacquered miniatures, were under the influence of the so-called “sever style”, with its generalizations, laconism and emphasized decorativeness.

 O.Malchikova. "The Tale of the Fisherman and the little fish"

O.Malchikova  "The Tale of the Fisherman and the little fish"
(after the tale of A.Pushkin)
Casket.  2006

      In the 1970's, the development of Mstera lacquered miniature painting went along the lines of not so much rejection of the old esthetic ideals, but the creation of positive programs for its further development. The new generation of artists, who replaced those of the 60's, had no declared program, but on the other hand, they had a strong desire to express their own creative individuality. At the beginning of the third millennium, there has been a flowering of Mstera art, that is of icon painting and lacquering miniatures painting. The creativity of the young artists make it possible to look at Mstera art in term of an open system which is looking to the future.

© 2004   Artrusse    Email


  Lacquer miniatures
  - Fedoskino
  - Palekh
  - Mstera
  - Kholui

 The russian toys
  - Bogorodskoe
  - Dymkovo
  - Modern folk art toy
  Rostov enamel
  Vologda lace
  Pavlovsky Posad shawls

Attention - fake!
What is the authentique Russian Lacquered Miniature?

 A.Grachev. "Good people, I'm flying!"

A.Grachev. "Good people, I'm flying!"
Casket. 2000

I.Shemonaeva. "A Song about the merchant Kalashnikov"

I.Shemonaeva. "A Song about the merchant Kalashnikov"
(after a poem of M.Lermontov)
Box. 1981

B.Moshkovitch. "The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish"

B.Moshkovitch. "The Tale of the Fisherman and the little fish"
(after the tale of A.Pushkin)
Casket. 2000

I.Mamina. "Cat-fisher"

I.Mamina "Cat-fisher"
Box.  2005

 N.Jukova. "Morozko"

N.Jukova  "Morozko"
Casket 2005

M.Dmitrieva. "The Tale of the Priest and his Assistant Blockhead"

V.Zonina. "The Tale of the Priest and his Assistant Blockhead"
(after a tale of A.Poushkin)
Box. 1977

 V.Fokeev. "Sadko"

V.Fokeev. "Sadko"
Box. 1997

L.Fomichev."Mikula Selyaninovich"

L.Fomichev."Mikula Selyaninovich"
Box. 1992