Elena Filippova


Matryoshka appeared in Russia at the end of 1890"s in a Moscow craft workshop named Children's Education. The concept of a nesting doll was borrowed from Japan and was further developed in Russia. The first matryoshka, however, was hightly influenced by modernism, the major style of the period. a partial pastoral effect was achieved by tender pastel colours of her costume in a combination for instance with a rooster, a sickle, or a loaf of bread, the things particularly typical of a peasant household.

A new genre is always an experiment That is why the first matryoshkas often being far from the canon had a very important quality which was diversity. Depending of the author's imagination the patem themes were ethnographic, historical or fairy tale for the decoration of nesting dolls anists used a vast variety of devices; from poker-work followed up; by painting, ornament painting to pictorial methods of using colors shades. In certain places authors left the wood unpainted or used gilding and lacquer.

Not all of these nesting dolls presented a piece of art. At the same time there was not a great output of them. Artists were able to experiment in for perfection. Unfortunately, the mace production of nesting dolls in the years to follow to a great degree leveled their achievments and foisted a souvenir stereotype on matryoshkas. It is partially understandable since a nesting doll was initially made as a toy and meant to be utilitarian. A many-piece and dissembling matrjoshka was by no means interesting, cogniyive, and aesthetic at the same time children like it very much. The toy became more and more popular.

In 1910 a crafts workshop named Amateur Artist was set up in Sergiev Posad. There beginning from 1913 they started producing nesting dolls. In the 20's the majority of local handicraftsmen joined together in an artel.

Undoubtedly, the Sergiev Posad (or Zagorsk) Matryoshka as a tipe of nesting doll in connected with the traditions of local village crafts which have have been flourishing for several centuries of the Troitsko- Sergiev Monastery . Previously there existed the so-called troitsky toys also made of wood and painted. The patterns were fairly diverse - from smart peasant women to noble ladies and hussars. Skillful hereditary craftsmen (toy makers) worked out the major types of painting of the Sergiev Posad matryoshkas combining traditional and new ideals. It is mostly a genre matryoshka. It is always interesting and even instructive. That is why by gathering a collection one get enough information about the history of Russian national costume, Russia epos, and even Russian literature. All this has also been reflected in the form of shape of matryoshkas: some of them were made in the form of an ancient Russian helmet, others in a cone shaped form. However,the traditional ones were more popular than the rest of them. The variety of nesting dolls was achieved by the number of pieces mainly ranging from 3 to 12. There exist "supermatrjoshkas" having 48 or 60 pieces but these are unique. The exibits of the Sergiev Posad Museum of Toys opened in 1918 vividly demonstrate the evolution of the Sergiev Posad matryoshka till today.

Matrjoshka, a bright fair toy was generally recognized at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900. It was just as popular at home. When it was exhibited at the biggest Russian Fair in Nizny Novgorod it won the hearts of hereditary toy makers there.

Ever since then there appeared'several crafts shops producing matrjoshkas.

Another well-known type is the Semjonov matrjoshka. It got its name after the town of Semyonov in which there also existed an ancient tradition of a turnery toy. The concept of a many piece dissembling doll brought from the Fair was further developed here. The Semjonov matrjoshka is characterized by fine and specific graphic techniques which turns very bright floral patterns into light and elegant ones . The use of bright pink bouquets and dark green grass ornament produces an effect of embroidery . Besides the Semionov craftsmen paints ornaments over pure wood without the background painting . They only make the edge of an aprom or shawl stand out against the background. Hence part of wood is left unpainted, but laquered. The major component of the ornament is an apron, the major color is red. The shawl and the Sarafan add two more-traditional colours-yellow and dark blue. Unlike the short Sergiev Posad matryoshka, the Semionov one is taller and slimmer. The Semionov Souvenir Factory is one of the biggest in Russia.

Also in Nizny Novgorod province there is another place called Polhovskij Maidan famous for its turnery wooden toys. Matryoshkas made there are different both in shape and pattern. They are more massive, but unlike the Sergiev Posad type they are less graceful. The major dyes used are also aniline. But their colours are brighter and the patterns are larger. It is achieved through the used of contrastive combinations of dark blue, green,yellow crimson and even purple. Here as well, an apron is the centre of the composition but a typical detail in its pattern is sweetbrier, the so-called "northern rose", painted both as an open flower and a bud.

Krutetz and Merinovo are other places in Nizhnij Novgorod region producing Russian Matrjoshkas. There is less tradition and more experiment in them as regards ornament, shape and pattern.

The northerest of all Russian matrjoshkas is the one which come from Vjatka. It is also the "youngest" - they began producing nesting dolls in Vjatka only in 30 s. Being a typical northerner she is blue-eyed and shy. Its most distinctive feature is rye straw inlay stuck on wet lacquer.

Apart from all these well-known places where they make matryoshkas there exists others as well. For instance, a tiny and slim matrjoshka made in Tver with painting over poker work. There also exist crafts workshops in the Mari and the Mordovian Authonomous Republics of Russia, as well as the Ukraine and Belarus. All these matijoshkas are marked by there national peculiarities.

The evolution of Matryoshka is interesting in so far as they were initially make as toys and have gradually become a Russian traditional souvenir. Its production started as an individual craftsmanship and has turned into an industrial output. The Matryoshka became simpler : there were only few patterns used, the ornament became poorer, the form - crude. At the same time it gained more as a toy - it became steadier and brighter with its rurely lokal colours, black graphic contour and simple dab painting. Matryoshkas became more primitive but at the same time more cheerfur and available. By the beginning of the "80"s alongside the industrial output there appeared unique exhibition samples. It might be connected with the setting up of the Institute of the Toy in Sergiev Posad with its research and art laboratory. Genuine craftsmen who felt themselves uncomfortable in the specific atmosphere of mass production were greatly encouraged by the growing market. Matryoshkas, which had long been a simbol of political stability of Russia, its aestetical constant was suddenly identified with the changes in the tenor of life in Russia. As if it responded to these changes and had an impulse for its development. Demand to a great extent determined supply. New stimuli, both artistic and material made old craftsmen enrich ornaments and the techniques of painting and which is more important attracted a new galaxy of distinctive artists. The best of them reached the highest individuality and originality of their work. It is symbolic that the turn of the centure is traditionally a time of summing up . It is an anthology of the most significant traits in every genre. Authors remembered the former variety of themes, the richness of ornaments: they also remembered that Matryoshka can not only be a toy. After having passed the stage of accumulation the genre has grown mature.

The customer has also changed. The brilliant individual manner of the best craftsmen who did work for the average buyer retained in the memory. There appeared collectors and connoisseurs of definite styles which made some of the authors and the genre itseife close to real art. We would like to believe that in the near future we will read just as profound and inspired essays about the art of making matryoshkas as about the art of painting in general. We hope they will avoid the condescension of a usual talk about a nice but still foolish and unreasonable child.

The authors whose essays are given in this book have gone a traditional way in their artistic growth. They began by receiving professional training at art schools , add their knowledge of thehistory and traditions of Russian crafts, the history of Art in general. Their individuality, sense of humour, their own experience make chose essays highly professional.

In the first place it is necessary to make the graduates of the Abramtsevo Art School (placed in the town of Khotkovo near Moscow) named after Vasnetsov. The geography and history of the place where the art school is situated makes every student devoye his life to art. Nearby there is a country estate of Mamontov turned into a museum after his death. The art school appeared from its craft shops. At the end of the 19th century Abramtsevo was the Russian art Mecca. The famous Russian artists Vasnetsov, Polenov, Vrubel and Serov worked there. The museum exhibits, the nature and the creative spirit of the place defined a vast range of the students' interests and a high level of artistic aspirations. Not far from Abramtsevo there is Sergiev Posad with its Crafts Museum and magnificent architecture of Troitsko-Sergiev (Holy Trinity) Lavra. This atmosphere attracted to the art school creative and skillful teachers. The teacher cultivate a real artistic taste in the student, give assistance in their first steps to master ship. Some of the teachers are former students of the same school.

Graduates of this school make nesting dolls which are highly professional and original, characterized by good taste and a variete of themes. The techniques used are also diverse. We come across dab painting combined with mastery drawing as well as quite a variete of artistic devices - from icon painting to experiments in the taste of Malevitch. Some authors prefer the violent uproar of the Russian cheap popular print with its cunning cheerfulness but they raise to real art.

The oldest in Russia Moscow Art and Industry College /the former Stroganov Art School / was founded as fer back as in 1825 by S.G. Stroganov as a drawing school. Today it is a big art school with various training programs. Students here are taught monumental painting, fresco and mosaic. It may be hard to believe that with this kind of training its graduates should start producing matryoshkas. But their high professional standart and profound aesthetical education combined with

Russian traditional art made it possible for them to create Britain works of art.

The painting of matrjoshkas in its period of renaissanse awoke the creative potential of various artists. Their geography is diverse as well as the themes used.

Russian epos as a source of themes is very popular with matryoshka makers now. Sometimes the resort to the Palekh traditions, thought initially Palekh is an icon painting school characterized by very strict rules If some authors have their own somewhat ironical look on certain epical themes they tackle them in their own way. The same goes for Russian Fairy tales, though, classical interpretations seem to previal.

Sometimes matryoshka have ornaments based on the plots of popular European fairy tales, even modern ones. Have a look at very fine ornaments based on " Alice in Wonderland" or "Mary Poppins". The authors seem to have put part of their own childhood in them with a sincere belief in miracles and genuine love for these characters.

Russian history has recieved a reflection in the authors' matryoshka. In the ornaments we come across Russian tzars and great Russian writers. Pushkin famous poem "The Poet and the Tzar" has found its specific reflection there. An interest to Russian history presupposes an interest to the mode of life, morals and manners of the past centuries as well as present day customs and traditions. Among the ornament themes there are scenes of folk outdoor fetes, fairs, a classical Russian large family affecting relationship of children and animals. There are also merchant and high life motifs , funny rendazvous. Here we come across every living thing as long as we are alive.

Tightly linked with the historical theme is the religiouse one. Matryoshkas with icon painting ornaments have taken their worth place among the authors' works

popular themes are borrowed from the orthodox icons "Trinity" and "0ur Lady with the Infant" .Quite a number of authors develop the themes of the orthodox holidays such as Annunciation, Ascension and Christmas.

Present day authors of Matryoshka also make use to the themes of Russian and European paintings, landscape painting and still-life. All this allows us to view the art of making matryoshka as an independent branch of Russian art or postmodernism, as a genre with a promising future. The potential of the Russian author's matrjoshka is inmeasurable.]


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