Masters of Bogorodsky sculpture

Masters of Bogorodsky sculpture

A. Ya. Chushkin. Plowing. The beginning of the XX century.

The first years of the XX century were rich in events in the life of the craft of carvings in the village of Bogorodsky.
In the same years, ND Bartram often came to the village of Bogorodsk to fish for the fate of peasant hunting, he carefully looked at the work of the masters. The artist sincerely wanted to help the local carvers to organize the production of original products. He told them about the Russian toys of past times, about the products produced in other industries, showed bouquets and old engravings, subjects that could serve, in his opinion, as good examples for new interesting Bogorod carved items.Masters of Bogorodsky sculpture

Under the influence of Bartram’s stories, local carvers began to make complex multi-figured compositions on the subjects of images of ancient popular prints and engravings. Such carved sculptures were readily bought, they were accepted for sale by handicraft shops, they were taken for display at exhibitions. But work on them required more accuracy than a regular toy. The carvers had to give up many of the old carving techniques, began to detail the shape of the image, remove the traces of rough cuts with sandpaper, polish the finished product, violating the artistic carving system that developed in the fishery. New Bogorodsky sculptures, made more complicated, were inferior to the former in immediacy, in the power of figurative characteristics, laconism. They dominated the features of easel, many of the images were similar to models made up of wooden figures. In connection with this circumstance, group figure compositions could no longer be considered a plaything suitable for children’s play, nor a small plastic, rich in content. If they were a toy, it was already calculated primarily on the perception of an adult person – a connoisseur of folklore, a lover of curious things.
Among the Bogorod masters, who were especially attentive to the advice of Bartram, who willingly braced themselves for making new types of sculptural toys and trying to find their own creative theme in this work, was the carver Andrey Yakovlevich Chushkin. He entered the collective of local masters rather late, although it originated from the family of hereditary toy-makers of the Bogorodskoye fishery. Up to twenty-eight years, Chushkin earned his living by carpentry, sometimes performed ornamental carvings on cornices and clypees. Cut the toy he studied with the famous Bogorodsky master KV Stulov. In 1908, Chushkin met Bartram and became his devoted assistant and friend for many years.

Masters of Bogorodsky sculpture

A. Ya. Chushkin. Blacksmiths. 1928

Chushkin liked to carve wooden sculptural compositions based on engraved images of the 18th and 19th centuries. However, work on an etched pattern was not a mechanical process for him, consisting only in translating the plot of a flat image into a plastic form. On ancient splints, he, who did not know the basics of academic drawing, comprehended the laws of “proportional construction of a human figure”, mastered the principles of creating genre compositions. In copying from printed samples, the master introduced the creative principle characteristic of folk artists: in his own way he rethought the whole structure of the composition, the role of each character in it. He gave the participants of the scene a different appearance, gave their figures different from the sample poses and gestures. As a result of such a thoughtful work, the carved image, modeled on the composition of the leaflet, was transformed into a work quite original.
Like other Bogorodsky carvers, Chushkin especially liked to take engraved sheets depicting equestrian trips as a model of his carved articles. He did sculptures based on the lithographs of AO Orlovsky, and performed the composition “Harnessing a Couple with a Ruler” on the model of a popular print of the XIX century “Walking in the Marina Grove”.
Comprehending the techniques of the famous Bogorodsky carvers, listening attentively to the recommendations of Bartram, Chushkin very quickly progressed in his creative development. The friendship with ND Bartram helped him to form a real intellectual of the artist, who used on the fishery as a recognized authority. Chushkin became one of the organizers of the artel created by Bogorodsk masters in 1912, with the emergence of which the carvers finally managed to free themselves from the services of the Sergievsk buyers, were able to independently sell their products in the shops of Sergiev Posad and Moscow.
Undoubted influence on the development of Chushkin’s creativity was the acquaintance with the works of the artists of the Wanderers. Often visiting Moscow, visiting the Tretyakov Gallery and art exhibitions, he always carefully examined the paintings, especially those dedicated to the life of the village. In all likelihood, it is precisely such works that awakened the master’s desire to create a series of sculptures that realistically depict scenes from peasant life.
Chushkin performed compositions “Plowing” and “Sev”. In these carefully executed sculptures, he literally with ethnographic precision depicted the costumes of the peasants, horse harness, construction of the plow and harrow. Extremely realistic compositions do not look, however, dry mock-ups. The figures of the peasants were given a generalization characteristic of folk sculpture; their proportions are somewhat squat, each cut out of a piece of wood with bold, “mahovye” movements of the knife, sparingly detailed with fast and precise cuts.
In the same years, Chushkin creates a new version of the traditional Bogorodskaya toy “Blacksmiths”. He complicates her composition, turning it into a real genre sculpture.

Masters of Bogorodsky sculpture

A. Ya. Chushkin. Bogorodsky carvers at work. Early 20th century.

In works on the theme of peasant life, Chushkin showed himself as a people’s artist, able to create new stories in Bogorodskaya sculpture, and as a consistent supporter of the best traditions of its genre direction, so successfully developed in the XIX century. He managed to create compositions that not only responded to the interpretation of images of the previous products of the fishery, but also marked by an emphasized individuality in the manner of execution. It is no accident that his work was recognized as exemplary for the Bogorodsky carving by senior craftsmen and spectators who saw them at handicraft exhibitions. Sculptural compositions Chushkin attracted the accuracy of the characteristics of folk types.
The master was well aware of the difficult situation in the life of Russia on the eve of the revolution. And as an advanced national artist he sought to reflect this in his works. Compassion for the heavy share of the peasant is permeated by his compositions on the themes of rural life. Apparently, he was impressed by the picture of SA Korovin “On the World”. Chushkin created his own, sculptural version of the composition on a close subject. He cut out a group of peasants standing on a village street at a pillar with a lantern and something animatedly discussing, gave the composition the name “Gathering in the Village.” Probably on the advice of Bartram the master tried to make a sculptural composition on a satirical theme. For the basis of it was taken the image on a popular print “Staircase of human life”, hanging in the house of Bartram. The hero of this edifying scene was an unlucky official who, being at the zenith of his official success, does not suspect that after a climb to the top he is expected by a tedious job, illness and old age.
Chushkin took the most active part in the transformation of the life of his native village after the Great October Revolution. He was one of the active members of the local professional artel carver, helped to open a specialized school in Bogorodsk. The fellow-villagers treated him with great respect, appreciated his organizational skills. When in the late 1920s the question arose of electing the first chairman of the collective farm in Bogorodsky, all the villagers unanimously nominated Chushkin to this responsible post.
Very busy with affairs in Bogorodskoye, the master nevertheless found time to devote a lot of time and enthusiastically to help Bartram. He was one of the most active participants in the creation in Moscow of the first Russian Toy Museum. He helped Bartram to organize courses at the museum for the preparation of artists – masters of children’s toys, conducted with them classes, teaching methods of woodcarving. In addition to teaching at courses in Moscow and in Bogorodsky, he conducted classes on the art of carving in an art school in Sergiev Posad. Together with Bartram and other professional artists, Chushkin developed projects for children’s games suitable for mass production, participated in the creation of the film “The Adventures of the Boar.” In the same years he wrote the book “Carved wooden toy”, in which he simply and intelligibly told about the ways of creating traditional Bogorodsky carvings.
Together with Bartram and artist N. A. Lehmann, Chushkin performed models of children’s games “Dneprostroy” and “Train”, made several sets of wooden blocks, which made it possible to make various designs. In the traditions of the Bogorodino carved toy, he performed sets of games “Peasant Yard” and “Selkhozorudiya”.
After the revolution Bogorodsky artistic craft quickly moved into the number of successfully developing centers of Soviet folk art. Much credit for this belonged to the teacher of the Bogorodsky school Chushkin, who headed a team of local carver artists. He had a great influence on the new change of the masters, served for many of them as an example.
Pupils of Bogorodsk school of the first graduation managed to choose the right way for further development of traditional local art of woodcarving. They thoughtfully reduced the production of former samples of mass Bogorodsk toys and sculptures and actively began to create products whose images would be of interest to people of the most diverse layers of Soviet society.
Young Bogorodsky carvers have mastered at school besides traditional skills of carving on a tree and initial receptions modeling a sculpture from soft materials. The course of modeling was introduced into the training program on the recommendation of Bartram. This had its negative side, because it helped to establish the principles of easel. Owning modeling, the young masters already had the opportunity to think over the composition of the future cutting product. They completely abandoned the creation of carved items from images on old engravings and prints. Now the masters themselves perform sketches of Bogorodsky toys and sculptures. They make compositions on the themes of the collective-farm life and everyday life of the peoples of the USSR, dedicated to the memorable events of history and modernity, the Red Army.
Favorite characters in the new Bogorodsky carving are the heroes of folk tales, popular works of Russian and Soviet literature. Sculptural compositions turned out to be the most common type of carving in the work of a new generation of Bogorod masters. This type of image was more suited to the embodiment of individual designs.
Quite significant in size sculptural compositions looked more advantageous toys, especially at representative exhibitions of folk art, participation in which became for the local carvers quite common tradition. However, this path led to the destruction of the system of folk carving.
Leading artists of the Bogorodsky fishery after the revolution were hereditary masters from the dynasty of the Stolovs, Pronin, Zinin, Balaev, and Maximov. Having received education in school, having mastered the principles of carving and molding, they preserved in their creative work the traditional sense of beauty for the craft, the methods of fast and virtuosic wood carving.
Since 1927 Nikolai Ivanovich Maximov, Honored Artist of the RSFSR, has been working in the collective of Bogorodsky. He was born in 1910 and was trained in the first skills of the craft in the family, his father, then in a specialized school, in the class that led Chushkin.
Since then, the master has become one of the most respected teachers-mentors.
Maximov was one of the first among the Bogorodsky carvers of our time to turn to articles on literary works. His diploma composition on the plot of the famous poem by NA Nekrasov opened a new direction in the work of the fishery and was at the same time connected with the theme of traditional local sculptural images made in the 19th century. If the old Bogorodsk masters liked to depict dashing triads, coachmen, solemn departures of power-dwelling townspeople, gallant horsemen, then Maximov made a sculpture in which the heroic beginning was shaded by the comic nature of the situation. An image of a frightened racing troika with a bear rushing in a sleigh fell in love with Bogorodsky carvers. Many of them made their own version of this amusing scene. In his own way, twenty years after Maximov, another famous carver-MA Pronin performed it.
Comparing the sculpture of Maximov’s work with the sculpture carved by Pronin, one can see what great changes took place in the art of the Bogorod carving in twenty years. Maximov’s work stylistically is still firmly connected with the works of Bogorodians of the beginning of the century, with the manner of carving of Chushkin. Her figures are somewhat squat and angular. Their planes retain traces of processing with a knife, each of them was cut from a piece of wood with the calculation of the least expenditure of forces, without a discount for further surface finishing with sandpaper. The group, carved by Pronin, is more elegant, swift. Its planes are treated more generously, masterfully, with the explicit intention to enhance the juiciness of the play of light and shadow, the smooth surfaces are carefully, almost glossy, treated with emery. Such a tendency to easel sculpture is clearly in contradiction with the folk tradition, which could not but affect the further development of the fishery.
In 1937, Maximov created a new sculptural composition – Chapaevskaya tachanka. He worked under the impression of the 1934 film of the Vasilyev brothers “Chapayev”. And this work of Maximov opened for the carvers of the fishery a new interesting topic, caused many imitations and variants. Ten years later, Pronin made his own sample of this theme “Chapaev on a tachanka”, also included in the gold fund of fishing products.
The most fruitful years in the creative biography of Maximov were the 1950-1960s. In these ten or twelve years he creates all the most significant works: he works a lot on sculptural compositions on the themes of literary works, makes samples of mass products-toys.
During this period, great changes occurred in the work of the Bogorodskoye fishery. They were connected with the search for the further development of the local art of carving. By that time, the production of cheap children’s toys, many of which appeared before the revolution or in the first years after it, could no longer bring sufficient income to the fishery. Bogorodsky carvers are intensively looking for images of sculptural images that would have a wide demand from the buyer. For the sake of this circumstance, they begin to produce carved sculptures of deer, eagles on the rock, the compositions of which were borrowed from products that existed in the markets of southern resorts of the country. The products of the fishery more and more obviously obeyed the influence of bad taste, it was obviously of a souvenir-market nature.
In this situation, Maximov’s work on creating a sculpture on the themes of popular works of classical literature was of undoubted importance to the Bogorodskoye fishery. Such work outlined a way for the entire artel to take a more responsible attitude to the subject of mass products, opened a circle of stories with images of heroes close to folklore, the traditions of Russian folk art.
The sculptural composition “To Whom in Russia to Live Well” on the plot of the poem by NA Nekrasov echoes the sculptural figures-peasant characters of the work of the 19th-century Bogorod masters, with the images created by Chushkin. A whole series of sculptures by Maximov is dedicated to the stories of P. Ershov’s fairy tale “The Hunchbacked Horse”. In it, the carver had the opportunity to depict the miraculous horses that are so popular and characteristic for the Bogorod carving in the most varied states: racing in a frenzied leap, snaking up, standing in proud pride. It is characteristic that in each of Maximov’s compositions on the themes of Ershov’s fairy-tale, horses are depicted in canonical carvings for this type of sculpture. But this does not in the least prevent the master’s imagination from building the entire sculptural group in its own way. On the contrary, the fishing canon of the image of horses helps him to make the figures of animals expressive, truly fabulous.
At the same time, in the carved sculptures of Maximov’s work there is clearly felt the influence of the art of professional artists – illustrators of the book, animal sculptors. And this is quite understandable. Modern Bogorodsky carver can not but experience the impact of professional art. In the works of professional artists, he tries to see what is useful for his work. Creating a cycle on the stories of Ershov’s fairy tale, Maximov looked through more than one illustrated edition of this book, carefully studied the lithographs of Yu. A. Vasnetsov and the porcelain sculpture of S. M. Orlov, noted in them elements suitable for use in the characteristic Bogorod work of carvings.
In the same years, Maximov made several carved toys. And in this kind of work he managed to find solutions that allow to connect the new with the traditional principles of execution of the former Bogorodsk products. Developing the composition of a mass toy with a figure so typical in the products of bear hunting, the master came up with funny and quite modern subjects for this. His bear was a builder, flying on a rocket around the Earth. Figures powered by a simple mechanism, like children are no less clockwork.
Traditionally, the Bogorodskaya toy-souvenir was prepared by Maksimov for the 150th anniversary of the Patriotic War of 1812. He made a squadron of hussars. Thanks to the use of planks, fastened with hinges, as a pedestal, the sculptural group on the principle of a folk toy could be assembled into two different compositions. The riders then rode “in single file,” then stood up in a double row. All the figures “divorced” were cut exactly the same way and only one commander stood out. The sculpture-toy was extremely simple in work and convenient for mass production.
During the XX century, important changes occurred in the fate of the ancient craft of carved items in the village of Bogorodsky. At the beginning of the century, local masters unite in the artel, in the 30s – in the collective farm, now on the basis of the craft Bogorodsk factory of artistic carving was created. Throughout the current century, the art of the Bogorodsk art carving has repeatedly been forced to seek new subjects, improve the process of execution of carvings in accordance with market demands. Subordinate to this influence, carvers in the first decades of the century more began to make sculptural compositions and less traditional for the fishing of mobile toys. Their work became more and more obvious like an easel sculpture, and the true folk beginning in carving, expressed before in the creation of bright and laconic images, was increasingly replaced by the fascination of the plot. Having mastered the techniques of modeling, the Bogorodsky carvers imperceptibly began to lose the skill of virtuosic and economical skill in working with wood. Their compositions have become more complicated, but not so impressive in their simplicity, as works of old masters. It was not always possible for the fishing collective to create a new one, in accordance with its own best traditions, quite often the craftsmen recklessly took a great interest in borrowing manners and plots that were not peculiar to their style of work.
But the best artists of Bogorodsky and among them such masters as Chushkin and Maksimov, being themselves the initiators of the search for a new one, tried not to break with the achievements of the past. In certain periods, departing from tradition, they knew how to return to it. They knew how to show fellow workers that in the system of traditions you can open the way to a new one.
Bogorodskaya factory of artistic carving produces many toy-sculptures. It is felt that many images mechanically reproduce in the carvings miscalculations made by the designer of the sculpture even at the time of finding its composition in soft material. The art of the best old masters, the work of Chushkin and Maksimov, can serve modern Bogorodsky carvers as examples of a thoughtful and innovative attitude towards finding ways to further develop the traditional Bogorodsky artistic carving.

Masters of Bogorodsky sculpture A. Ya. Pushkin and N. I. Maksimov