Russian folk carving

Russian folk carving

Sledge for carnival. The beginning of the 20th century. Arkhangelsk region, Cherevkovo village on the Northern Dvina Carving, painting. 57x26x28.

Russian folk carving and painting on wood

In the late 1930s, the Museum of Folk Art Crafts in Moscow, on the initiative of J. Ya. Schwager, assembled the first, literally single, items of Russian peasant life made of wood. In the same years, a rare collection of Volga house carvings was brought into the museum. The well-known connoisseur and researcher of the folk art of the Volga region, MP Zvantsev, took part in the collection. In 1941, the collection of this museum was handed over to the Zagorskiy State Historical and Art Museum-Reserve, where the work on completing the collection was continued.

Recently, the museum has conducted more than 50 scientific expeditions to collect and study Russian folk art. Some samples date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The territory, which was surveyed in the 1950-1960s by the Zagorsk Museum, is extensive. It includes the entire Russian North (Arkhangelsk and Vologda regions), lands lying along the upper and middle reaches of the Volga (Gorky, Kostroma, Yaroslavl and Kalinin regions) and further to the west (Smolensk, Pskov, Novgorod and Leningrad regions).
The collection of wood products collected in this area is of great interest primarily because of its great artistic significance. In addition, the study for several years of art in this or that area often provided an opportunity to open entirely new centers of folk art. And so the collection of the Zagorsky Museum not only allows the classification of many sections of Russian folk art, begun before the revolution, supplemented by the researchers, but it is often the only source that makes it possible for the first time to annotate individual works of pre-revolutionary collections that were not given the importance of scientific certification.

Russian folk carving

The leaf of the peasant cupboard. The beginning of the 20th century. Vologda region, Totsky district, Matveevo village. Hand painting. 47x30x52.

The Russian North and the lands of the Upper and Middle Volga are the most forest areas of the European part of Russia. Larch, pine, spruce, birch, maple and many other species of trees have been used by people since ancient times: here they cut the dwelling and all household buildings around the house, created sculptural images of the gods, erected temples, built large and small vessels, made furniture, many tools, crafted dishes and toys. It was the most accessible, durable and easily processed material.
Not the last place among the listed advantages played the beauty of the material – its diverse color and natural pattern of wood, which the craftsmen could use so well in their crafts. Man has long sought not only to surround himself with the necessary items in his life, but also to decorate them. The feeling of beauty developed inseparably from the process of labor, it was born from the need for creativity, reflecting the aesthetic ideals and spiritual culture of man. So, from century to century, taking in all the best that was created earlier, the national culture developed, the art of the Russian people.

Folk art is so beautiful that it is the offspring of the whole people. The powerful course of its history absorbed all the sources of beauty and carried through the ages the fresh life of innumerable springs of folk art. It is in folk art that the national taste is most clearly manifested. In it people reflected dreams of beauty, their hopes for happiness. In creative work, in an uncontrollable flight of fantasy, folk artists were transferred to the wonderful world of beauty. Works of truly great art filled every peasant house, which itself very often was a beautiful monument of wooden architecture. Sledges and arcs, trunks and cradles, spinning wheels and seamstresses, winches and rattled, buckets and solonets were skillfully decorated with carvings and paintings.
Carpentry was especially developed in the forest areas of Russia. Great importance in Russian wooden architecture was given to the carved decor of the buildings. The most striking page of this art in the 19th century was the house carving of the Volga region. The huts, elegantly “dressed” with carvings, resemble fairy-tale houses (il. 1). Patterned boards with a juicy, high relief carving with a recessed background emphasize and reveal the structural features of the structure.
Already from a distance it is noticeable how, contrasting with the log building, patterned boards reveal the main volumes: a deep-sided gable is underlined by brightly illuminated wings, the light-emitting aperture is bordered by a relief frame of the clypeus, under the front board there are a wide ornamental strip of platbands of windows, the endboards clearly delineate the edges of the log , carved door and gate gates, hanging over the leaflets of the doors, complete the facade of the entire expressive architectural complex.
A lush floral pattern with round curls runs along the carved planks, plaiting in its shoots those large flower heads resembling a daisy, then bunches of grapes, then ornamental fruits resembling huge lumps of some fairy-tale trees. And in the density of the lush and rhythmic vegetative pattern, lions with humanized heads, birgini in the guise of mermaids, sirens in royal crowns are posing. And finally, with close examination, they delight us with a new, new beauty – the perfection of carving, which the masters of the Volga region attached to great importance. We admire not only the artistic imagery and the skill of decorating, but also the material itself – a carved wood. Weathered over many decades under the open sky, the tree now plays not only color, but also a pattern of fibers.

Russian folk carving

Skates. Toys, the beginning of the 20th century. Arhangelsk region. Leshukonsky District, village of Palagcelia on the Mezen River

One of the traditional decorations of a peasant house on the 4th stretch of almost the entire 19th century was a patterned frontal board,
which, as it were, crowned the frame, separating it from the pediment. Very rarely, the floral pattern was continuous continuous tape, evenly filling the entire frontal board from edge to edge. Usually the compositional center was clearly outlined, which sometimes served as a date enclosed in a relief frame. On either side of it were lions, mermaids and sirens. Sometimes it was a vase, from which came the stems of a flower garland.
And very rarely – the name and initials of the master, as on the frontal board of the house of the famous master of the Volga region Mikhail Malyshev, whose imagination knew no bounds, as if his chisel was endowed with magic (il II). Patterns applied to ordinary pine boards made this simple and cheapest material into a jewel. The largest researcher of house carving in the Volga region, MP Zvantsev, called Malyshev “the classic of Nizhny Novgorod carving.” His work is distinguished by the clarity of the ornament, the juiciness in the measure of high relief and careful modeling of very plastic carving.

Along with the rich ornamentation of the frontal boards, the red windows of the house (that is, the large windows in size) were decorated beneath them, in contrast to the small ones – the volost ones, which in the Volga region were cut in the first half of the last century on either side of one large red window . The shape of the casing of the red window reproduced in the album (fig.6), with slightly elongated proportions and a sandric loosened, is borrowed by folk masters from the decor of stone architecture.
This is indicated by clearly read capitals that support sandrik, and a slender number of crackers bordering it. But the folk carver adapted all these elements to the new material, reinterpreted it creatively, and therefore they so organically merged into the decor of the peasant hut. The author showed great skill in interpreting the pattern with the image of birds, they are subject to a common ornamental solution. Density and splendor of the pattern are perfectly emphasized by a smooth tree of shutters and vertical beams of clypeus.
Especially elegantly decorated the master of the Volga region trimmed light-emitting windows. The window of the light-box was the decorative center of the heavily sinking space of the pediment. The clypeus was very sculptural and voluminous. In the thread of the light-emitting windows, the creative imagination of the masters is striking: here are the elements of classical architecture, perfectly inscribed into the overall composition of the clypeus, and fabulous creatures, and twisted wooden columns, and birds in the aureole of the rays of the solar sockets. The beautiful and lively texture of the tree attracts attention when considering the details of thread-fragments of vegetative patterns and images of various fairy-tale creatures.
The rhythmic living pattern of the wood fibers sometimes excellently reveals the plasticity of the relief images, emphasizes the expressiveness of the mysterious Sirins and Bereguin gazing at the viewer, and helps to convey the living mimicry of the cat’s muzzle of a lion. The natural pattern of the fibers cuts through the wrinkles of the forehead, then the thin rays scatter from the eyes around the roundness of the cheeks, then emphasizes the amusing line of the nose, then lies around the folded mouth. Master delicately felt the texture of the tree and always used it to enhance the expressiveness of his images.
That’s why fairy-tale characters in the wood carving of the Volga region, which arose, perhaps, under the influence of white-stone reliefs of ancient Vladimir-Suzdal architectural structures, are perceived in a new way and have their features inherent only in wooden folk plastic features.
One of the most interesting and most common images of the Volga house carving is the image of the birgini, which is not found in any other form of Russian folk art. The name “Bereginya” leaves no doubt that once this creature had to protect. Apparently, the “charm” in the image of a mermaid was cut first on ships and this image arose even in those distant times when they believed in the good power of the deity that protected people during the voyages from the evil spirits of the elements. The Nizhny Novgorod deaf, with a deeper background, carvings on peasant houses is supposed to have appeared in the early 19th century, and in the middle its flowering has come. This rapid development testifies to very ancient traditions. Most likely, deaf carving is borrowed from the ornaments of Volga ships.

Russian folk carving

Cradle. The second half of the 19th century. Arkhangelsk region, Krasnoborsky district, the village of Big courtyard at Tsivlyere. Carpentry painting. 76x41x28.

If in the wooden architecture of the Volga region there is some cozy intimacy, then the villages of the North produce a completely different impression. They at first sight amaze with grandeur of buildings, strictness of forms and restraint of decor. Under the roof of one northern two-story house there were sometimes up to 10 residential houses (cages or log houses). Four of them, located in two floors, and the light above them went out to the front, to the main street, which ran parallel to the road or river. Two huts, set in two floors, went out on one side facade, two – on the other. The log cabin of the back hut crashed its volume into cattle yards. It warmed water for cattle, brought calves for the winter. Under the same roof with these cottages were and cattle yards. Above them, across their length, the second floor was a cry – an undeveloped huge room for hay and peasant implements. The cry lasted sometimes four or five log cabins, with an independent gate on the second floor, where a horse with a cart of hay entered the log floor.

In the Russian folk art of the 19th century, there are individual unique works made by masters outside the context of established traditions. Such works of great artistic value include the beehive reproduced in the album in the form of a bear and two birdhouses, the “old man” and the “old woman”. Particularly praiseworthy is the sculptural image of a bear (il 28). Large size, it is decided very conditionally. The carver almost retained the shape of a massive log. These objects, rare for the people of the 19th century, are a clear indication of the extent to which the creative potential of the people is wide, how unlimited its fantasy is.
A great place in the design of the facades and interiors of the houses was occupied by painting. Her techniques, as well as in the carving, are diverse. Artistic interest is represented by decorative murals of the facades of the huts of the Russian North. Painting usually covered from the rain and snow parts of the house: the lower side of the wide roof canopies (ill IV), the balcony of the light and the pediment. The painting was very large, decorative, bright in color. Often a pattern was used in a colored sword, they were very fond of writing flowers, and sometimes the surface of the pediment turned into an image of a lush garden.
On both sides of the light-window, decorative figures of lions were fitted, and sometimes the host and mistress of the house, as if standing on the balcony, were depicted. But many of these decorative paintings destroyed the time, and only fragments reached us. The painting of peasant interiors was better preserved. Especially it spread in the regions of the Russian North.
In the 19th century, and often even in the first decades of the 20th century, the painting covered almost the entire interior of the northern hut. It was done without a preliminary drawing with free picturesque strokes of the brush, which were later highlighted with spaces (lively). The motives for this painting are various flowers. They painted the golbets (a covered wall next to the stove, with a door to the stairs to the lower cage), padded stitches (where the stitches were hid), a bowl for dishes, a ship in several gates (which came from the stove along the side wall), a crow ), a shelf for icons in the red corner, the front door. And in the center of the bright, cheerful painted hut there hung a decorated cradle. Completed the whole complex of paintings of walls and furniture painted chests; In the winter, at the entrance to a special ledge of the bench, a hanging clamp was hung, the wooden parts of which were covered with painting; On the bench, lit by the light from the window, a spinning wheel flashed; on the shelves above the windows stood a wooden tableware with paintings.

Russian folk carving and painting on wood