The Kasli Cast-Iron Pavilion
The Kasli Cast-Iron Pavilion
The story narrated is largely based on real historical facts and official records obtained from the archives.
The pavilion was made at the Kasli works in the Urals, an enterprise which, due to its artistic castings, gained wide fame not only in Russia but far beyond its limits as well. Launched in the first third of the XlXth century their production is believed to have reached the highest point of its efflorescence somewhere in the fifties.
A whole galaxy of craftsmen generously endowed by nature with unique gifts was brought up at the works. Their subtle understanding of the possibilities of cast-iron in terms of technological treatment and its plastic qualities enabled them to become real trail-blazers in their field. The important fact was that the Kasli artisans worked from models of well-known Russian and foreign sculptors, and, as often as not, created their own compositions. The casting of animal figures, however, was described as their special forte. But alongside items of openwork sculpture the Kasli factory turned out gratings, park benches, fire-places and so on. That was how the experience accumulated in architectural casting and open-work moulding made it possible to tackle the 1900 pavilion job.
The Kasli cast-iron pavilion for the Paris World Exhibition was built to the design of architect E.Baumharten. Products sent by the Kyshtym plants as well as those representing the Kasli works were to be put on display there. Work on the pavilion was started in 1898 and the project was completed by 1900.
The Paris World Exhibition was at the time the largest of its kind. Its basic task consisted in assessing the achievements of the past and providing an insight into the future of the XXth century.
The Kasli cast-iron pavilion was shown in the building allotted for the mining and metallurgy section. It evoked universal admiration and won the highest award – the Grand Gold Medal. The pavilion was the handiwork of such outstanding Kasli masters as N. Teplyakov, A. Mochalin, V. Timofeev, V. Kuznetsov, V. Ageev, K. Tarasov and many others.
After the exhibition was over, however, the pavilion was dismantled and shipped back to the works where, no longer thought of much value, it was just let to rust as havijig served its purpose. It was not until after the second world war that real efforts were undertaken to restore it. The concern for the fate of the pavilion was shared by many organizations.
A team of twenty craftsmen with S. Gilev at its head buckled down to work. The task facing them was indeed a difficult one. As many as one thousand details were to be cast anew. As to their quality and form the newly produced pieces did not differ in any way from their original models. The Soviet craftsmen proved worthy heirs to the art of their great fathers and grandfathers.
The Kasli cast-iron pavilion is almost five metres high. It is executed in the traditions of old Russian art which prompted the choice of its overall ornamental solution and determined the subjects of its major bas-reliefs — the fantastic birds of good and ill omen, the ancient barks and so forth. All of them are distinguished by amazingly delicate workmanship and this is
what makes it hard to believe that before you are works of art cast of heavy-weight metal and not of noble bronze.
Put on view inside the pavilion and around it are several open-work sculptured casts.
The Kasli cast-iron pavilion has played an important role in the promotion of Ural artistic casting the traditions of which have been preserved to this day.
The lower tier
The lower tier does not abound in open-work ornamental gratings. What is stressed here is the strength and compactness of the metal. The ornaments are designed in a restrained and laconic style. The basic surfaces of the lower tier are distinguished for their rich and varied decorations. Facing the main entrance is a low barrier which encloses a tiny yard in front of the pavilion. The reliefs are different in character with a slight predominance of the ornamental variety. The five-metre high cast-iron pavilion securely rests on a smooth massive plinth.
The middle tier
The middle tier
Separated from the lower by a lacelike cast-iron belt, the middle tier is rich in various ornaments and reliefs. What imparts to them an added measure of expressivity are the happy combinations of high and low reliefs, the striking contrasts of colour between the velvet material and the cast-iron designs which the former serves to bring out to greater advantage. Also effective is the skilful accentuation of separate elements by providing for them a double bronze and golden background. Another interesting feature of the middle tier is the rhythmic repetition of large-size reliefs such as barks with billowing sails and birds of good and ill omen. The reliefs are all set in heavy cast-iron frames while each composition is beautifully adorned with open-work fantastic plants.
The upper tier
A lacelike cast-iron ribbon- separates the upper and the middle tiers. As distinct from the other two, the upper tier is noted for its light and transparent quality. This impression is further heightened by the lattice window element on the one hand, and the total exclusion from the composition of any large group of whole reliefs, on the other. The decorative reliefs are all different both in sculpture and their subjects. Motifs of fantastic dragons and birds have also been used in a variety of ways. The tier is topped by an interwoven open-work grating which crowns the whole of the pavilion.
“ Sculpture “Russia”
“Russia”, a sculpture by N. Laveretsky, stands in front of the entrance to the pavilion.
The sculptor portrays Russia as a young woman-warrior, beautiful and strong of limb. She is depicted wearing a mail and holding a sword in her right hand and a shield – in her left. Manifesting a profound understanding of cast-iron as a plastic material, the sculptor succeeded in conveying the ornaments in the fabric of the mail, the flow of her long hair and the heavy folds of her clothes. The work is executed with consummate technical skill and bespeaks loyalty to the traditions of Russian academic sculpture.