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Each Folk Craft industry is not only a center of unique Art, but a place with
it's own peculiar natural features, history way of life and culture. One of such
unique centers is Mstera (or Mstyora, how do we call it in Russian).
Village of Mstera located on a rolling banks of Klyazma river in a beautiful scenic
spot some 60 miles(100 km) from the old Russian town of Vladimir.
The first information of Mstera as a village of flourishing trade and crafts goes
back to the 17th century. Lack of arable land forced its dwellers to practice gardening,
crafts and trade. From times of old styles of icon painting, talented needle workers
specializing in white satin-stitch embroidery, copper and silver chasers and restorers
of icons and frescoes.
In Mstera icon painting came to its final decline at the beginning of the 20th century
owing to the emergence of the industrial icon production. Icon painting lost it's
significance as an artistic craft. Nevertheless the rich experience, knowledge and skill
of Mstera's icon painters did not disappear. Several arduous years went by in search of
a new sphere of application for their talents.
1931 was a significant year for Mstera Art.On july 22 an artel was set up that was
to specialize in decorating papier-mache objects. It was called "Proletarian Art", a name quite
in tune with the times. In a short span of time Mstera's best Masters learned the technique
of tempera painting and making papier-mache objects. Yet much remained to be done to bring out
all of the aspects of their artistic tradition that could contribute to the emergence of a new art.
The choice of a new style had behind it the joint experience of several generations of artist,
but the foundations were laid by Nikolay Klykov,Ivan Serebryakov,Ye.Yurin,I.Morozov,
A.Kotyagin,A.Bryagin,I.Fomin and G.Dmitriev.
Making use of all progressive elements of Old Russian culture Mstera's
box painting discovered it's own style that was quite different from the kindred crafts
of Palekh and Kholui.
Mstera's box is known for the multi-colored ground of it's miniatures painted in light-turquoise
and ochre-pink shades. Black is absolutely absent from the color palette.
The landscape is painted in a realistic manner. Another typical feature of Mstera's box is the many colored
treatment of the trees' foliage that is represented by means of local spots imparting
a special decor to the whole miniature. Mstera also offers a more realistic depiction of human figures.
It's masters hardly ever use gold to outline the forms-it is found mainly in the ornament.
The vivid works of the founders of Mstera Art have had a favorable influence on the younger
artists. In the late 1950's and of course of the 1960's there emerged the Art of a new generation
of Msters's Masters--N.Shishakov, M.Dmitrieva, Yekaterina Zonina, Lev Fomichev, Lidiya Demidova,
Yuriy Vavanov,A. Krylov, Leonid Zuyikov, Vsevolod Nekosov and Piotr Sosin.
Mstera's lacquer box is vivid evidence of the remarkable viability of old Russian painting
and folk decorative Art.