About Zhostovo craft

The village of Zhostovo outside Moscow has become a symbol of unique folk art. For more than 185 years now many of its inhabitants have been developing the skill of decorating but one thing, trays. Their skillful hands have turned this household utensil into a work of art. Bouquets or garden and field flowers strewn against the black background adorn these trays, giving people joie-de-vivre and awakening admiration over the beauty and diversity of nature. Every human being shares these feelings, and therefore few people remain indifferent to the Zhostovo craft, which has long become world famous.

Zhostovo wares belong to the family of Russian lacquers, whose history goes back to the emergence of miniature lacquer painting on papier-mache in the village of Danilkovo near Fcdoskino and the villages of Ostashkovo and Zhosto­vo, all in the Moscow Region, in the late 18th century. Lukutins' and Vishnyakovs' workshops were famous for their caskets, snuff boxes, purses, boxes, stamp cases, cigarette cases, tea boxes, match boxes, pencil stands, plates, folders and other small objects decorated with miniature paintings that offered free interpre­tations of popular scenes of easel painting and engraving. Started as lacquer miniature painting, the manufacture of trays gradually evolved into an inde­pendent craft, which engaged the inhabitants of several villages of the former Troitsk volost of the Moscow uyezd of the Moscow gubernia, such as Zhostovo, Ostashkovo, Khlebnikovo, Troitskoye, Sorokino, Novosiltsevo and Chivirevo. Zhostovo played the leading role and gave the name to the entire craft.

The first trays were made in Zhostovo in 1807, when Filipp Nikitich Vishnyakov founded his workshop. After he moved to Moscow, his brother Tar as carried on the family business. Yegor Vishnyakov started the manufacture of pa­pier-mache and metal lacquers in the village of Ostashkovo 2km away from Zhos­tovo in 1815, and Osip Filippovich Vishnyakov, whose name is associated with the flourishing of the craft, opened his workshop in 1825. Vishnyakovs' work­shops were not the only ones operating in the area. During the same time Ivan Mi-trofanovich Mitrofanov's workshop "remodelled trays" in Zhostovo. Andrei Alex-eyevich Zaitscv started to produce trays in the village of Troitskoye in 1826. In the 1860s, Yegor Fyodorovich Belyaycv, Timofei Maximovich Belyaycv and Vassily Lconticvich Leonticv opened their workshops in Zhostovo, Filipp Vassilycvich Shapkin and Yegor Sergeycv in the village of Sorokino, and Ivan Kolomensky and Nikita and Ivan Salov in the village of Khlebnikovo. Documents list twelve work­shops operating in the 1840s and the early 1850s. The manufacture of trays, now made not only of papier-mache but also of iron, emerged as a fairly developed craft in the Moscow region by that time.

Every tray was usually handled by three craftsmen - a smith, who pro­duced shapes, a spatter, who covered the tray with a layer of ground, and a painter, who did the painting. After the tray was dried, the ground-worker covered it with lacquer. In the beginning the workshop master and members of his family worked on a par with other employees. With the expansion of business there ap­peared hired laborers, and the master increasingly turned into an entrepreneur who did not always have an intimate knowledge of production. In the 1870s through the 1880s tray making involved more than 240 workers in the Moscow re­gion. Osip Vishnyakov's and Yegor Belyayev's workshops were the largest in Zhos­tovo and employed respectively 59 and 51 craftsmen. The earliest Zhostovo trays surviving in museum collections date to that period. Their dating and provenance primarily from the Vishnyakovs' workshops is certified by trademarks on the reverse side of trays, which give the name of the factory owner and the list of prizes won at major art and industry exhibitions, as well as handicrafts shows.                                                     


As the Zhostovo craftsmen expanded production, they took account of and absorbed the experience of other tray-makers. They were prompted the idea of replacing papier-mache with metal, which was hardier, by trays from Nizhny Tagil, which had become a well-known production center way back in the 17th century. Those masters were making large trays painted from original canvasses or engravings. In the mid-19th century they were supplanted by more common­place trays of diverse shapes; they were adorned with foliate ornaments, which were characteristic of many folk utensils produced in the Urals. Nizhny Tagil re­mained Russia's leading tray-maker till the 1870s-1880s, when the Zhostovo pro­ducts began strongly to compete with them.

In the mid-19th century, the St. Petersburg tray-making industry became quite famous. Their specialty was trays of sophisticated shapes and designs, painted with flowers, fruit, birds amongst shells and intricate curls. Many Zhos­tovo smiths and painters used to go to St. Petersburg to work or to sell their wares.

The tray as a household utensil had been known since times immemorial, but in the 19th century the demand for trays rose as a result of the growth of cities and the expansion of the netivork of hotels, eateries and bars, where trays were used both for their immediate purpose and as interior decorations. It was that new market that enabled the Zhostovo masters to establish themselves as a distinctive tray-making industry. They took into account the experience of other production centers, but instead of merely borrowing the shapes and techniques they liked, they reworked them into their own inimitable style. They borrowed many shapes - including the guitar-like, round, octagonal and rectangular ones -from Nizhny Tagil. However, the Zhostovo smiths improved and diversified them by varying sizes and proportions, introducing smooth curves to join the plate of the tray to its border, and adorning the carved handles with intricate designs.

The Zhostovo masters admired the virtuoso mastery of St. Petersburg trays and learned from them the art of decorative still life, also adapting it to fit their own wares. Along with absorbing some of the techniques of other tray-makers, the Zhostovo craftsmen primarily tried to develop their own, local traditions. Zhostovo tray-making was born of the miniature lacquer painting craft that was practised in villages and townships around Moscow, and that umbilical cord was not cut for a long time. Until the 20th century the trays and lacquered wares were produced in the same workshop and painted by the same masters. Even after tray-making had spun off as a distinctive industry, the Zhostovo tray pain­ters continued to improve the techniques of processing lacquered papier-mache boxes while using the same grounds, lacquers and oil paints. The specific Fedos-kino techniques of multilayer painting, subsequent light brushes against metal­lized or multicolored backgrounds and mother-of-pearl inlay were borrowed from lacquer miniature painting and applied to tray-making.

The scenes painted on early trays - troika carriages, tea-parties and rus­tic character scenes - were close to the compositions used on lacquer miniatures. Engravings from fashionable canvases by Russian, Ukrainian and European mas­ters that were reprinted extensively by many magazines were copied on a large scale: they were adapted and modified to fit the decorative nature of tray paining. Compositions were simplified and skilfully integrated into the diverse shapes and sizes of trays, and artists used the laws of perspective to create the impression of depth and volume and balance parts of the composition and colors to give cadence to their works.

One early example of this style is a 1980s tray from the workshop of O. F. Vishnyakov, which shows a "summer troika." A cart drawn by three horses is spotlighted, as it were, in the center of an oval tray. There are two girls and a driver lad in the cart. The postures of the horses and people bespeak fast move­ment. The shrubs and trees standing out barely from the dark indicate the scenery. The bright colors of the people's dresses complement the decorative composition of the painting. A Ukrainian genre scene on another tray from O. Vishnyakov's workshop and especially a popular scene of a "tea-party" on a tray from V. O. Vishnyakov's workshop were done in a similar style.

A tray showing Peter the Great on Lake Ladoga appears to hail back to the origins of the Zhostovo industry. The F. Т. B. brand on the reverse indicates that the tray must have been made from Timofcy Belyayev's workshop, which was producing in Zhostovo in the mid-19th century. The painter used a lithograph from the 1812 engraving "Peter the Great Caught in a Storm on Lake Ladoga" by the French artist C. Stcibcn, which was quite popular in Russia in the 19th century and which was reprinted by various magazines. Nizhny Tagil masters faithfully reproduced it on their trays , but the Zhostovo painters only used the idea, but modified the figures of the characters and their postures in the composition.The romantic clan of the painting was enhanced by the expressions on the faces of the characters and by the stormy clouds and bolts of lighting in the skies. The decorative colors of the characters' dresses are harmonized with the easel-paint­ing character of the scene, which looks like a framed canvas; the frame is simu­lated by a broad ornamental border, which extends from the intricate sides of the tray onto the main field. It shows a succession of oval leaves painted on Dutch gold, which are characteristic of the Zhostovo style, and spiral-like curves.

Alongside using genre scenes, Zhostovo craftsmen increasingly de­veloped their own style of decorative floral compositions, which became domi­nant by the mid-1880s. Trays of that period are characterized by a pronouncedly original style which evolved in the preceding decades. Local artistic traditions and the creative development of the main accomplishments of other crafts enabled Zhostovo craftsmen to evolve their original style and an unique system of the local craft that are manifest in every piece dating to that period.

In one of the trays from Of. Vishnyakov's workshop decorated with a bouquet against a white background the oval plane gently flows into a sharply bent border. The shape is well-proportioned, resilient and elegant. A bunch of roses, bindweeds and dahlias entwined with leaves and grasses, typical of trays of that period, is in the center. Though representations were flat, the exquisite cur­ves of plants and their characteristic interpretations created a three-dimensional impression. The natural placement of flowers went well with the balanced parts of the bouquet and the rhythmic alternation of similar motifs and colorful spots. The conventional airiness of the background was attained with the help of light shadows. The soft shades were in perfect harmony with the ivory background. The composition was held together by a golden ornament of vine leaves and grapes gently flowing from the edge of the tray onto its central part. Such borders were called "uborka" (adornment) in Zhostovo.

A tight bunch of roses, camomiles, columbines and other small flowers and leaves, which looked quite authentic even though their nature remained un­specified, was painted against a black background on another tray attributed to V.T. Belyayev's workshop and dated to the late 19th - early 20th centuries. The shape was formed with the help of energetic brushwork and white highlights, with its conventionality enhanced by thin stems and light loop-like curls of tendrils. The shape of the bouquet with overhanging sides echoes the shape of the oval and slightly curving tray. The rows of ornamental strips along the edge look like a rich frame of a peculiar floral still life.

The indispensable elements of gradual Zhostovo painting, which form a certain system, a professional artistic canon to this day characteristic of the Zhostovo craft, can be traced in these items.

Zhostovo painting started with "zamalyovka," in which the silhouettes of flowers and leaves, organized into a bouquet composition in the painter's imagin­ation, were sketched in whitened paint. After the initial painting dried, shadows were laid in scumbling (transparent) colors. This shadowing technique immersed the bouquet deep into the background, outlining the shadowy parts of plants. Next came the most important stage of "prokladka" - the thick painting of the main body. The bouquet took shape through minute details and highlights, giving birth to either a contrasting or harmonized composition color scheme. "Blikovka," or highlighting emphasized volume and lighting, finalizing the shape and making it conventionally material. The subsequent "chcrtyozhka" picked out the details in swift and light outlines of petals and leaves, the veins and seeds in the flower cups. The painting is finished off with "privyazka," the tying up of the bouquet with the background with the help of thin grasses and tendrils.

The consequent techniques of Zhostovo painting formed, as it were, the ABC of the solid local craft. It did not prevent craftsmen from free improviza-tion, the selective interpretation of every element and the subordination of the en­tire system to the author's unique personal style. That system remained unchanged in the various trends of Zhostovo painting that became manifest in the works of the 1880s through the 1900s.

One such trend was associated with gorgeous expensive trays decorated with bunches of flowers reminiscent of floral still life, and another trend with modest common wares painted in the tradition of folk ornament. The former trend is richly illustrated by many trays reproduced in the present publication, whereas the latter is exemplified by a small tray from the Vishnyakov Brothers' workshop. Its guitar shape, bright orange background and central composition make it similar to Nizhny Tagil wares. However, the nature of flowers and rounded three-dimensional fruit, and inherent rhythm which attuned them to the shape of the tray, as well as the presence of all elements of Zhostovo painting tes­tify that it was done by an anonymous Zhostovo master craftsman.

In broadening the expressive means of their craft, Zhostovo painters were devising new techniques of ornamental painting. They came up with the "smoking" technique, for example, which enabled them to paint the tray with a vi­brant ornament resembling the tortoise shell design, locally known as "pod cherv-yachok" (which roughly translates as "worm-like"). A similar technique was used in papier-mache lacquers, but it was originally adapted to tray-painting and cm-ployed either as an independent ornamental design, or as "uborka," the final em­bellishment, or in combination with rich gilded bordering in order to make the decorative background even more ornate.

The Zhostovo masters painted their trays on colored and golden back­grounds as well as on black and white ones. The surface of the tray was prepared with bronze or aluminum dust which, showing through lacquer, shone like gold and resembled the famous Khokhloma wares. The colors looked especially vibrant against the golden background and the tray seemed a really precious item.

In the olden times no one kept any record of the masters' names. Only one name of Osip Yefimovich Burbyshev (1867-1919) of the old Vishnyakovs' workshops came down to us. The tales of the remarkable gift of that master, who worked for M. P. Vishnyakov in Ostashkovo in the late 19th and early 20th cen­turies, are still alive in Zhostovo. He could fill any order, however challenging. Indeed, several of the surviving trays done by him stand out for their artistry and virtuoso mastery of the local artistic skills. A bunch of flowers with two roses in the heart of it spreads freely against the shimmering golden background of a small intricately shaped tray. The stalks of the flowers arc intricately bent in natural movement, organically filling in the background and keeping the composition in balance. The shapes of the flowers arc fairly realistic, although painted in the conventional Zhostovo manner. The sense of depth is conveyed with rhythmic en­ergetic strokes of the brush. The fine blades of grass create the impression of an airy background, against which bright colors stand out.

Burbyshev's work was an outstanding contribution that enthroned the decorative bunch of flowers as the leading trend in 20th century Zhostovo craft.

In the 1910s, Zhostovo tray-making, like many other folk crafts, was hit by a crisis. The demand for trays had slumped, and production was shrinking. Painters and smiths were leaving their workshops for farming or seasonal work. The die-hards started an artel in the Novosiltsevo village in 1912, but it shortly folded up.

It was only in the 1920s, with the overall revival of folk crafts and the rebirth of artels across the country, that they re-emerged around Zhostovo; in 1928 they merged into the Mctallopodnos artel, which in 1960 took its present name of the Zhostovo decorative painting factory.

Zhostovo fell on hard times in the 1920s and 1930s. The tendency for the uncompromising assertion of modernity and realism that were common for Soviet art prompted the authorities in charge of the folk crafts to try to influence their traditional developmental trends and impose on the Zhostovo painters easel-painting and naturalist models of ornamental and thematic compositions that had been devised by professional artists without any regard for the specific features of the local craft. The leading Zhostovo painters understood that those innovations were alien to the very nature of folk art, so they effectively countered those new trends and infused new ideas into the traditional school of painting.

Much credit for the preservation and development of the best traditions of the local craft goes to the classic Zhostovo masters of the period, among them I. S. Leonticv, P. S. Kurzin, D. S. Kledov and A. I. Leznov. Each of them made a contribution to the art of painting by embroidering on the Zhostovo techniques and enriching their collective fabric with their individual creative quests and ac­complishments.

In asserting the local tradition, painters occasionally produced ingenu­ous copies of old trays from the Vishnyakovs' workshops of the early 20th cen­tury. One example is P. S. Kurzin's tray "Tobacco Leaves." The hallmarks of the painter's original compositions arc simplicity of design and virtuoso techniques. One of his trays is a still life: a vase with a bunch of flowers stands on a table, the wood texture of its boards pointedly highlighted. It stands out against the "tortoise-shell" background. The composition, edged by several ornamental bor­ders, looks like a framed canvas. The painting effectively makes the tray a work of art, reducing its utilitarian purpose to insignificance. This, like the choice of still life as such, is Kurzin's bow to easel-painting, which was the fad at the time, but the entire composition followed the laws of Zhostovo decorative painting. The flowers have depth, but do not look over-naturalistic, and the still life is domi­nated by strict rhythm in the placement of groups of flowers, spots of color and shades of light and dark. Though the composition is static, is details, painted with ease and gusto, look dynamic.

The vertically positioned bunch of flowers on another tray also looks pointedly picturesque, but the decorative theme is all-pervasive as well: the bunch stands out against the black background, the details arc finely drawn up to give complexity to the picture, and the sophisticated interplay of shades and colors is governed by a certain rhythm.

К. V. Gribkov's works also bear the imprint of still life easel-painting. The artist, trained as a decorator, painted trays from drafts rather than impro­vised, as the Zhostovo masters traditionally did. However, he adapted his profes­sional skills to the conventional local techniques, his manner is characterized by the dimensional presentation of flowers and leaves, the intricate ornamental drawing of their shapes, soft and harmonious colors and subdued decorative em­broidery. His hallmark was the crowns of the flowers painted with thick circular highlights, which made them look highly ornamental.

I. S. Leonticv, the leading Zhostovo painter till 1945, based many of his accomplishments on peasant ornaments. His bunches of flowers perfectly fitted the shapes of the trays. The drawings were severe and academic, and the finely ex­ecuted details were complemented by rich highlights that made the flowers stand out from the background. The plants seem to be bathing in air. Although easily recognizable, they arc not naturalistic. The impression of relative perspective is balanced by the flat background, which had a special part to play in Leontiev's trays. He greatly enriched the use of colored, golden and silver backgrounds in the Zhostovo tradition. The bright colors play even more riotously against such back­grounds. Leontiev's works stand out for their fine technique and sophisticated color scheme.

Brothers D. S. and N. S. Kledovs followed different trends of the Zhosto­vo painting. D. S. Kledov was a true master of composition endowed with an ex­pressive style. Flowers and fruit in his still lifes are compact and seem to be ba­thing in air. He strictly adhered to the consecutive methods of Zhostovo painting, bringing them to a high level of perfection.

N. S. Kledov occupied a special place in Zhostovo craft. His works exem­plified the so called primitive or naive painting. Fancy landscapes with small houses tinged by scarlet sunsets, flying flocks of birds and couples boating on ponds with reflections on the water surface adorn his trays. Space is organized with the help of curtains and divided into three planes. Local colors were used in combination with the graphic treatment of details, which made his landscape paintings exuberant and decorative. Akin to tawdry rugs and signboards, they mir­rored townsfolk dreams of a better life.

A. I. Leznov's trays had the qualities of a decorative panel. Big in size and often round in shape, his trays were reminiscent of easel still lifes. Leznov worked with professional artists who designed models for tray painting. The in­compatibility of the principles of easel painting with those of decorative Zhostovo still lifes posed great difficulties, which Leznov managed to surmount after a while, prcsen'ing the traditional Zhostovo style intact and enriching it with the experience of easel painting. Emulating the still life model, he often painted bou­quets and fruit in vases and baskets, attuning them to the shape of the tray and accentuating that shape. Central compositions are well balanced and lit on all sides, with the colors enhanced by the black background. Leznov used boldly and flexibly all the expressive means of Zhostovo painting, interchanging them in every particular piece of work executed now in contrasting colors, now in the fine gradation of shades. He made a virtuoso use of highlights, tracing volumes and shapes of flowers and leaves with visible brush strokes. His craftsmanship was diverse and very artistic.

The development of Zhostovo craft was interrupted by the Great Pa­triotic War of 1941-1945, after which followed a no less difficult stage of its his­tory. The specific nature of decorative and applied arts was ignored, easel ele­ments, genre scenes, naturalism and the bathos of sumptuous ceremonious style contaminated handicrafts of that period, including the works of Zhostovo crafts­men. Fewer trays were painted, while the output of toy buckets and spades in­creased; models and stencils were commonly employed. Despite these unfavorable circumstances, local craftsmen carried on their family businesses and preserved the age-old traditions of the craft, enriching it with their creative experience and handing it over to the younger generation.

A. P. Gogin, who was the leader and chief artist of Zhostovo craft from 1948 to 1961, played an outstanding role in Zhostovo history. He spent his long life in his native village, studying at its old workshops, organizing there an artel in the 1920s, producing a host of diverse works and teaching the traditional craft to numerous apprentices.

As an artist Gogin matured under the guidance of I. S. Lcontiev, whose works he admired. He also studied attentively the works of his fellow craftsmen Leznov and Kurzin, as well as old St Petersburg trays. All that left an imprint in his memory and helped him develop his own style. Gogin had a preference for color, white and golden backgrounds and mother-of-pearl inlays. Every back­ground called for a certain color scheme, composition and design. The master created various shapes - round, winged, figured and oval, and employed different composition patterns, such as strewn or tight bouquets. His favorite flowers were roses, poppies and tulips, to which he added conventional, albeit no less authen­tic, flowers. Gogin's roses can always be recognized by their hanging deep many-petallcd cups, half-open and elongated sideways. He had a lyrical bent and glori­fied Nature's harmony in his flowers.

M. R. Mitrofanov was endowed with an original gift. His works are close to folk ornaments. His bouquets or wreaths of flowers have a special ornamental rhythm or are presented as ornamental compositions. Exquisitely drawn simple shapes look flattened and spread out, their details graphically worked out. Bright local colors create a cheerful palette, enhanced with a frame of golden wreaths.

The master often painted on Dutch gold and placed highlights against the golden background. Mitrofanov's trays are sumptuous and ornamental, manifesting the folk nature of his works.

In 1940, the Fedoskino vocational school opened a department ofZhos-tovo painting to train young craftsmen. Two remarkable Zhostovo painters, P. I. Plakhov and V. I. Dyuzhayev, taught there for many years, the activity that was responsible for their emergence as original masters. They trained several gener­ations of young craftsmen, who developed in their own way the Zhostovo painting traditions, and themselves represented two different, highly dissimilar aspects of the local craft.

P. I. Plakhov studied under I. S. Leontiev and A. I. Leznov and carried on A. P. Gogin's lyrical trend. The experience of his teachers and his being an erudite in the history of European tray painting helped Plakhov evolve his own in­imitable style, in which perfect craftsmanship combined with a poetic and lyrical spirit. Plakhov had a superb command of all local painting techniques and em­ployed them with great skill. His bouquets with elegantly drawn flowers and deli­cately curving stems glow and shine against the black background which acquires a velvet-like depth. The master made a novel use of his rich palette in every new tray, seeking to arrive at a tonal color scheme.

V. I. Dyuzhayev frequently arranged his compositions relying on con­trasts, now placing deliberately cold bluish-white roses against a glaring orange-red background, now alternating well-lit and darkened flowers and clusters of rowan-berries executed in warm brownish-purple shades. Outwardly tranquil and balanced, Dyuzhayev's works are imbued with inward intensity. His poignant color­ing and at times inordinately intense hues occasionally ooze anxiety, still en­hanced by the postures of frightened birds sitting on the flowers, looking warily askance and ready to take off at any moment. Dynamic and imaginative painting made Dyuzhayev's tray gorgeously decorative, strictly conforming to the Zhostovo canons and with the composition fully attuned to the well thought-out shape of the tray. At the same time there is a certain emotional spontaneity about his works.

Another stage in the history of Zhostovo craft started in the 1960s and continues to our day. Overcoming tendencies leaning toward easel painting and naturalism, tray painting has been gaining in prestige and popularity not only owing to large-scale output of serial works, but also owing to unique items that increasingly attracted public attention at numerous exhibitions both at home and abroad.

A young generation of painters trained by Gogin, Plakhov and Dyuzhaycv joined Zhostovo workshops in the 1950s. Today they are the local leaders, who in their turn are training their successors. Zhostovo craft has progressed in the past thirty years and became enriched by remarkable works of art and gifted artisans, who elevated the traditions of a local craft to the level of unique folk art.

Ever since its outset Zhostovo craft has been developed by several generations of craftsmen, who formed painter dynasties. It is being carried on today by the familial Belyayev, Kledov, Antipov, Saveliev, Gogin and Vishnyakov clans. A group of leading Zhostovo painters was awarded the Repin State Prize of the Russian Federation in 1977. Many of them have been granted the honorable title of the Merited Artist of Russia, are members of the Artists' Union, have been dec-
orated with medals of the Academy of Arts, and have won diplomas and awards at numerous exhibitions of different levels. Their works are stored as a national treasury and exhibited by major national museums. Constantly perfecting their craftsmanship, Zhostovo painters give free rein to improvization, demonstrating diverse styles and techniques. В. V. Grafov, a remarkable painter in his own right and Zhostovo's permanent artistic director and chief artist since 1961, gives the following graphic description: "The factory employs over 200 artists. They are all true master craftsmen. Every one of them is a personality with his or her own view of the world. They all work in comparatively equal conditions, using the same tray shapes, materials, brushes and paints. But by the end of the workday I always marvel at the very different results they achieve. As a matter of fact, they are very different, though working in the same conditions; they employ successions of the same techniques, but interpret them differently; they use the same paints, but they mix them on the palette in different combinations; and their brushwork styles are
so different... . I am always amazed by the fanciful play of imagination of all masters and find in their works a source of inspiration for my own work. Just look at this painting and you'll feel pleasure not less than you do from music!"   Modern Zhostovo craftsmen arc increasingly turning the tray from a household object into a work of art, and decorative Zhostovo painting is elevated to the level of an independent genre capable of addressing directly people's thoughts and feelings. B. Grafov goes on to say: "Zhostovo trays are increasingly acquiring the meaning of decorative objects rather than a mere household utensil by virtue of the special importance of their painting. Our trays are both beautiful and meaningful. At first sight the painting seems to be finishing off and adorning the tray, but there is more to it than meets the eye... Take a closer look and you'll be enchanted with the meaning of the bouquet... . Every flower is looking at you and telling you something, or reminding you of something. These flowers are in­imitable and always different, each with its own original character, and even the artist himself will not be able to produce the same bouquet."

Zhostovo craftsmen often paint panel-like trays, which have a certain emotional, symbolic meaning expressed at times in the work's expressive name. In any interior a modern tray or panel is an emotional meaningful center radiating the sense of beauty and joy of life.

The outstanding artist N. P. Antipov of a family of Zhostovo craftsmen called one of his trays "Rus." Its general symbolic meaning lies not merely in the choice of typical flowers for the bouquet. The author interprets it in a broader sense of movement, the generosity of the land and the richness of nature as sym­bolized by flowers. This idea is consistently expressed in the intricate shape of the tray, repeated in the curving stalks of bindweeds and white, sharp-pctallcd daffo­dils and also in the dynamic wreath and border in contrast to the outwardly static but full of inherent intensity bouquet in the center, with its likewise intense design of flowers and their powerful color scheme.

Antipov is an artist who is well-versed in the secrets of the local craft. Nothing is too difficult for him. His every work has an integral artistic meaning. Even his choice of flowers is connected with the shape and type of the tray he paints. His trays differ in size, shape, composition and background color; he often employs mother-of-pearl inlays, making the tray even more decorative with transparent highlights and enriching the coloring with fine nuances. As the artist puts it, "high mastery is attained not all of a sudden, but slowly, with great dif­ficulty and through enormous practice."  Both his trays and those produced by many Zhostovo masters prove his point.

As distinct from Antipov's expressive temperament, N. N. Goncharova has a lyrical bend, apparently inherited from her teacher A. P. Gogin. Her trays arc characteristically called "Tenderness," "Joy," "Charming," "Resplendent" and "Festive." According to the artist, "every Zhostovo craftsman has his or her fa­vorite flowers. For me they are roses, poppies and Aquilegia. I love roses most of all. They easily lend themselves to fantasy and can be interpreted differently."  Roses form diverse compositions in her trays, which have both simple and ornate shapes, now brought together in a centrally-placed bouquet, now framing the figured edge, now forming wreaths or strewn about the entire background, acquir­ing a different expressive meaning and creating an impression of exultant festivity, tender thoughts or quiet contemplation. Depending on what she has in mind, the artist uses contrasting transparent colors on a mother-of-pearl foundation against the velvety black background or else delicately harmonized shades against color, golden or complex-palette backgrounds. Every one of Goncharova's works evokes admirations by the immaculate realization of the idea, the fine lyrical con­tent and exquisitely beautiful painting.

Y. P. Lapshin develops the poetic trend of his teacher P. I. Plakhov. There are also a lot of roses and peonies in his bouquets, whose rich fluffy petals seem to be always bathing in the air. The background also serves as an airy medium of sorts. Sometimes the master places bouquets asymmetrically, as it were, "from the corner." Nevertheless, parts are always well-balanced in his compositions, for­ming a proportionate relationship with the background, while the bouquets arc characterized by a delicate palette rich in hues. Lapshin offers an interesting ex­planation of the peculiarities of Zhostovo painting: "Many may find it strange that we do not paint live flowers, say, a natural rose. Our rose is something dif­ferent from flowers on rose bushes. It will no longer seem strange, however, if you take our brush in your hand. Our brush paints in circular, soft and delicate strokes. It hates sharp angles and direct lines... . The Zhostovo bouquet is a com­munity of flowers, different in shape and similar in spirit. In large measure they are true to life and largely conventional at the same time. Even the color of Zhos­tovo roses - white, yellow, blue (at times even dark blue), pink and red - is con­ventional.

"Our flowers are not a rigid scheme. They live their own inner life, and
they change all the time. We observe nature, go to the museum and look at post-
cards and books. The flowers we sec involuntarily become engraved in our memory and then in some way influence the look of our bouquets." called an experimenter artist. His good knowledge of history and the artistic heritage of the local craft facilitate his creative quests. Consciously drawing on the different trends and techniques of Zhostovo painting, with a concrete artistic task in every particular piece of work. In some cases it is the elaboration of a flat ornamental composition employing the tech­nique of fast folk motif painting, in others adherence to the traditions of a classi­cally strict bouquet still life executed in a tonal color scheme, and in still others it is a decorative panel reflecting a certain state of nature in bouquets. Thus, the "Moscow Morning" conveys the delicate charm of roses and branches of a blos­soming apple-tree with the halo of green leaves. Lit by the pale reflection of the dawn and as if washed in dew, they set out in relief from the depth of the black background, evoking a mental picture of a morning landscape. On the "Bouquet. Morning" tray roses and irises with delicate light petals are set against the cold shimmering blue background, creating an image of a frosty morning.

Grafov works with different shapes of trays and other household objects, be it saucers or bread-trays that craftsmen used to paint in the past. He often ex­periments with metallic color backgrounds, employing Dutch gold and mother-of-pearl inlays. His skills seem boundless. One of his latest works, "Twin Dande­lions" decorative tray, impresses not so much by the correspondence of its con­tent to its name as by its masterful technique of execution and superb artistic craftsmanship.

N. N. Mazhaycv displays the diversity of his creative endeavors. His earlier works were characterized by the desire to copy as close as possible the beauty and charm of simple field and garden flowers. With the passage of time his compositions and flower designs grew more intricate and his bouquets ac­quired profound imagery and at times symbolic meaning. Some works give a lyrical reflection of the natural harmony of flowers, others look austere and la­conic in oversimplified ornamental compositions prompted by folk paintings and printed cloths. Mazhaycv belongs to the few Zhostovo craftsmen who sought a modern rendition of genre compositions drawing on the traditions of popular prints, posters and old genre scenes used on Zhostovo trays. In one of his re­cent works, "Moscow Environs," Mazhaycv gives a generalized picture of local nature reminiscent of N. P. Antipov's "Rus." There is a bouquet of camomiles, globcflowers and bluebells against a shimmering bright green background. The unusual shape of the figured horizontally elongated oval tray enhanced by or­nate framing produces the impression of a conventional space locked within the tray surface and capable of giving an idea of the whole by its part in keeping with folk art traditions. The sight of this work brings to mind sunlit flourishing fields of the Moscow region, even though the picture was made in keeping with the conventional canons of Zhostovo painting rather than being painted from nature.

M. P. Savclyev also has his own style and forms of bouquets made now of uniform flowers, now of different ones. His trays arc often round, their names - "Horizon," "Elegy" or "Rain" - breeding associations. The as it were vibrating representation of thin branches, drooping with raindrops, placed rhythmically along the upper edge and sides of the tray, produces the physical impression of rain. Savelyev paints against black and color backgrounds, which play an active part in the overall color scheme, and makes a skillful use of metallized founda­tions, Dutch gold and diverse ornamental framing. His "Elegy" decorative tray stands out for its delicate palette and lyrical mood.

V. V. Kledov, another artist who comes from a family of Zhostovo crafs-men, works in a more traditional vein. He adheres to the behests of old Zhostovo masters, the patriarches of local art of the 1930s through the 1950s, as far as the bouquet composition and the sequence of local techniques arc concerned. His bouquets are deliberately detailed and colorful, at times to the extent of being overcrowded with a variety of hues, and yet conveying the feeling of joy and pleni­tude of life. One of his best works - the "Ornamental" tray - shows a thick bou­quet in the center, with paired garlands at the corners forming, as it were, a whole wreath. The near-natural shapes of his flowers are softened by the measured rhythm of color spots and the exquisite floral design. The entire com­position is skillfully enclosed in the soft guitar-shaped tray.

V. V. Kledov, N. N. Mazhayev and M. P. Savelyev have recently started to paint fruit on trays. This tradition existed among old Zhostovo masters but was rarely carried on since the 1930s. Every artist interprets in his own way the measure of conventionality and naturalness in painting fruit and berries.

V. N. Pyzhov treats every tray as a veritable work of art. An innovative version is there to be found unexpectedly in each of his works. He personally for­ges his tray forms, guided by the experience of old Zhostovo and St Petersburg masters and often uses intricate shapes, including the rare "shell" shape borrowed from the Rococo style. Pyzhov's flowers and bouquets, always enclosed in richly ornamented bordering, are distinguished by fine execution and often have a gala air about them. Characteristically enough, the artist is fond of using gold and sil­ver paints and Dutch gold as a foundation. The "Autumn Flowers" tray is typical in this respect, with its bouquet placed from the corner and masterfully developed golden color scheme.

Many a unique work of art was produced by other well-known Zhosto­vo painters, such as L. N. Vishnyakov (a direct descendant of one of the founders of the craft), N. I. Gogin, V. I. Letkov, V. V. Zhmylev, N. D. and G. P. Belyayevs, Z.A. Klcdova, R.A. Vishnyakova and N.A. Pichugina.

In the period from the 1970s to the 1980s young painters took up the craft and showed their worth at numerous exhibitions. Among them were N. N. Antipov, A. N. Mazhayev, L. Y. Dyatlova, M. E. Domnikova, S. S. Gogin, S. A. Fi­lippov, О. A. Gavrilov and V. V. Rizin. Some of them carry on their family busi­nesses, adding new ideas to tray and decorative panel painting and developing in their own way different trends of Zhostovo painting.

For example, T. Sholokhova and M.Antipova pay tribute to the beauty of old St Petersburg trays and offer their variations of the theme.

N. N. Antipov often employs the smoking technique. The "wormlike" de­sign in the "Galactic" tray uniformly fills the unusual elliptic shape with alternat­ing sharp and rounded wings and creates an image of measured rhythmic move­ment with its curves. The smoking technique is used in the decorative "Jubilee" tray in the middle of a broad ornate border spreading from the wings of the tray onto the central part. The image hinges on the contrast between the dark framing and the lightly painted bouquet of bindweeds, camomiles, pansies and the indis­pensable many-pctalled rose in the center against the golden background. High­lighted by confident strokes, the flowers and leaves look moderately three-dimen­sional.

L. Y. Dyatlova demonstrates in her works the same lyrical talent as is characteristic of her mother, N. N. Goncharova. The "September" tray, in which the author was attracted by faded, tender shades rather than bright autumn co­lors, is indicative in this respect. Tea-roses, enhanced by tiny blue flowers, arc placed against the warm brown background. The soft rounded design of petals and leaves echoes the small oval shape of the tray in keeping with its intimate na­ture. Her "Bouquet Against a White Background" has an exquisitely cool color scheme.

A. N. Mazhaycv's tray "Camomiles" is original both in its guitar-like shape with figured wings and its unusual composition, in which two balanced groups of flowers fill the central part.

S.A. Filippov has a predilection for ornate trays with richly ornamented framing, gold painting on a Dutch gold foundation. M. E. Domnikova paints a decorative still life in her "Earth's Gravitation" tray. A big spreading bouquet with large peonies in the center extends nearly throughout the entire surface. The light from the center fades out toward the edges, where the leaves and flowers disap­pear in the profoundly black background. Metallized foundations in the leaves produce a play of colors and luminescence. The small plants in the wreath on V. V. Rizin's tray disappear in the same way in the dark-blue background. Reddish reflections from the middle of the three-tiered border create highlights, ensuring the decorative effect.

Other young painters make their contributions to the general cause. Working side by side and on a par with recognized masters, they are looking for their own original trends in the local craft.

Zhostovo trays have transformed from a household object into full-fledged decorative panels in the course of their history, and the craft which served as an auxiliary source of income for farmers, has acquired the status of a unique Russian folk art.

Decorative Zhostovo painting is on the rise today. This is not to say, however, that craftsmen experience no difficulties or problems. The latter are en­countered in all spheres of our culture which has to withstand unbridled latterday commercialization. Imitators seek to copy the Zhostovo style and even the indi­vidual manner of Zhostovo painters. Only ignorant people, however, can be thus deluded. Local craftsmen have top professionalism attained in painstaking year­long creative quests, perfection of craftsmanship and constant emulation of the best specimens of the old masters' legacy. Mention should also be made of the study of the history of art, classical still lifes and various types of Russian ap­plied and folk art, which nourish the creative potential of local painters. Given exacting selection and assimilation in keeping with the local canons, all that of­fers wide opportunities to improve and develop tray painting. "We cannot sec tradition as an aim in itself and mark time," says В. V. Grafov. "We must force­fully develop the historical craft, enriching it with new shapes and new content."  Leading Zhostovo craftsmen are well aware of that. Their loyalty to their craft and devotion to their creative work arc a source of inspiration for young craft­smen, which ensures that craftsmanship is handed down to younger generations and hence opens prospects for the further progress of the craft.



Trays of Leontieva Natalia