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Khokhloma Painting
September 9, 2009 14:53


BUY KHOKHLOMA TABLEWARE

Khokhloma is a traditional folk Russian handicraft that appeared in the 17th century in villages under Nizhni Novgorod. One of the most famous kinds of folk Russian decorative painting, it is used in creation of splendid ornate wooden tableware and furniture.

Though the items are wooden, they look like gilded metal, and their golden surface and ornaments are shot with soft metallic luster. The Khokhloma masters have an original technology of painting wood golden without use of gold.

Traditionally, black and red (rarely green as well) floral ornaments are painted against golden background. Golden, black and red – such a combination can be seen in various works of old Russian arts and crafts, but for Khokhloma these colurs are especially important: red adds warmth and softness to artificial gold, whereas black emphasizes its brilliance. Besides, rounded surfaces of painted ware have no sharp lines and, thus, beautifully disperse light.

Khokhloma painting got its name after the trading settlement of Khokhloma in Nizhni Novgorod Province; painted wooden items were brought there from nearby villages for sale, though they were never manufactured in Khokhloma itself.

The handicraft owes its origin to the Old Believers, who, fleeing from persecutions of officials, took refuge in local woods. It should be noted, though, that even before their coming local villagers had been into making tableware from soft sorts of wood. Among the schismatics there were icon-painters, who taught local craftsmen this painting technology. A legend tells about a wonderful icon-painter Andrei Loskut, who denied to submit to religious reforms by Patriarch Nikon, and so, flew from the capital and settled in the forest. He painted wooden articles and icons in the old style. The patriarch learnt about this and sent soldiers to seize the freethinking monk. But Andrei did not give up; he burned his hut (and may be himself inside of it) and before that entrusted villagers with preserving his handicraft.

The technology of Khokhloma painting has not changed a lot since then. There are several stages: first workpieces are turned on a lathe, and then the item is grounded with liquid clay mortar and oiled with flaxseed oil, and on the next stage treated with drying oil and dried. This step is repeated three of four times. The next stage is tinning: the item is covered with aluminum metallic powder (once they used silver powder and later cheaper tin powder). Then the silver-coloured piece is ready for painting, which is done in oils, and is secured by drying in a furnace. Afterwards the work is covered with several layers of varnish, each of them dried separately in a stove. It is under the influence of high temperature, that varnish turns silver colour of the article into golden.

Khokhloma artists apply free-hand brush painting, without preliminary marking out. Khokhloma imagery is decorative and ornamental: they convey the beauty of live nature in most generalized way. Images of blossoming bushes and berries have always been considered symbols of good things, well-being and happiness in Russia. This beautiful custom is still kept up nowadays by Khokhloma masters that decorate usual household things with ornate painting. They use floral ornaments composed of flowers, grass and berries. There are several kinds of this ornamentation in Khokhloma painting.

There are two main types of Khokhloma painting: upper painting - red and black ornaments against the golden background; and background painting– golden ornaments against a coloured background. The “upper painting” includes traditional “grass” and “leaf” ornamentation elements. “Grass” consists of blades of grass and springs painted with red or black on golden colour. “Leaf” painting is composed of oval leaves and berries usually spread around the stem. “Background” painting is based on a large golden design against red or black background. First the design is outlined, then the background is filled, and later small designs are added over the background. One of the types of background painting is called kudrina (from the Russian ‘kudri’, i.e. curls) – it is flourishing tracery with intricate golden scrolls reminding of curls. In the early 19th century ‘upper’ painting was more common, since “background” painting is more complicated and was used in expensive gift articles. The ‘background painting’ became especially popular in the second half of the 19th century, when Khokhloma furniture production was established.

Unique works of Khoklhoma art can be seen in a Khokloma Museum that was open in the factory of Semenov in 1972. Among them there is a huge Khokloma spoon 2 meters and 67 cm large and a bowl one and a half meter large. Modern Khokhloma enterprises produce tableware, furniture, souvenirs and other goods.

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Tags: Khokhloma Painting Russian Souvenirs Russian Wood Painting Nizhny Novgorod Region Russian Symbols 

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