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Talashkino Carving and Painting Workshops
October 1, 2009 11:17

One of the remarkable places of the Smolensk Region is the small settlement Talashkino situated 18 km away from Smolensk. Talashkino, today a museum reserve, was one of the most important artistic centres of Russia of the late 19th – early 20th cc, associated with the study and revival of Russian applied and decorative arts.

Talashkino had a lot in common with Abramtsevo Settlement near Moscow: creative community of artists, musicians, and performers, interest in folk arts, and creative workshops. But there were some differences also. Talshkino artistic centre appeared in the period of acute ideological struggle in art (1890s-1900s) and gathered together artists of different schools. Here they experimented, searched, and argued about the ways of development of Russian art. Talashkino was frequented by artists S.V. Malyutin, M.A.Vrubel’, Nikolai Roerich, Alexander and Albert Benois, M.V. Nesterov, K.A. Korovin, I.E. Repin, sculptor P.P. Trubetskoy, and composers A.A. Andreyev and I. F. Stravinsky. Artistic initiatives in Talashkino were diverse: from founding a unique folk art museum to arranging a balalaika orchestra consisting of peasant children.

The founder of this artistic centre was the talented public figure, patron of arts, collector, historian and artist Maria Klavdievna Tenisheva (1867-1928). She started her artistic career as an opera singer (Maria Tenisheva studied in a famous studio of Mathilde Marchesi de Castrone in Paris, and was acquainted with A.G. Rubinstein, and P.I. Tchaikovsky), but found her true vocation in the field of art.

From the very beginning of her activity .. Tenisheva aspired to support progressive initiatives of avant-garde artists. In 1894 in she opened a free painting studio headed by Ilya Repin in her own house in Petersburg.

Maria Klavdievna purchased the estate of Talashkino in 1893 and contrived to create a special creative atmosphere that attracted lots of gifted and seeking people there.

One of the great merits of Maria Tenisheva was the opening of artistic workshops in Talashkino. In 1900 the artist, architect, and designer S.V. Malyutin (1859 -1937), recommended by Vrubel’, was invited to lead them. He selected the most capable pupils of the Talashkino agriculture school for peasant children (also organized and financed by M.Tenisheva), and taught them secrets of folk arts. In joinery, ceramic, and embroidery workshops pupils under the guidance of Malyutin created all kinds of household items, children’s toys, embroidered towels, kerchiefs, curtains, and later more complicated works of art, such as decorations for Talashkino Teremok and the theatre, and even complete suites of furniture.

Malyutin’s architectural projects also found implementation in Talashkino: theatre, the artist’s house, the Church of the Holy Spirit (painted by Nikolay Roerich), Teremok, and fanciful gates and bridges, decorated with carved owls, epical heroes, and fancy birds. The brightest work of Malyutin’s genius is his famous Teremok in the pseudo-Russian style with elements of art nouveau. This wooden log building standing on a hill is a true masterpiece of Russian architecture. The windows, doors, cornices, and platbands are all skillfully carved. Bright paintings and fairytale motifs on the facades create a fantastic image, whereas for connoisseurs this is delicate ornamentation of symbols and signs.

After Malyutin left Talashkino in 1903, young artists A.P. Zinoviev (1880 — 1942) and V.V. Beketov (1878 — 1910) were invited to take his place.

In Talashkino they fruitfully developed elements of decoration of the Russian house. They were greatly influenced N. Roerich.

The original folk creativity was supported in Talashkino not only through organization of the workshops. Maria Tenisheva collected there the historical and ethnographical museum Russkaya starina (Russian Antiquity), where applied arts and archeological finds of the region were displayed on a big scale. The collection was supplemented with unique works of folk art, found by M. Tenisheva and her assistants in abandoned churches of god-forsaken villages. When the collections had grown too big for Talashkino, .. Tenisheva decided to build a special building in Smolensk, especially that the museum attracted attention of the public at large. The museum Russkaya starina was open in Smolensk in 1905. The building of the museum was designed by S.V. Malyutin. Six thousand exhibits of the museum were displayed in Louvre in 1907. It was the first exhibition of Russian folk art abroad.

In 1946 Talashkino became a historical and artistic museum reserve. In Flyonovo, which is about 4 km away from the central square of Talashkino, one can see the remnants of the glorious artistic centre: its park with ponds, the building of the artistic studio of Maria Tenisheva, Teremok (built in 1901-1902), and the Church of the Holy Spirit (built in 1902-1905 and decorated by Nikolai Roerich in 1910-1914). The destiny of the church was dramatic. Embodying the idea of the unity of all religions, the artist ventured upon some deviations from the orthodox canons, and it became the reason for its non-consecration. In soviet era the church was used as grain storage, and so only some fragments of painting survived. However, the splendid mosaic The Holy Face created by Roerich above the portal of the church, has remained.

Nowadays the buildings of the main house and Teremok house a rich collection of folk art, as well as works by Malyutin, Roerich, Vrubel, Maria Tenisheva and other artists. One of the highlights of the exposition is a series of balalaikas painted by Vrubel and other artists.

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Tags: Russian Arts and Crafts Russian Wood Carving Smolensk Region   

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