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Gorodetskaya Painting

GORODETS ( in Russian) is a town in Region of the Nizny Novgorod of Central Russia. It is located on the left bank of the Volga River in 53 km north of Nizny Novgorod. Population: 34,000.

Gorodets was founded in the 1170s as a large fortress on the Volga River. It was a starting point for numerous campaigns of Vladimir-Suzdal against Volga-Bulgaria. In 1216, George II of Vladimir was dethroned by his brother and exiled here. In 1239, the town was burnt to the ground by Batu Han's army. Folk tradition identifies Gorodets with Little Kitezh, a legendary town destroyed by the Mongols.

In 1263, Alexander Nevsky, one of the greatest Russian Military Leader, died in Gorodets on his way back to Novgorod from the Golden Horde. His son made the town his chief residence. A famous medieval icon-painter, Prohor, was born there. In the mid-14th century, the town was overshadowed by the neighbouring Nizny Novgorod but continued as the third largest town of Nizhegorod Principality until 1408, when it was razed it to the ground.

For two following centuries the town was known as Gorodets Pustoy (i.e., "Gorodets the Empty"). Some chronicles state that its entire population moved slightly downstream and resettled at Salt-on-Gorodets. By the 19th century, Gorodets was revived as a prosperous village settled by Old Belivers merchants and reputed for its decorative gifts and souvenirs, and also handicrafts such as wood carving and painting. The artistic heritage of Gorodets never ceases to amaze people with its splendor and diversity of crafts.


Russian Souvenir Products from Gorodets

Painting on the wood from Gorodets is a famous folk craft in Russia with one hundred and half years history, alive developing phenomenon of our modern national culture strongly connected both with the past and the present life of the people.

It started developing in the second half of the XIXth century in the villages near the town of Gorodets. Spinning wheels baskets and boxes for the storage of yarn, childrens chairs and some utensils were decorated whith the painting.
Gorodets spinning wheels were especially popular. A lot of them was sold at the Nighegorodskaya fair and spread all over Russia.
The Gorodets painting peculiarity is that it often has the plot. The craftsmen loved painting town people, horsemen, scenes of drinking tea in rich interiors decorated with columns and clocks, with high windows beautiful curtains and magnificent stair-cases. The painting technique used in Gorodets was not complicated. A few rough brush strokes were enough to slap color blotches on the wood; later those stains were worked into flowers and figures. When both the ornamental pattern and the central scene had been completed, they were toned up with white colour and the whole thing given a skincoat of drying oil. Nowadays there is only enterprise producing art products with the traditional painting - Gorodetskaya rospis. Today the "Gorodets rospis " factory puts out over 30 kinds of artistic items, with new articles added regularly: ornamental dishes and panels, kitchen sets, furniture sets and lots of other handsome Russian gifts and souvenirs.

Also the town was known for excellent carpenters and wood carvers, as it was surrounded by forests which provided cheap timber. Everything was made of wood there - ships, kitchenware, spoons, children toys and tools. Carving is the other famous craft of the town of Gorodets. Since XIV century the Gorodets artists decorate hundreds river boats with fretwork of relief vegetation ornament, Sirin-birds, lions and mermaids. XIX century was the time of astounding growth in carving art. Many generations of carvers worked on artistic fretwork. Little by little the fretwork inculcated in peasants life. Different decorations were practically on every house. Designing modern goods Gorodets artists use traditional ways of blind fretwork, three-edged cutting, contour. Plastic subject of spinning, spice-cake fretwork - are found in their works very often. Gorodets spinning wheel had her own peculiarity. For decorating spinning wheel artists used peculiar technique v incrustation, that was not usual for folk art. Having just two shades of wood and simple tools folk skilled craftsmen turned spinning wheel into picture - a decorative panel. Gorodets carvers keep and develop the folk art ably, carrying out unique author-s works. Here you can see familiar to us rich curly boughs, snow leopards, amulets, Sirin-birds, rosette from age-old images of nizhegorodsky plastic art. We can-t leave Gorodets toy without any attention. Bright painted horses, horsemen, ladies, cavaliers continue the folk toy tradition.

The wooden toys produced in Gorodets remarkable for their bright colors and festive look were very popular in Russia. The most popular kind of toy was horses fixed on little planks between the shafts of a buggy, or a troika pulling a carriage. Another kind of toys was unusual species of dolls with a flat front and a threedimentional rear. The variety of types were endless: children, village maidens with cats, courting couples and townspeople decked out in their Sunday best. Toymakers used the most primitive implements in work - the axe with which they split blocks of wood into smaller chunks, and the knife, later they started using a few simple chisels. To paint the toys the used distemper and aniline dyes; occasionally the process was simplified by dipping the toy in a pot of paint.

Gorodets craftsmen were also known as excellent makers of children chairs, brightly painted and without a single nail in them. Wooden toys were the cheapest article manufactured by peasants and they were always made in large quantities.


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