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The Kholui icon painting and drawing school played an important role. Its most gifted graduated enrolled at the Academy of Arts or the Stroganov Art School in Moscow, did book design for Moscow publishing houses and worked as graphic artists and painters. Some abandoned Kholui and icon painting and gained prominence in other fields of Russian art. Most graduates, however, continued to work in Kholui, leaving an indisputable impact on the artistic level of icons and frescoes and fulfilling the most important commissions. Their knowledge and superb craftsmanship maintained and enhanced the prestige of Kholui icon painting. The school also laid the groundwork for the development of modern miniature painting in Kholui.

Religion was persecuted and desecrated after the October 1917 revolution and the Civil War in Russia. Together with churches and cathedrals-historical and cultural monuments of the Russian people, remarkable icons and frescoes were also lost.

Kholui's icon painting workshops were closed. Kholui painters had to look for jobs, painting houses, cars at railway stations, barges at piers, road milestones and swing-beam barriers. Excellent painters were for long unable to show their worth at that time of trouble and starvation and entertained bitter thoughts of art.

Dobrynin D. At Leisure. Box. 1930Under the circumstances it was necessary to find a new media to carry on the icon painting tradition. An idea emerged in Palekh to form an association of icon painters, who would use something other than an icon board or canvas and paint secular scenes instead of the images of saints and scenes from their lives. Palekh painters chose papier-mache, which was also used by craftsmen in the well-known village of Fedoskino outside Moscow. They borrowed the Fedoskino methods of making papier-mache articles and lacquering their surfaces, but used the icon painting technique to decorate their products. Little by little progress was made. In December 1924 an Old Painting Artel was formed in Palekh.

Lacquer miniatures on papier-mache emerged as a new trend in Russian decorative and applied art, winning recognition throughout the world. Fedoskino, in which the craft has been developing for 200 years now, is the indisputable birthplace of Russian lacquers. Kholui started to evolve its own style much later, when some of its painters returned home after long and fruitless quests and wandering across Russia. Inspired by the accomplishments of Palekh and Mstyora craftsmen, Kholui painters Sergei Mokin, Konstantin Kosterin, Dmitri Dobrynin and Vassily Puzanov-Molev formed an association in 1934 to try their hand in the new media. Icon painting school graduates, they were all talented professionals with vast experience; Puzanov-Molev even held two diplomas: he graduated from Moscow's Stroganov Art School in 1912. It took Kholui painters a long time and a lot of efforts to develop their own style. It had to differ from that of Palekh and Mstyora, whose lacquers had already gained certain renown. The war which broke out in 1941, the temporary closure of the association and its art school, and the mobilisation to the front of gifted young artists capable of carrying on the cause of their predecessors largely delayed the development of Kholui lacquers.

On a government decision a vocational art school opened in Kholui in 1943. Artists serving at the front and in the rear were summoned to teach there, and appropriations were made to equip the classrooms, to buy fire-wood, teaching aids, clothes and footwear for future students. Another graduate of the Leningrad Academy of Arts, U. A. Kukuliev was sent to Kholui. He worked as the association's artistic director and taught drawing and painting at the art school. The four-year program focussed on miniature painting, which was taught by Sergei Mokin (until 1945), Konstantin Kosterin and Vassily Puzanov-Molev.

In January 1947, the first post-war graduates of the art school joined the association. They were fourteen and included Nikolai Baburin, Alexei Kosterin and Boris Tikhonravov. Vladimir Belov, Mokin's pupil, became their unofficial leader. He was five or so years older than the rest of them and was distinguished above all by his love for miniature, hard work, imaginative thinking (very much like his teacher) and awareness of the creative goals and obligations of his generation. Subsequently art school graduates constantly joined the association's young team of craftsmen, among them Nikolai Denisov, Boris Kiselev, Valentin Fomin and Nikolai Starikov. That was in fact the beginning of Kholui lacquers.

Puzanov-Molev V. The Tale of Tsar Saltan. Casket. 1953In 1952, the association stopped making copies of paintings, rugs and portraits and concentrated on miniatures. It gradually developed its own base to produce papier-mache and wares from it. At the first conference held in Kholui in 1959 on the occasion of the association's 25th anniversary scholars, art historians and critics, as well as leading painters from Palekh, Mstyora and Fedoskino, discussed a current display of over 200 exhibits and unanimously pointed to the accomplishments of Kholui craftsmen. The general opinion was that Kholui had developed its own artistic traditions and an inimitable image. Kholui lacquers came into their own.

Ever since that time Kholui became known as a center of lacquer miniatures, and museums, galleries, Russian trading houses and foreign firms showed keen interest in the works of its craftsmen. Kholui lacquers gained recognition.

Its painters produced both unique works of art, which were bought by famous museums and displayed at exhibitions, and models used to make small batches for the market. Though less time-consuming in execution, the latter nevertheless had well-balanced compositions and expressive themes and images, were well-done, elegantly beautiful and, what was of no small importance, quite affordable. Sales revenues formed the association's economic base, making it possible to finance creative activity and thus promoting the development of Kholui lacquers.

That fruitful period saw the appearance of classical examples of Kholui wares, including the nine-sided casket Russian Warriors, the five-sided casket The Tale of a Dead Tsareuna and the boxes Stone Flower and May Night by Belov. In collaboration with Fomin, he produced another excellent piece of Kholui miniature painting - the casket Urals Tales based on Pavel Bazhov's writings.

Enriching lacquer miniatures with icon painting traditions, Nikolai Baburin, who comes from a family of well-known Kholui icon painters, was quite a success in evolving an original style of his own. His casket Snow Storm and boxes Golden Cockerel, Hay-making, The Lay of the Host of Igor and Harvest Festival attract by an inimitable poetic vision of life and local nature. In 1970, together with a group of miniature painters from Palekh, Mstyora and Fedoskino, Baburin was awarded the Repin State Prize of Russia.

Boris Kiselev, another holder of the same prize, is also quite prolific. His works The Kulikovo Battlefield, The Song of Oleg's Prophesy, Don Quixote, Ruslan and Ludmilla, The Tale of a Fisherman and a Fish and Tsarevich Ivan and White Polyanin graphically illustrate the painter's affinity to the spirit of old Russian painting and profound knowledge of its sources interpreted by the talented master in an original way.

Nikolai Denisov, who also comes from an old family of Kholui icon painters, produced at that time several memorable pieces, including caskets Sadko, Captain's Daughter, The Song of Merchant Kalashnikov and The Tale of a Priest and His Servant Balda. They eloquently demonstrate his creative potential in carrying on the cause of the founders of Kholui lacquers, on the one hand, andin producing innovative works of art, on the other. Valentin Fomin, a 1950 graduate of the local art school, was another leading master of that period to show interest in national history. He scrupulously studied historical details, using literary and ethnographic sources, before starting work on his miniatures. He was also fond of genre and fairy-tale motifs, as demonstrated by his Fair or Snow-White. He depicted Afanasi Nikitin in India and Tsar Peter the Great in Holland Building Ships in his casket Russian People Across the Sea, elaborating the idea of Russia getting to know the world and borrowing foreign experience for the good of the Homeland. That, too, was an innovation of sorts, giving birth to a new artistic tradition.

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