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The Second World War and The Post-War Period until the Early 1970s

Ludmila Protopopova, Service "Industrialny", 1931During the years of the Great Patriotic War, production at the Leningrad porcelain factory was suspended. Certain areas of production and the priceless collections in the museum were evacuated deep into the hinterlands, to the Urals. Troops were stationed in the factory. Many of the factory's workers joined the army or the militia; those who remained were conscripted into local air defense.

On their journey from beleaguered Leningrad to Irbit those two talented sisters, Natalia and Yelena Danko, were killed. The elder, who had worked for over a quarter of a century in the factory, left some 300 works of art and is rightly regarded as the founder of Soviet porcelain modelling; the other was a skilled decorator of her sister's works, wrote the fascinating book "The Chinese Secret" and maintained the chronicle of the porcelain factory. During the blockade, the sculptors Taissiya Kuchkina and Nikolai Koltsov lost their lives.

In the blockaded city, Suyetin organized the exhibition "The Heroic Defense of Leningrad", in the creation of which well-known architects, painters, museum staff, art historians, people from Leningrad and frontline soldiers took part.

Blacked-out windows, half destroyed buildings, bright searchlights cutting through the night sky - this was how the painter Lydia Lebedinskaya portrayed Leningrad in 1942 on one service. A few years later, Alexandra Shchekotikhina-Pototskaya decorated a series of vases with the powerful patriotic figures of those great Russians Minin and Posharski, Dmitri Donskoi and Alexander Nevski, who in critical moments of Russian history had called the people to the defense of their fatherland.

War was still raging, but the Soviet Government decided to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the first Russian porcelain manufacture, and in 1944 the Lomonosov factory was therefore decorated with the order of the Red Work Banner for its contribution to the Russian defense industry and the development of Soviet art.

On the first anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War, the factory made the largest vase ever, "Victory", which was presented to Stalin and then passed on to the Tretyakov Gallery. In the centre of the vase was a portrait of the supreme commander painted by Alexei Skvortsov. On the vase's reverse side was a representation of the celebratory victory fireworks by Lydia Lebedinskaya. Ludmila Protopopova and Anna Yatskevich took part in the execution of the medallion and the decoration in general, while Nikolai Suyetin was responsible for the overall project. Both the height of the vase and the rich gilding and filigree decoration on a gold background enhanced its monumental and festive effect, which was characteristic of ceremonial vases of the Russian empire style.

The vase was transported with great difficulty to Moscow to the minister responsible for building industry materials, Lazar Kaganovich, under whose direction the porcelain factory had been placed. Kaganovich evidently liked the vase and signed a directive to give a medal and a financial award of one hundred thousand rubles to the nearly 30 staff members involved in its production as well as the works' director, Y. Leibmann. At the time all products of the porcelain workers were submitted to scrutiny for their political correctness. Had the portrait of the supreme ruler been considered deficient, the recipients of the medal would have instead have become inmates of one of the gulags.

The austerity of the war years, the difficulties and deprivations and the inevitable cultural vacuum awakened in people the desire for true art, for beauty in their surroundings and for spiritual enrichment of their lives. Thus the variety of subjects, the rich colors and the "joie de vivre", the manifold procedures to translate ideas and thoughts into porcelain, were no accident. "To enhance, through beauty, the material world which surrounds us" - this was the concept of ceramic art during the post-war years.

The fruitfulness and richness of the earth were subjects of the porcelain designed by Anna Yefimova with so much temperament, wealth of color and vivacity. Her stormy style was complemented by the more delicate graphic decorations of Tamara Bespalova-Mikhalyova and the lyricism of Mikhail Mokh. There were, in addition, the folkloric motifs of Alexei Vorobyevski and the decorative ornamentation of Anna Yatskevich - all adding up to a general atmosphere of gaiety.

The factory's range had never shown so much sculptural variety as at that time. The works of the artists Sofia Velikhova and Galina Stolbova, animals, represented the themes of childhood and motherhood and literary heroes were the specialty of Boris Vorobyev, and contemporary figures that of Vasili Stamov. Among those who took part in the creation of porcelain sculptures were the monumental sculptor Ivan Yefimov, the author of children's books and illustrator Yevgeniy Charushin, and Vera Mukhina, whose sculpture "Worker and Collective peasant woman" had become a symbol of socialism. Light-footed and impetuous, gentle and fragile, arrested in a moment of emotional turmoil, the incomparable Galina Ulanova appears in the role of Odette in the ballet "Swan Lake" in the figure by Yelena Yanson-Maniser. This figure, several times enlarged and cast in bronze, was exhibited in 1984 in front of the world's only Museum of Dance in Stockholm in special homage to the achievements of this magnificent ballerina.

The modeller Seraphima Yakovleva and the painter Lydia Lebedinskaya dedicated their ceremonial service to the 250th jubilee of Leningrad. In praise of the city, which had risen from the ashes of destruction, they employed elements of form typical of the 1940s and 1950s: architectural monumentality and a representational decorative style, combined with pictures of classicist buildings of the former capital on the Neva.

Vladimir Semyonov, Vase "Crystal", 1956At the same time, new shapes for services, vases, carafes, decorative items and souvenirs were created. The vase "Crystal" by Semyonov symbolized reawakening life and embodied what was new in decorative art. These aspects were stressed for the World Exhibition of 1958 in Brussels, where this piece and the Marine Vase (also by Semyonov) received the Grand Prix. Seraphima Yakovlevna earned a gold medal for the modelling of her services "Tulip", "Spring" and "Orient", as did Alexei Vorobyevski for his painting of the service "Folk Motifs" and "Russian Wood Carving" and Anna Yazkevich for "Cobalt Net". The decoration of "Cobalt Net", inspired by the service from Elizabeth's period, fitted harmoniously into the delicate tulip shape and produced a wonderfully noble, classically beautiful whole. This service was to become the Lomonosov factory's most recognized pattern, its visiting card.

It is worth noting that these and other works, which were awarded prizes at the World Exhibition, were not especially designed for international display, but belonged to the factory's standard range and was produced in large quantities.

The high level of artistry of Leningrad porcelain was displayed during the exhibition "Art for Everyday" held in 1961 in the hall of the Moscow Riding School. At that time, too, a special porcelain section was opened in the Russian Museum in Leningrad.

During the 1960s Soviet art adhered to the so-called "new style". On the one hand the aim was to abandon the excessive pursuit of effect and the false pomp of the Stalin era. On the other, the influence of western functional art was beginning to be felt, and this coincided with the Khrushchev "thaw". Thus, as so often in history, the "new" in negating the "old", frequently went beyond the bounds of what was reasonable. The stated principles of the new style - simplicity, laconism, suitability to purpose - were turned into the maxim "the more technical and suited to purpose, the more aesthetic". Leningrad porcelain remained impervious to these excesses and developed within the broad stream of modern decorative art, while maintaining its traditional bias.

"This consistency", remarked the art historian Alia Lansere who was director of the factory museum at the time, "is the result of thorough expertise and a clear perception of the fact that Russian Soviet porcelain has not by any means yet exhausted all contemporary possibilities of revealing beauty in the refined, varied forms that are suited to the material."

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