The painters painted

Mstera artist Vasily Ovchinnikov (1885-1952)

In the Mstera lacquer painting workshop there were three painted portraits propped up on a shelf – not framed or displayed in a formal way, but clearly put there to inspire the current Mstera painters.  I imagine these were artists who were revered for their skill and the part they had played in building the reputation of the workshop. One was of Vasily Ovchinnikov, originally an icon painter and restorer, who founded lacquer miniature painting in Mstera in the 1930s.

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Portraits of Mstera artists Nikolai Klykov and Evgeny Yurin.

In various books I have about lacquer painting I’ve seen examples of works where artists are themselves depicted. I love the way the images of Russian life, folk tales and legend which are often treated in miniatures appear in the background, seemingly emanating from the imagination of the artist.

The portraits in the Mstera lacquer painting workshop reminded me of one I’d seen at the Agapia monastery, Târgu Neamţ, Romania, where nuns were engaged in icon painting. On a shelf amongst the paraphenalia of their workshop was this portrait. I wish I had asked who this was. I wondered how often the nuns worked on subjects other than the usual religious images.

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