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Khokhloma Painting, Famous Russian Folk Art

1. July 2010 by Michelle 0 Comments

Once early Russian craftsman mastered the art of wood carving, engraving, and burning, they began to experiment with elaborate decorations on the wood. Khokhloma painting has been documented as early as 1659 and it was named after the village where it was first seen in the Nizhni Novgorod Oblast.


This art form was quite remarkable at the time since the paint appeared to be gold but no actual metal was ever used. It was a clever way to make cheap and light wooden wares look heavy and glamorous. The process was quite complex; First an article was primed with clay mortar, raw linseed oil, and tin powder. Floral patterns were most popular and were painted on top of this coating with a brush. Then, the item was coated with linseed oil and hardened in a kiln. These steps were repeated several times over and each piece of Khokhloma folk art would take at least 58 days to complete. A similar process, although with more modern materials, is still practiced today.


Red, gold, and black are the three colors used most often for their profound symbolism. The red represented the beauty, the gold symbolized the spiritual heavenly light, while the black color signified the gracious grief cleansing the human soul. This religious symbolism of colors was lost in Khokhloma art over time, but the precise and solemn scheme of colors became favored and traditionally used.


In the 1960s, this art form became so popular that the Soviets built factories specially for creating tableware, utensils, furniture, and souvenirs. There is the Khokhloma Painter near the Khokhloma village and Khokhloma Painting in the town of Semyonov which also holds a museum of the oldest and most famous works. “Golden Khokhloma” festivals are held each year in the Nizhny Novgorod region where guests can tour the factories and paint their own dish or spoon.