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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
14 January 2014
Greg Kandra




Alexander and Margarita Mamin prefer to work on icons with their religious themes rather than papier-mâché boxes and plates with secular motifs, which the Soviets had insisted upon. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Ten years ago, we paid a visit to Palekh, a village in Russia that was enjoying a kind of renaissance, with a resurgence of artists creating religious icons:

Under Soviet rule, Lenin, national achievements, cosmonauts, industrial workers and agricultural collectives were most often featured in the traditional style, with a touch of Socialist Realism — the Soviet standard for all art.

Examples are on display at the Palekh museum. To date, the village has resisted mass production; replicas remain forbidden. Most artists in Palekh paint boxes, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many have reverted to icons.

Alexander and Margarita Mamin have been married 15 years and are both artists and graduates of the Palekh Art Academy. They live with their two children — both of whom want to be artists — in a log house surrounded by a vegetable garden.

“These days we paint everything from miniatures to big paintings in churches,” Mr. Mamin said. “For years we had worked on small boxes, but now we prefer to paint icons, especially large ones for iconostases.”

Palekh artists are doing more religious painting than before, especially the younger ones.

Read more in New Reality, Same Artists from the March-April 2004 issue of the magazine.



Tags: Cultural Identity Russia Art Icons Soviet Union