Ukrainian ornamental glass
Sparkling and translucent cut-glass vases and goblets, beverage sets, brightly decorative coloured glassware, and unique sculptural pieces by Ukrainian artisans are greatly admired at various Republic, USSR, and international exhibitions and fairs. In recent years the use of glass has become widely popular in architecture and especially in interior decorating (decorative lamps, stained-glass panels, ornamental tarsia-work, compositional mosaics, etc.).
Ukrainian ornamental glass takes its origins from the olden time of Kievan Rus (9th-12th cc.), the state from which sprang the cultures of three fraternal Eastern Slav nations — the Russian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian. In that remote age, artisans made various glass articles of adornment, mainly bracelets, as well as glassware such as bottles, goblets, tumblers, etc. When stone and brick masonry appeared on the architectural scene, it was accompanied by the manufacture of smalto for mosaic work. But the Mongol-Tatar invasion in the 13th century caused a rather long slow-down in the evolvement of Old Rus culture in general arid of ornamental glass in particular. The lost arts began to revive only a few centuries later together with new cultural developments.
With the approach of the 15th and the 16th century, more original artistic and stylistic features were established in Ukrainian glassware, and during the 17th and 18th centuries production was considerably enlarged. The forms and assortment of articles produced were greatly enriched, improved technological means grew more widespread, and new kinds of vessels appeared: tetrahedral decanters, liquor flasks, powder flasks (for military or hunting use), barrels, animal- and birdshaped vessels. Until the mid-19th century, ornamental glass production in the Ukraine was mainly carried on in glass-making workshops varying in production capacity and known as “gootas.” They are first mentioned in documents that date back to the 15th century. Small “gootas'’ were owned by individual artisans or their families, while the large — glass-works, actually — were owned by landed proprietors, Cossack chieftains, or monasteries. Both hired and serf artisans were widely employed at such enterprises.
Before the October Revolution, Ukrainian ornamental glass developed along two main lines: one was the production of decorative objects to satisfy the demands of the ruling classes, the other was the production of glassware for the common people. These lines were radically different equally as to substance (function and quality) and to character (that is, the artistic and stylistic value of the product) which in their turn dictated the kind of production. Glassware meant for the nobility, the church, rich merchants, etc., often underwent changes in art form according to fashion trends of the time or the unstable aesthetic taste of the purchaser making the order, and were on the whole distinguished by a rather mixed selection of the finest products known in the trade. Articles manufactured for the wide masses were much less influenced by fashion and retained a more stable form that reflected long practical experience in producing specific articles that were both functional and decorative.
From the very first years following the October Revolution, the Party and the Government of the young Soviet state paid much attention to the development of handicrafts. Many glass-works were re-established or re-constructed, new enterprises were built. In 1940 the USSR Council of People’s Commissars adopted a special resolution on developing ornamental glass-making, and this greatly stimulated glassware production. However, peacetime labour of the Soviet people was interrupted by the treacherous attack on the USSR by the Nazi invaders. It took a whole ten to fifteen years after the war before the craft of ornamental glass-making flourished once more.
A qualitatively new stage in the development of Soviet glassware, and in the decorative and applied arts as a whole, took place in the late fifties when great attention was given to the problem of uniting architecture with art, and to solving questions on the interior decor of office buildings and apartment houses by using harmonious artcraft ensembles. Attitudes to things in daily use began to change — that of artists, production workers and the broad public. Everyone felt the desire to raise the artistic level of things functional.
Today the Republic has dozens of glass-works specializing in the manufacture of ornamental glassware. The most famous of these are the Kiev Ornamental Glass-Works, the Lvov amalgamation “Raduga,” an ornamental glass workshop at the Lvov Factory of Ceramic Sculpture, not to speak of glass-works located in Romanivka, Zhitomir Region; in Berezhany, Ternopol Region; in Artemovsk, Kostyantinivka and Popasne (the Donbas); and in Kerch (the Crimea), to mention a few.
All ornamental glassware currently produced in the Ukraine may be divided into three main groups:
1) various household utensils, 2) purely ornamental vessels of different kinds, and 3) sculptural figurines.
Household utensils, naturally, lead in production. They include tumblers, wine or liqueur glasses, champagne or highball glasses, decanters, various beverage sets, dessert dishes and plates, flower vases, bowls for sweets and fruits, etc. These are made of translucent colourless or slightly tinted glass, as well as of brightly coloured, sulphide-zinc glass, or crystal. They are extremely diverse in form, ornamentation and colour.
A great contribution to increasing the artistic merits of articles for domestic use has been made by Kiev artisans I. Zaritsky, O. Gushchin, L. Mityaeva; also by L. Vikhareva, Ye. Meri, L. Nagorny, R. Shakh of Lvov; M. Voinov from Artemovsk; V. Voronyuk and Yu. Radetsky from Romanivka; G. Palamar from Striy; I. Diordiychuk from Berezhany; and V. Yatsinych from the Popasne glass-works.
Of special interest from the artistic viewpoint are articles for home use made by the “goota” method, that is, free modelling directly beside the glass-heating apparatus. These products are not for mass production, of course, but are to a certain degree highly individualized articles, manual work and not machine-made, produced in comparatively small quantities. In improving the art of ornamental glass modelling by this method, an important role was played by the Lvov artisans P. Semenenko, M. Pavlovsky, Yo. Gulyansky, P. Dumich, M. Tarnavsky and also a number from Kiev such as I. Zaritsky, L. Mityaeva, S. Holembovska, A. Zeldich, etc.
A considerable amount of the Republic’s ornamental glassware consists of particularly decorative items and, for the most part, of thematic or souvenir products such as vases, goblets, plates, etc., meant for exhibitions, gifts or to mark special dates. Mainly they are made of fine crystal and produced in small quantities, sometimes only one or two samples. Often they turn out to be quite unique works of art. They are usually employed to mark important dates, or other historic or outstanding events in Soviet life which are accordingly reflected in the theme expressed.
Over the last few years Ukrainian glass-making masters have created highly artistic works of art devoted to the 50th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, to the centenary of Lenin’s birth, the 50th anniversary of the formation of the USSR, also to the 25th CPSU Congress, and so on. They also produce ornamental vases, plates and goblets furnished with modelled patterned designs: for example, the vases “Grain” by I. Apollonov, “Summer” by O. Bohuslavsky, and “Flight” by O. Hera, and the plate “Red Poppy” by F. Chernyak.
A separate group of ornamental glass consists of sculptural works and figurines. A. Balabin of Kiev is a talented artisan specializing in sculptural pieces.
Over the last ten years he has created a whole gallery of outstanding sculptural works based on folklore and animal motifs (“Dragon,” “Peacock,” “Dolphin”), and decorative compositions on themes observed in everyday life (“Torsos,” “Sailboats,” “Decorative Effect”).
Kiev artisan I. Apollonov introduced an original note in Ukrainian glass sculpture. In 1964 he made a highly expressive sculptural composition of cut-glass entitled “The Cherry Orchard” based on the poem by Taras Shevchenko. This work was the beginning of a unique series of decorative sculptural compositions including “Kiev Chestnut Trees,” “Poplars,” “Pussy-Willows” and many others. The artist has demonstrated one more method of the plastic working of glass, a material secreting remarkable decorative qualities.
On the whole Soviet Ukrainian ornamental glass presents a bright and original artcraft in the cultural life of the Republic.
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