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The Inna Kaufman Gallery / Preface

There is something miraculous about the birth of an object of art. There are no set rules to describe what art is and there is no manual for creating art. Art, therefore, is not something static, but is the expression of a vital creative process. There is a thought, an inspiration, and there is a person who, because of his or her expert grasp of the available material and technique, is able to give the most perfect expression to this inspiration. Out of the true union between thought, artist and formal expression something arises which is immediately recognized as something truly original, as art. The recognition of a work of art, therefore, is not merely the encounter with an object, it is at the same time an encounter with inspiration, with an underlying world of thought, and an encounter with the person, the artist, who connects inspiration and object in a highly individual way.

It is this recognition which struck the collector J.R. Ritman and his family when they were confronted with the lacquer miniature art of Palekh. The family first encountered the art of Palekh miniatures in a gift shop in Moscow airport. Charmed by the poetic beauty and expressiveness of the painted objects, they then went in search of their source and finally visited Palekh itself for the first time in 1985. There they came in touch as it were with the source: the vital heart of Palekh, with the artists themselves. They found a community of painters devoted to a centuries-old tradition of icon painting, renowned throughout Russia and abroad, a community which at the beginning of the last century, forced by the upheaval of the Russian Revolution of 1917, went through an unprecedented change in a very short time. The development of the lacquer miniature on a base of papier-mache, black in colour and finished off with highly delicate lacquer layers, then painted on using the traditional principles of icon painting - its technique, use of tempera, choice of colour and representation of figures, architectonical elements and natural elements such as trees and rocks - has a universal appeal. Deeply rooted in the tradition of icon painting, a tradition. inspired bv faith, the painters of lacquer miniatures now found their inspiration in the subjects they also knew and loved from within: the old sagas and legends, Russian literature, folklore and the natural environment surrounding and embracing them.

The history of the art of the lacquer miniature, the 75th anniversary of which was celebrated in Palekh in 1999, knows three phases: a boisterous growth from 1924, followed by a period of relative creative quiet in the years 1945-1975, succeeded by another flowering continuing into the present time. When the great painter Golikov signalled the birth of the lacquer miniature in 1924, he was driven by the need for innovation but consciously retained the rich heritage of the icon tradition. And so he created «art», in which inspiration, artist and formal expression fused in a perfect union, a basic formula of which is being fully explored and realized by successive generations of painters up to the present day.

Interior of the Gallery.

The Ritman family has been closely associated with developments in Palekh for over fifteen years now. In particular the meeting with Inna Kaufman in 1988 lay the basis for a large and varied collection of lacquer miniatures. This collaboration was crowned in 1996 with the highly successful exhibition «Palekh, a Russian Fairy-Tale. From Icon to Miniature» in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, which made possible a true meeting between a vital contemporary art form and over 55,000 visitors, making it a milestone in the history of Palekh. For years now Inna Kaufman has acted as the ambassador for the art of Palekh, inspired by her great affinity with the art of the lacquer miniature, her knowledge of all aspects of this art form and above all her commitment to the artists. She has a special eye for the vital art form that is the lacquer miniature: an art form in which many of the painters express their thoughts and feelings, in a highly individual manner and from a deeply experienced tradition, into a certain image, a form, a story, while other painters once more return to the tradition of icon painting, although incorporating the achievements and experiences of the art of lacquer miniatures. The tradition is lovingly adhered to, but at the same time there is a quest for innovation, for originality, which finds marked expression in our days.

All of these aspects are reflected in the collection of miniatures which the Inna Kaufman Gallery has now been putting together for its clients for ten years, and will hopefully continue to put together for many years to come so that the artist may continue to create with joy and the collector may recognize this living art with equal joy and enjoyment.

Mirjam Duivenvoorden-Ritman, curator of the J.R. Ritman Lacquer Miniatures Collection



Details of the Inna Kaufman Gallery, its history, and Palekh and Fedoskino artists can be found in a catalogue devoted to the Gallery s tenth anniversary. The Catalogue includes, in addition, more than 70 illustrations, which graphically demonstrate the uniqueness of the Palekh and Fedoskino school of art.

The Catalogue can be ordered by mail € 35 plus postage.

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