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Journal ArticleDOI

A Matter of Give and Take: Peasant Crafts and Their Revival in Late Imperial Russia

Wendy Salmond1
21 Jan 1997-Design Issues-Vol. 13, Iss: 1, pp 5

AbstractAs we watch the end of our century loom closer on the horizon, the discovery of broad historical and psychological parallels with the last generation to undergo such an experience has become both a comfort and an object lesson. Among the ways in which our contemporary fin-de-siecle angst echoes that of ca. 1900 is a shared forboding that the world as we know it is about to disappear, and that a frustrating ambivalence as to what we can do about it. This sense of deja vu is particularly strong when we compare our present unabated enthusiasm for ethnic or folk crafts in this increasingly homogeneous world with the arts and crafts revivals of the late nineteenth century.] Revivals are almost, by definition, one-sided affairs, whereby the living make their own selective use of the past and its artifacts (e.g., neoclassicism, Gothic Revival). But the folk or vernacular craft revivals that emerged throughout Europe, Great Britain, and the United States at the end of the nineteenth century were exceptions in that they depended on the conjunction of two living cultures-an educated, cosmopolitan intelligentsia (artists, philanthropists, entrepreneurs) and a romanticized but very much alive "folk" (peasantry, indigenous peoples). As the heirs to cultural traditions threatened with extinction by the modern age, the latter were enlisted by the former as partners in innumerable campaigns to save and resuscitate crafts that might otherwise have quietly disappeared onto the dustheap of history. At once grandly utopian and eminently pragmatic in scope, such revivals went far beyond the confines of borrowing design motifs from bygone eras and exotic peoples. Rooted in a belief that folk culture was a dynamic organism capable of growth and adaptation, rather than a dead style, they operated on quite a different model-one of give and take and mutual selfinterest. The process might begin, as in other revivals, with artists borrowing raw material from "the folk" (usually in the form of ornament) for their own design experiments, but it rarely stopped there. Having passed these precious elements of a potential national design vocabulary through the purifying filter of their own tasteinformed by a professional art education and a familiarity with European trends-artists and craft reformers felt morally bound to reinvest these borrowed cultural riches back into their source communities, by employing modern-day "folk" as the producers of For a panoramic view of craft revivals, see Nicola Gordon Bowe, ed., Art and the National Dream: The Search for Vemacular Expression in Tum-of-theCentury Design (Dublin, University of Dublin Press, 1993).

Topics: Folk culture (53%), Craft (52%), Intelligentsia (51%)

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Cites background from "A Matter of Give and Take: Peasant ..."

  • ...This exchange leads to the mutual benefit of participants (Salmond 1997; Kuznetsov & Paulos 2010)....

    [...]


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