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Yermolaev Boris Mikhailovich (1934 - 2001)  Click to play

People's Artist of Russia Boris Yermolayev was born in 1934 in the countryside of Palekh, which used to be part of the ancient principality of Vladimir and Suzdal. The keynotes of his creative endeavour have always been love for his native land and dedication to the art craft which is handed down from one Palekh generation to another: miniature painting on lacquer ware. These sentiments were at the essence of Yermolayev's work and the source of his inspiration.

Reprehensible in terms of Soviet ideology, icon painting (for which Palekh had gained great praise) became subject to repression, with icons committed to the fire on a mass scale. In 1924 Palekh's foremost icon painters launched an artel of "Early Russian Painting" and applied their skills to a new kind of material: black lacquer. This is how a new kind of miniature art, and the Palekh school of painting on lacquer ware, came into being.

Boris Yermolayev joined the community of Palekh painters following his graduation from the Palekh Art School in 1954, where he studied under such legends as I.P. Vakurov, A.V. Kotukhin, N.M. Zinoviev, D.N. Butorin, N.A. Pravdin, and F.A. Kaurtsev. His schooling fell on the years when Soviet art experienced the full burden of Stalinist repression and the unchallenged dominance of socialist realism. The higher Party functionaries, charged with the supervision of culture, strove to introduce new subjects that served to glorify the communist leaders, as well as a naturalistic approach that played havoc with the artistic system of Palekh miniature painting, clashing with its stylized fairy-tale images, made world famous by the veteran Palekh masters.

Yermolayev owed his appreciation of the value of Palekh art to his contacts with the elder masters who were his teachers at the art school. At the outset of his creative career he had won the support of the distinguished Russian artist Pavel Korin. Guided by Korin's motto, "Art is an exploit," he has consistently striven for a deeper insight into the spirit of Palekh art. As he studied the iconic and other works of the Palekh masters, he continued to search for his own, original interpretation of this tradition. His works are based on motifs taken from Russian history, Russian tales and songs, and the works of Pushkin.

Some of Yermolayev's miniatures, like The Battle of Kulikovo and The Lay of Igor's Campaign, have an epic quality, in addition to a poetic mood and high artistic standards. Among the painter's major works are the small chests Happy Unison and Russian Songs, and the casket Hymn to the God Yarilo.

Yermolayev was able to learn the secrets of the craft at first hand, from the veteran Palekh masters. His works were exhibited from 1954 on, and he became a member of the Artists' Union of Russia in 1960. He earned the titles of Honored Artist of Russia in 1967 and then People's Artist of Russia in 1974. He became a Lenin's Comsomol Prize Laureat in 1970. In addition to lacquer miniature, he also participated in the formation of mural painting, theater decoration, book illustrations, and icon painting. Yermolayev was also the director of operations of the Palekh branch of the Artists' Union from 1970-1978.

Yermolayev's works are prized pieces of collections in many museums, including the State Museum of Palekh Art, the Ivanov Region Art Museum, the Folk Art Museum, the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, the State Historical Museum in Moscow, the All-Russia Museum of Decorative and Folk Art, and the Central Museum of the Revolution. Boris Yermolayev will forever be closely linked with the community of Palekh masters, who all shared the same ambition: to preserve and revive this ancient Russian tradition.

Reference: page 305 of Feoktistova T.E., 1999, "OGI", Moscow, 5-900241-63-7 ,

Reference: page 193 of Pirogova L., 1994, "PALEKH HISTORY AND MODERN TIME", ISKUSSTVO, ROSKNIGA, Moscow, ISBN 5-210-01301-4

Bratchikova Ye. K., 1996, "MINIATURISTS OF PALEKH. NAME REFERENCE", RUSSLIT, Moscow, 5-7739-0001-7, 5-86508-035-0

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