The Art of Kasli Masters

Kasli... Nearly 250 years ago the Kasli Iron Works came into being in the Urals. After the October Socialist Revolution Kasli has become a district town in the Chelyabinsk region.

It is a remarkable art of iron casting that has made Kasli famous.

Some idea of this small town can be obtained from official records taken from the ar­chives. The Kasli Iron Works was built in the Ekaterinburg uyezd at the Kasli-lake at a dis­tance of 490 verst from the town of Perm and 130 verst from that of Ekaterinburg.

The settlement founded around the factory is rather large. Only Ekaterinburg, Perm and Kungur surpassed Kasli in number of its population.

It was most important commercially besides...

Yakov Korobkov, a merchant from the town of Tula, laid the foundation of a new en­terprise on the bank of the Kasli lake in 1746.

At the same time a settlement was spreading. By the sixties of the XVIII century it numbered 150 country-yards.

From 1751 the Demidovs, well-known Russian manufacturers, owned the works and from 1809 it was in the possession of the merchant Rastorguev.

In the first third of the XIX century almost every iron-works in the Urals made at­tempts to produce art-casting. The craftsmen cast gratings, iron utensils and furnature. By the 60s-70s of the XVIII century the high-quality artistic casting from Kasli left behind alike pro­ducts from many Urals factories and other works of the country. This production brought Kasli its fame in Russia as well as throughout the world.

In 1860 the Kasli works of the Kyshtym mining area won the first award: the Small Gold Medal of Volnoekonomicheskoe obschestvo (the Free-Economic Society). In a year-the Small Silver Medal of the Manufacture Exhibition in St- Petersburg. A few years passed-Ho-nonary diplomas, Silver and Gold medals at the World Exhibition in Paris, Vienne, Philadel­phia, Copenhagen, Stockholm and again Paris.

The first part of the books narrates the history of the Ural artistic casting, the Kasli works is the centre of it.

There are 3 points which have accounted for the secret of the succes of this handicraft. They are, first of all, the high quality of cast-iron produced, the exceptional quality of sand and at last the workmanship of the Kasli artisans.

The properties of the iron available for casting objects of applied art differ from those for parts of machine. It is important for a worker casting a round sculpture to feel in details the outlines of it whatever complicated it is. The iron from Kasli meets these requirements.

A casting pattern is known to have a very delicate tracery, therefore the moulding sand must be of a special plasticity, able to reproduce the model in its exactness. The sand of that kind deposited in the Kasli locality.

Many specialists of applied art such as moulders, casters, chasers spent much time working at iron sculpture. Their lives were quite different, individual, and only the love for their handicraft got them together. This is what makes you hard believe that before you are works of art, cast of heavy-weight metal.

The well-known sculptors both in Russia and abroad whose works gained creative repetition in Kasli, have played a great role in the promotion of the Kasli artistic casting.

The Russian sculptor M.D.Kanaev (1830-1880). His name is connected with an active development of the ar­tistic casting in the third quarter of the XIX century. Ka-naev had studied at the Petersburg Academy of Arts. Here be received the title of artist in sculpture and for "excellent success m modelling" was awarded with two silver medals.

Being convinced in the successful development of artist­ic casting Kanaev came to the Urals and became a facto­ry sculptor. At the Kasli works be opened a school for workers, teaching them modelling and moulding. His own creative works got a start in life here, in Kasli. By the sculptor's models were cast stands for clocks "Geraclus breaking the wind cave", "Frost-Denom", "Hut on hen legs" and works of genre art. M.D.Kanaev attached a great importance of the production of new models created by the masters at the Kasli Works, he took practical steps in this way. The Russian sculptor, academician N.R.Bach (1853-1885).

He also left for remote Kasli and continued the work be­gun by Kanaev. The young telented sculptor N.R.Bach, as his successor, strengthened ties of the Kasli casting with the Russian sculpture. He taught workers of the plant modelling, moulding, chasing. Rich Ural nature prompted N.R.Bach the subjects for his new works. Various inkpots, paperweigthts, candlesticks, were produced aftor his models. He is characterized as sculptor-animalist. The inkpot "Scuffle of eagle-owl with hawk", the paper-weight "The broken tree, there are par­tridges under it", ash-trays, candlesticks, statuettes are typical in this respect.

The outstanding medallist, sculptor F.ETolstoy (1783-1873).

Series of medallions created by F.PTolstoy, dedicated to the 1812 Patriotic War, have become popular all over Russia, they were made not only of porcelain and plaster replicas taken from wax originals but in Kasli casting as well.

For decades the works of the founder of animal genre sculpture in Russia, academician P.K.Klodt (1805-1867) were produced.

His sculptures became one of those strong links which connected wonderful Kasli casting with the best works of the Russian art.

Thanks to them it made steps to its glory. Many of these castings are not only telented reproduc­tions of well-known Klodt's sculptures made of bronze, but a new creative working of familiar subjects. The works of the remarkable Russian sculptors E.A.Lan-sere, A.L.Ober, N.I.Lieberich, cast in Kasli enjoyed wide popularity

Kasli presented people with varieties of truly realistic pieces of work reproducing various animals, of every-day life scenes as well as military or hunter scenes. The Kasli masters were fond of E.A.Lansere's "Lizgin's fancytricking" (Riding), "Kazak's parting from kazachka", N.I.Lieberich's "Hunting a bear", "Dog-poirter", "Pea­sant-woman with rake on horse-back", "Bear";

A.L.Ober's "Kirgiz on horse-back", "Lioness". Any of them may by right be regarded as the best in small-size sculpture.

For a number of years Kasli admitted the works of well-known Russian sculptor R.R.Bach (1859-1932). His gal­lery of portraits of Russian writers and composers-I.S.Turgenev, F.M.Dostoevsky, L.N.Tolstoy, A.G.Rubins­tein, P.I.Tchaikovsky and others-is especially remarkable. As genuine masters the Kasli craftsmen reproduced mo­dels of other less known Russian sculptors. It refers to A.Solovyeva's works (Series of Gogol's characters). B.V.Pavlovsky, an investegator of the Kasli art, noted:

"Beginning to work at A.Solovyeva's models Ural arti­sans not only copied the images but were working crea­tively expressing their own relations to the character re­produced... Chasing of fine picture being made by the master, underlines those typical features of an image that are deeply shown by the writer-realist". In the history of Kasli the works of gifted self-taught moulder V.F.Torokin take a special place, they signify un­breakable union of the Russian art and the creative art of the people. He was the first to pay attention to the subjects of common people's life and toil and succeeded in carnating them skilfully. ("Old woman with distaff", "Peasant on field", "Uglevoz", "Coal-carter"). As far as western authors are concerned, French sculp­ture is the most popular in Kasli. The objects made of iron-"Quixote" and "Mephestophel" by the sculptor Go-thie, Man's animals and famous "Valtaire" by Houdon have enjoyed wide popularuty. It seems that long-term friendship between Russia and France as well as the Russia's participation in the 1900 Paris. World Exhibi­tion, namely the Kyshtym mining area, has play its role. The works of other foreign authors have rather widely been circulated. Many of them along with those of Rus­sian artists have become worthy of decoration of inte­rior.

The theme of life and labour of Soviet people, heroic spirit of past battles and peaceful creative works is de­voted by the best sculptures of the Soviet authors-P.S.Anikin, E.A.Yason-Manizer, A.S.Gilev, A.V.Chirkin. Every of them has opened before us both unforgettable pages of the people's history and cast of mind of our contemporary whose labour exploits have been told by the Kasli iron casting.

The names of the casters S.L.Khoroshenin, the Samoylin brothers, the Mochalin broth­ers, M.M.Ignatov, M.A.Dunaev, the chasers N.A.Vikhlyuev, M.O.Glukhov, I.P.Kochargin and many other workers are well known. During years they have been keeping their style of the Kasli Works. They have been called a proud name-Masters...

The second part of the book-'Tages of unwritten biographies"-is about the fortune and the creative work of these masters.

There was a tradition for craftsmen to sign the articles they made. Today, looking at these set in metal names of the masters, we realize that we meet them in order to live their lives again.

To remember and know them...

Had not many outstanding sculptors, however, given their works to the Kasli iron cast­ing, it would not have reached the highest point of its efflorescince whatever remarkable technical features it had.

The Russian sculptor M.D.Kanaev (1830-1880) who had studied at the Petersburg Aca­demy of Arts, played a great role in the history of the Kasli artistic casting. Coming to Kasli he reviewed the production of figured casting, he organized courses for training casters and moulders. Kunaev showed himself a talented sculptor. His famous works are "Geraclus break­ing the wind cave" (Stand fo clock), "Frost - Demon" and "Hut on hen legs" (a Russian folk tale motive), etc.

To promote the Kasli casting it was neccessary to enlarge it with the best models of sculpture, and it was Kanaev who had made some practical steps in this field. So in the price-list for 1876 there were quite a number of the first-class works.

Russian academician N.P.Bach (1853-1885) a young gifted sculptor, followed Kanaev, coming to Kasli. Few remarkable animal figures were cast from his models at the Works. (Ink-pot "Scuffle of eagle-owl with hawk", paper-weight "Wood-grouse at mating place" and others).

A particular attention should be paid to the works of Kasli self-taught moulder V.F.To-rokin, whose objects were inscribed in the factory catalogue. The life and labour of common people was the subject of his handiworks, for instance "An old woman with distaff, "Mould­ers at work", "Peasant on field". Nobody except him reflected this theme in the Kasli casting.

The works of another outstanding Russian sculptor-P.K.Klodt (1805-1867) have occu­pied a worthy place in the Ural artistic casting. He is considered to be a founder of animal genre. Working mainly at images of horses, Klodt sculptured not only sleek army stallions but plain peasant horses. Every sculpture of his has its own poetry (see famous groups of horses on the Anichkov Bridge in Leningrad, the works "Horse at horse-pond", etc.)

Many castings were moulded in Kasli from models of prominent Russian sculptor E.A.Lansere, A.L.Ober, N.I.Lieberich, R.R.Bach as well as the Soviet sculptors A.S.Gilyev, A.B.Chirkin. Alongside the Kasli factory produced works of foreign authors. Among them-"Quixote" and "Mephistophel" by the French sculptor Gothie and a number of works of Man, Bourel and others.

The Kasli craftsmen created not only compositions, portraits and statues but many other things. They cast a great number of tracery caskets, ash-trays, vases, candlesticks, and other objects which were the fine supplement the interior. The names of artists, the authors of these handiworks are in most cases unknown. But as often as not the creators were masters themselves.

A great many of architectural castings, various book-stands, iron door stoves, manifold fire-places, park furnature were produced at the Kasli Works.

The Kasli iron has acquainted the admirers of the artistic casting to many works by So­viet sculptors. They are M.G.Manizer, B.L.Simonov, N.V.Tomsky, E.A.Yason-Manizer, A.S.Gi-lyev, A.V.Chirkin.

Contemporaries called the portrait-bust of Pushkin by S.V.Galberg, cast at the Kasli Works, the most magnificent representation of the great poet, they pointed out the exact re­semblance of it with Pushkin's appearance. A Petersburg newspaper the "Khudozhestvennaya Gazeta" (The art Newspaper) took the lead to open the subscription to a plaster-cast of this bust. The aim of it was to stop making incompetent articles.

Among beloved things in Shalyapin's flat in Leningrad there is the bust of Pushkin by S.I.Galberg. It is noteworthy that it was the Kasli masters who gave a new life of it, one of the artistic works depicting the image of the great Russian poet.

The illustrious statue to Voultaire by the French sculptor J. A. Houdon has an interest­ing history. The marble original of the sculpture is known to be made to the order of the Rus­sian Empress Katherine II and it is kept in the Hermitage. This statue had a few author's re­plicas: Voltaire's immortal smile is preserved not only by snow-white marble and gold bronze but by dull-black cast iron as well.

The history of the Kasli artistic casting is going on, 2 words: "Kasli", "Made in the USSR" are seen on the today's objects. The handiworks with the mark of Kasli are in great demand in the Soviet Union and abroad. In recent years the production of the Kasli Works are purchased in the U. S. A., Great Britain, Spain, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and other countries.

The Russian scientist D.I.Mendeleev who admired the objects of the Kasli craftsmen, wrote that they might decorate any dwellinghourse. "These castings"-Mandeleev considered,-"would make all sorts of sculpture ancient and modern in particular very popular, and bronze handiworks must give the way before such casting as the Kasli".

The time has proved that he was right.


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