Folk Arts

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Folk Arts


(folklore), the artistic activity of the working people; the poetry, music, theater, dance, architecture, and fine and applied art created by the people and existing among the popular masses. The collective artistic activity of the common people reflects their work, social organization and everyday life, knowledge of life and nature, and religious practices and beliefs. Evolving in the course of social labor, folk arts embody the views, ideals, and aspirations of the common people, their poetic imagination, their extremely rich world of thoughts, feelings, and experiences, their protest against exploitation and oppression, and their dreams of justice and happiness. Having absorbed the age-old experience of the popular masses, folk arts are distinguished by a profound artistic grasp of reality, verisimilitude of imagery, and powerful generalizations.

The rich images, themes, motifs, and forms of the folk arts are the result of a complex dialectical unity of individual (albeit usually anonymous) creation and collective artistic consciousness. In the course of centuries, the folk collective selects, improves, and enriches the solutions found by individual masters. Continuity and persistence of artistic traditions (within which individual creativity manifests itself) are combined with diverse interpretations of these traditions in individual works.

The collective nature of the folk arts, which constitutes their foundation and undying tradition, manifests itself at every stage in the creation of individual works or types of works. The process of creation, which includes improvisation reinforced by tradition and a subsequent improvement, enrichment, and sometimes renewal of the tradition, occurs over a very long period of time. In all folk arts the creators of a work are also its performers, and the performance, in turn, can produce variants that enrich the tradition. Also important is the close contact between performers and audience, who themselves may become participants in the creative process.

Another basic feature of folk creativity is the inseparability and artistic unity of the various folk arts. Folk ceremonies fuse poetry, music, dance, theater, and decorative art, and in the dwellings of the common people, architecture, carving, murals, ceramics, and embroidery form an indivisible whole. Folk poetry is closely related to music in its rhythmic and musical qualities and in the manner in which most poetic works are performed, and musical genres are usually related to poetry, work movements, and dances. Folk artistic works and skills are handed down from one generation to the next.

Folk arts are the historical basis of artistic culture throughout the world. The basic principles of folk creativity and most traditional forms, genres, and to some extent images arose in remote antiquity in a pre-class society, when all art was the creation and property of the people. With mankind’s social development, the formation of a class society, and the division of labor, professionalized “high” or “learned” art gradually emerged.

Folk arts also form a special stratum of world artistic culture. Various layers differing in their social content as a result of the class differentiation of society may be distinguished in this stratum, but at the beginning of the capitalist period folk art was everywhere defined as the collective traditional art of the laboring masses in the countryside and later in the city. The high artistic level of folk arts reflects their organic link with the basic principles of the people’s world view, the poetic wholeness of their relation to the world, and their constant improvement. Folk arts have also developed specialized forms and a continuity of skills and teaching traditions.

The folk arts of different peoples, often widely separated, have many common features and themes, which either arose under similar conditions or were inherited from a common source. At the same time folk arts absorbed the unique features of the national life and culture of each people. They preserved their basis in work and remained the repository of national culture and the expression of popular self-consciousness. This explains the power and the fruitful influence of folk arts on all world art, as shown by the works of Rabelais and Shakespeare, A. S. Pushkin and N. A. Nekrasov, P. Brueghel and F. Goya, M. I. Glinka and M. P. Mussorgsky. In turn, folk art borrowed much from “high” art, as may be seen from classical pediments on peasant cottages and folk songs based on lyrics by the great poets. The folk arts are a valuable testimony to the people’s revolutionary sentiments and struggle for happiness.

Under capitalism, folk arts became an aspect of bourgeois socioeconomic relations and developed quite unevenly. Many forms degenerated, and others completely disappeared or were threatened with extinction. Some forms lost their most valuable features as they began to be mass produced and adapted to the demands of the market.

In the 19th century the growth of national self-consciousness, the rise of the democratic and national liberation movement, and the development of romanticism awakened an interest in folk arts. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, the influence of folklore on world culture increased, certain lost forms of folk creativity were revived, and museums and societies dedicated to preserving folk arts were organized. However, state and private patronage often subordinated folk arts to commercial aims and to the interests of the “tourist industry” and encouraged their most archaic features and religious and patriarchal vestiges.

Socialist society has created the conditions for the preservation and development of folk arts. Inheriting and affirming national folk traditions, folk arts become imbued with socialist ideas and reflect the new, transformed reality. They are supported by state and social organizations, and folk artists are awarded prizes and honorary titles. A network of research institutions, both institutes and museums, have been established to study folk arts and promote their development. Many traditional genres, such as ritual folklore, incantations, and folk drama, are dying out, but others are finding a new place. New forms of mass artistic culture are also evolving. Amateur artistic activities—choruses, dance groups, and people’s amateur theaters—are flourishing. This type of artistic activity differs from folk creativity, but to some extent it makes use of the folk heritage. Outstanding folk artistic works created in the course of many centuries have retained their significance as a living cultural heritage and a treasure-house of the artistic experience of the popular masses.

Folk poetry. Folk poetic creation is the verbal art of a people. The totality of genres and forms known in contemporary scholarship as folk poetic creation (harodnoe poeticheskoe tvorchestvo) is also sometimes called folk literature, oral literature, folk poetry, and folklore. Verbal art arose during the development of human speech. In pre-class society it was closely related to other forms of human activity and reflected the beginnings of man’s knowledge and religious and mythological concepts. In the course of social differentiation, various genres and forms of oral verbal art arose, expressing the interests of different social groups and strata. The creativity of the laboring masses played a most important role in the development of folk poetry. With the appearance of writing, a literature historically connected with oral folk art emerged.

Folk poetry is collective not only because it expresses the ideas and feelings of the collective, but even more because it is collectively created and propagated. Textual changes, ranging from insignificant stylistic alterations to a substantial reworking of the basic idea, arise out of the collective nature of folk poetry. Fixed formulas, linked with specific plot situations, play an important role in memorizing and varying texts. The formulas are transferred from one text to another, as for example, the formula describing the saddling of a horse in the byliny (Russian epic songs).

Over time the genres of folk poetry undergo “productive” and “unproductive” periods (they arise, spread, enter into the mass repertoire, grow old, and disappear), which ultimately may be attributed to social and cultural changes. The persistence of folkloric texts in the people’s daily life may be explained not only by their artistic value but also by the slow pace of change in the way of life, world view, and tastes of peasants, the main creators and preservers of folklore. The folkloric texts of different genres are mutable in varying degrees. On the whole, however, tradition has an incomparably greater influence on folk poetry than on professional literature.

The collective nature of folk art does not mean that it lacks individuality: talented masters influenced not only the creation but also the propagation, perfection, and adaptation of texts to the needs of the collective. With the division of labor, professional performers of folk poetry appeared, such as the ancient Greek rhapsodists and aoidos, the Russian skomorokhi, the Ukrainian kobzari, and the Kazakh and Kirghiz akyns. In some Near Eastern and Middle Asian countries and in the Caucasus, transitional forms of folk poetry developed: works created by individuals were propagated orally, but the text remained relatively unchanged and the author’s name was usually known and often included in the text, for example, Toktogul Satylganov in Kirghizia and Sayat-Nova in Armenia.

The wealth of genres, themes, images, and poetic devices in verbal folk art may be explained by the variety of its social and cultural functions, by the methods of performance (solo, chorus, or chorus with soloist), and by the combination of text with melody, intonation, and movements (song, song and dance, narration, acting out, and dialogue). In the course of history, certain genres underwent fundamental changes and disappeared, and new ones appeared. In earliest times most peoples had tribal legends, work and ritual songs, and incantations. Later, there arose fairy tales, tales of daily life, animal tales, and archaic (pre-state) forms of the epic. During the formation of states, the classical heroic epic evolved, followed by historical songs and ballads. Still later there appeared the nonritual lyrical song, romance, chastushka (ditty) and other small lyrical genres, and, finally, workers’ folklore, such as revolutionary songs and oral tales.

Despite the strong national character of the verbal folk art of different peoples, many themes, images, and even plots are similar. For example, about two-thirds of the folktale plots of the European peoples have parallels in the folktales of other peoples, the result of development from a common source, of cultural interaction, or of common laws of social development.

Down to the late feudal era and the period of capitalism, verbal folk art developed relatively independently of written literature. Later, literary works entered the folk milieu more frequently, for example, A. S. Pushkin’s “The Prisoner” and “The Black Shawl” and N. A. Nekrasov’s “Peddlers.” Mean-while, the works of folk storytellers acquired certain literary features, such as more individualized characters and psychological motivation.

In socialist society, the accessibility of education ensures the discovery of artistic gifts and professional training for the most talented people. Various forms of mass verbal art, including songs, chastushki, intermedia, and satirical sketches, are developing through close contact with professional socialist art. Traditional forms of verbal folk art have also been preserved. Popularity over the centuries has assured the permanent value and long life of the songs, tales, and legends that best reflect the spiritual makeup of the people, their ideals, hopes, artistic tastes, and way of life. The endurance of folk works also explains their profound influence on the development of literature. According to M. Gorky, “verbal art originated in folklore” (O literature, 1961, p. 452).

Folk music. Musical folklore is the vocal (primarily song), instrumental, and vocal-instrumental collective art of the people. It usually exists in unwritten form and is handed down through performing traditions. Although it belongs to the people as a whole, folk music owes its existence primarily to the performing art of talented born musicians. Among various peoples, such performers have included the kobzar’, gusliar (gusli player), skomorokh, ashug, akyn, kiuishi (kiui player), bakhshi, gusan, hafiz, aoidos, olonkhosut (singer of olonkho, Yakut heroic epics), jongleur, minstrel, and Spielmann. Like the other arts, folk music originated in the prehistoric past, and the musical traditions of various societies are remarkably vital and enduring. In every historical period there exist ancient works modified in the course of centuries and works created on the basis of older works. Together they constitute traditional musical folklore, based on the music of the peasantry, which for long periods remains relatively independent and generally differs from music associated with younger written traditions. The principal genres of folk music are songs, epics (for example, the Russian bylina or Yakut olonkho), dance melodies, dance refrains (such as Russian chas-tushki), instrumental pieces, and dance tunes. Each work of musical folklore has numerous stylistically and semantically related variants, showing the changes that occur in folk music in the course of its performance.

The wealth of genres in folk music results from the diversity of its functions in life. All aspects of the peasant’s work and family life were accompanied by song. Holidays of the annual agricultural cycle were the occasion for carols, vesnianki (spring songs), Shrovetide songs, and songs for Ivan-Kupala Day. Field work was accompanied by reaping and harvesting songs; births and marriages, by lullabyes and wedding songs; and death, by funeral laments. Among pastoral peoples there were songs associated with breaking in horses and herding cattle. Later, among all peoples, the lyrical genres became the most highly developed, as the simple, short melodies of work, ceremonial, dance, and epic songs and instrumental tunes were replaced by longer musical improvisations that were sometimes quite complex in form. Such vocal improvisations include the Russian protiazhnaia pesnia (“drawn-out” song) and the Rumanian and Moldavian doina. Among instrumental improvisations are the programmatic pieces of the Transcarpathian fiddlers, Bulgarian kaval players, Kazakh dombra players, Kirghiz komuz players, and Turkmen dutar players, as well as the folk music performed by Uzbek, Tadzhik, Indonesian, Japanese, and other instrumental ensembles.

Various melodic forms have evolved in different genres of folk music, ranging from recitative (Karelian runes, Russian byliny, the South Slavic epic) to the richly embellished lyrical songs of Near Eastern music. Polyphony includes the polyrhythmic combination of tunes in the ensembles of African peoples, German harmonic choral singing, Georgian quarter-second polyphony, central Russian podgolosochnaia polyphony (in which the secondary parts, or podgoloski, are a free imitation of the main melody), and Lithuanian canonic sutartines. Different types of rhythms have developed, particularly rhythm formulas, which derive from the rhythms of labor or dance movement. Modal systems vary from primitive narrow scales to the developed diatonics of the “free melodic system.” Variations are also encountered in the forms of stanzas, couplets (paired, symmetrical, asymmetrical), and compositions as a whole. Folk music may be solo, antiphonal, choral, or orchestral. Choral and instrumental polyphony varies from heterophony and the drone (a continuous bass) to complex polyphonic and chordal forms. Each nation’s folk music, comprising many musical dialects, forms a stylistic entity and unites with other cultures to form larger folkloric-ethnographic groups. Such groups in Europe include Scandinavian, Baltic, Carpathian, Balkan, and Mediterranean music.

The scholarly discipline of musical ethnography is devoted to collecting folk music, aided by recording technology in the 20th century. Ethnomusicology, or musical folkloristics, is the study of folk music.

Folk music has provided the basis for almost all national schools of professional music, which have made use of the folkloric heritage in various ways, ranging from simple adaptations of folk melodies to compositions that freely transform the folk musical idiom and the laws characteristic of a particular folk musical tradition. Today, folk music enriches both professional and various types of amateur music.

Folk musical instruments, created and played by the people, may either be restricted to a single nation (such as the Ukrainian bandura or Georgian chonguri), or they may be used by different peoples related by common ethnic heritage or long-standing cultural contacts, for example, the gusli and zhaleika exist among both Russians and Byelorussians, and the instruments of Uzbekistan are almost identical to those of Tadzhikistan. Almost all professional musical instruments are derived from folk prototypes.

Folk theater. Organically linked with oral folk art, the folk theater originated in remote antiquity. The games that accompanied agriculture and hunting holidays contained dramatic elements. Dramatization was also an integral part of calendar festivities (mummery) and family rituals (weddings). In the process of historical development, the creative, playful element intensified: games and shows appeared that parodied the wedding ceremony (such as the Russian comic game Pakhomushka) and funeral rites (Mavrukh, the game of the dead). Among all peoples, such games became the basis for the development of folk theater and drama. Folk theater throughout the world may be divided into theater with live actors and puppet theater, often named after the hero of the presentation (Petrushka in Russia, Punch in England, Pulcinella in Italy, and Kaŝpárek in Bohemia). The Ukrainian vertep and Byelorussian batleika were similar to the Russian Petrushka theater. The many different kinds of puppets and ways of manipulating them (for example, with sticks or strings) account for the diversity of puppet theaters. These theaters presented plays retelling tales and legends or adapted such “migratory subjects” as Don Juan or Doctor Faus-tus. Other types of folk theater in Russia were the balagan entertainments and the raek peep shows, accompanied by narration in rhymed verse.

Folk theater is nonprofessional. However, all peoples have had their theatrical specialists, for example, the ancient Roman mimes, the West European Spielmann and jongleur, the Russian skomorokh, and the puppeteers of various countries. Forming groups (called vatagi in Russia), these performers wandered through towns and villages. Their repertoire consisted of plays of folkloric origin and later also of adaptations of professional plays and other literary works.

The presentations of the folk theater, often containing references to social evils and political events, were persecuted by the church and state. Folk actors often introduced secular, realistic elements into religious dramas, such as the medieval mystery plays. The critical attitude toward the feudal aristocracy and the urban bourgeoisie was manifested in farce. Carnival and farce traditions paved the way for the commedia dell’arte.

In Russia the most popular plays among peasants, soldiers, and factory workers were King Maximilian and His Disobedient Son Adolph, The Boat, and variants of The Boat called The Robbers’ Band, Stepan Razin, and The Black Raven. The plays King Herod and How the French Took Moscow were also frequently presented. All these plays may be classified among the “antityrant,” heroic, and robber plays known to many peoples. King Maximilian had a literary prototype, the school drama Dimitrii’s Wreath (1704), based on The Life of Saint Dimitrii. The Boat, dating from the late 18th century, was a dramatization of the folk song Down the Volga. In their final form the texts of these plays came to include fragments from the works of late 18th and early 19th century poets (G. R. Derzhavin, K. N. Batiushkov, A. S. Pushkin, M. Iu. Lermontov) and themes and characters from popular novels. Satirical plays in Russia included The Master, The Naked Master, and Petrushka.

The most characteristic feature of the folk theater (as of all folklore) is the conventionality of the costumes and props, movements and gestures. During the performance the actors addressed the audience directly. The public could engage in repartee, become involved in the action, and sometimes take part in the performance by singing with the chorus or portraying secondary characters in mass scenes. As a rule, folk theater lacked both a stage and decorations, and it concentrated not on character portrayal but on the tragedy or humor of situations. Other important elements were the soliloquies of the heroes and the songs (both folk songs and songs composed for the play) and operatic arias sung by the actors.

Folk plays have two types of characters, dramatic (heroic or romantic) and comic. The dramatic characters delivered their soliloquies and lines in a lofty, formal manner, and the comic characters employed various comic devices, parody, and puns. The traditional nature of performances in the folk theater subsequently gave rise to a special type of theatrical presentation, which acquired a fixed form. In many countries, such presentations are called traditional theater. In Asian countries, folk dance and pantomime performances have been popular since ancient times and have formed the basis of the Asian people’s traditional theater, including the wayang topeng theater of Indonesia, the kolam of Sri Lanka, and the kathakali of India.

The distinctive artistic and performing techniques of the folk theater were used by such figures of the professional theater as Shakespeare, Molière, C. Goldoni, A. N. Ostrovskii, and E. De Filippo.

Folk dance. Folk dances are one of the oldest forms of folk creativity. Folk presentations during holidays and at fairs included dances. Round dances and other ceremonial dances arose out of folk rituals. Among such dances are the Ceylonese fire dance, the Norwegian torch dance, and Slavic round dances associated with wreath-making and the lighting of bonfires. Gradually departing from ritual activities, round dances began to express other aspects of daily life.

The dances of peoples engaged in hunting and herding reflected their observations of the animal world. The characteristics and habits of beasts, birds, and domestic animals were vividly conveyed in such dances as the buffalo dance of the North American Indians, the Indonesian penchak (tiger dance), the Yakut bear dance, the eagle dance of the Pamirs, the Chinese and Indian peacock dance, the Finnish bull-calf dance, the Russian crane and goose dances, and the Norwegian rooster dance. Dances based on village labor include the Latvian reapers’ dance, the woodcutters’ dance of the Hutsuls, the Estonian cobblers’ dance, the Byelorussian lianok (flax dance), the Moldavian poame (vineyard dance), and the Uzbek silkweavers’ dance and pakhta (cotton dance). New folk dances arose with the appearance of crafts and factory work, such as the Ukrainian bondar’, the German glassblowers’ dance, and the Karelian dance How Cloth Is Woven.

Folk dances often evoke martial valor and heroism and reproduce battle scenes, for example, the pyrrhics of the ancient Greeks, which combined dance with swordsmanship; the Georgian khorumi and berikaoba; the Scottish sword dance; and cos-sack dances. The love theme occupies an important place in folk dance. Originally such dances were frankly erotic; later they began to express noble feelings and a respectful attitude toward women (the Georgian kartuli, Russian quadrille, and Polish mazur).

Each nation developed its own dance traditions, dance idiom, coordination of movements, and methods of coordinating movement with music. Among some peoples the dance movements are synchronous with the music, and among others, for example, the Bulgarians, they are asynchronous. The dances of the Western European peoples are based on foot movement (with the hands and torso accompanying the feet), whereas the dances of the Middle Asian and other Eastern peoples emphasize hand and torso movement. The dominant element is rhythm, which the dancer accentuates by stamping, clapping, striking rings, or ringing bells. Many folk dances are performed to the accompaniment of folk instruments, often held by the dancers, such as castanets, tambourines, drums, the doira, accordion, and balalaika. Some dances are performed using everyday objects, such as a kerchief, hat, dish, or cup, as accessories. Costumes also influence dance performance, for example, the full dresses worn by Russian and Georgian female dancers enhance their fluid dance movements, and Russian and Hungarian male dancers beat time on the tops of their stiff boots.

The vitality and popularity of folk dancing in the USSR contributed to the organization of folk dance ensembles. The Folk Dance Ensemble of the USSR, founded in 1937, firmly established staged folk dances within professional choreography. Folk dance elements are also used in classical ballet. Professional folk dance ensembles and song and dance ensembles have been organized in all the Soviet republics. Throughout the world professional and amateur groups perform folk dances on the stage.

Folk architecture and fine and applied art. Folk architecture and art includes work implements, buildings, household objects and furnishings, clothing and fabrics, toys, and popular prints. Among the most important processes are pottery-making, weaving, carving, decorative painting, artistic casting, engraving, and embossing. Folk architecture and applied art are both creative and part of material production, combining aesthetic and utilitarian functions, that is, imagery and technical inventiveness.

In creating and shaping the physical milieu and giving concrete aesthetic expression to work processes, daily life, and calendar and family rituals, folk art from time immemorial has been an integral part of the slowly changing life of the people. Various features of folk art reveal norms of work and daily life and religious practices and beliefs dating from the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. The most universal element in folk art and architecture is ornamentation, which arose in antiquity. Ornamentation is used to achieve unity of composition and is closely bound up with the technique of execution and with a “sense” of the object, of plastic form, and of the natural beauty of the material. Certain ornamental motifs, for the most part of mythological origin (“the tree of life,” the “great goddess” and her attendants, sun symbols), bear the stamp of primitive consciousness and of mythological and magical communion with nature. These ancient roots may be seen, for example, in folk toys, which reflect primitive religious sculpture. Works of folk art are often linked to custom even when the religious or mythological meaning has been forgotten. This accounts for the ephemeral nature of many objects of folk art, such as sand paintings and colored eggs, which were meant to be re-created through a regularly repeated ritual.

In contrast to the “high” art of the social elite, folk art does not show contrasting changes in style. Some new motifs do appear during the evolution of folk art, but greater changes occur in the degree of stylization and in the interpretation of old motifs. Images once associated with basic conceptions of the world gradually assume a narrowly utilitarian meaning (such as hex signs decorating household objects) or become purely decorative; meanwhile the form of an object often undergoes only insignificant functional change.

In folk art the idea of an object is usually not worked out in a preliminary model or sketch, but takes shape in the craftsman’s consciousness and hands. Moreover, the people must collectively accept the results of the craftsman’s inventiveness (his inventiveness also causes him to develop the most efficient techniques). Tradition, reinforced by a centuries-long selective process, undergoes continual but only partial change. The most ancient artifacts (for example, wooden duck-shaped ladles) may resemble natural objects very closely. In later interpretations of these forms the original typology and representational basis are combined with techniques for generalization and decorative stylization that have evolved over the centuries and with efficient use of techniques and materials.

As class differentiation takes place, the prerequisites are created for the appearance of a folk art serving the needs of the lower strata of society. At first such folk art is restricted to domestic artistic work for personal use and to village crafts. A distinct folk style may be discerned in the art of classical antiquity, for example, Italo-Etruscan votive objects resembling Neolithic sculpture. The first outstanding examples of palace and even religious architecture are clearly related to primitive ancient works of folk wood and stone architecture (the Aegean megaron and German Halle) and to the portable dwellings of nomads. Later, however, urban and manorial building styles begin to diverge sharply from folk architecture, which develops out of the peasant way of life (dwelling, threshing floor, barn, animal shed).

In medieval Europe, the feudal-clerical culture clashed with attempts to preserve the cultural traditions of tribal society, economic and political isolation, and the worship of local gods. These attempts are reflected in the folk current in medieval art, usually saturated with images in the animal style. The popular world view, expressed in its purest form in pagan ornamental amulets, was also embodied in works attesting to the influence of popular culture on court and ecclesiastical culture (for example, the reliefs of the Vladimir-Suzdal’ school, the grotesque sculpture of Romanesque and Gothic churches, and manuscript illuminations). However, the backwardness of money-commercial relations, a weak differentiation in the forms of everyday life, the anonymity of medieval art, and the closeness of its masters to the peasant milieu did not facilitate the full emergence of folk art as such. In those countries that entered the early capitalist stage of development later, particularly in medieval Rus’, this situation existed down to the late 17th and early 18th centuries. In Oriental countries, which preserved the medieval way of life down to the 19th and 20th centuries, all decorative applied art was influenced by folk craft skills, and the highly developed folk art did not differ fundamentally from the crafts produced for the privileged strata. The folk strain was strong in the pictorial art of a number of countries (for example, in Chinese, Japanese, and Indian woodcuts). Finally, in countries that experienced colonization, folk art was generally based on the ancient indigenous culture, although it absorbed many features of the introduced cultures.

With the breakup of feudalism and the guild system, folk artistic handicrafts intended for the market evolved. While retaining close ties to the life of the common people, folk art assimilated new types of production and new forms and themes. In addition, the emergence of artistic individuality and admiration for classical art during the Renaissance caused folk art to become an increasingly local phenomenon, tied to old native traditions.

The folk religious art (votive painting, icons painted on glass, painted sculpture) that began to flourish in the 16th and 17th centuries, especially in Catholic countries, as well as holiday decorations and popular prints, with their naïvely archaic forms, differed completely in their imagery from the refined and sometimes strikingly unusual works of “high” art. A similar divergence occurred in the style of everday objects. This dichotomy was less apparent where folk elements permeated the culture of the privileged classes and of the church. In Russia, for example, the architecture of the 17th-century palace in the village of Kolo-menskoe incorporates a wealth of forms derived from folk wood architecture. In Latin America the decorations of baroque churches absorbed features of pre-Columbian art.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the ideographic element in folk art weakened. In the floral motifs that were now crowding out symbolic geometric designs, decorative patterns became freer and more varied. Folk art was increasingly influenced by fresh observations and by everyday subjects; efforts were made to portray the life of the upper classes in folkloric terms, to adapt the forms of the dominant styles, and to imitate expensive and labor-intensive materials. However, the new motifs and forms (Renaissance, baroque, Empire) that entered folk art bore only a remote resemblance to the originals and became simplified and ossified in a rhythmically clear decorative scheme. On the whole, the period from the 17th to the early 19th century saw a flowering of folk art, which attained an extraordinary variety of genres and forms. This was facilitated by the accessibility of new materials and tools, by the appearance of new techniques, by a broadening of the range of interests of folk artists, and by the development of folk lyrics and satire.

During the 19th century, the rapidly developing artisan cottage industry was steadily drawn into the capitalist economic system. In most countries, commercial crafts were permanently severed from domestic crafts. In Russia after 1861, folk handicrafts were produced in private workshops for the national market. The narrow specialization of crafts, the growing division of labor, and the standardization of motifs engendered designs and forms dependent on skillful execution, sometimes almost attaining machine speed. Commercial, mechanically perfect crafts-manship increasingly supplanted creativity. Imitating urban mass production, often casual and antiaesthetic, craftsmen destroyed the unity of technical and aesthetic elements characteristic of folk art. Compositions, formerly strictly organized and saturated with meaningful associations, became freer but less logical. In painting, tempera gave way first to oils and then to aniline paints. Folk icons and popular prints were replaced by oleographs. Sculpture lost its architectonic quality. Representation and ornamentation, formerly fused with the object, became little more than pictures glued to a surface.

Certain forms of folk art that were unable to compete with cheap factory-made products declined or died out, but new forms also arose, chiefly employing the techniques, style, and even models of professional art and commercial craft production. Folk art virtually disappeared in a number of countries that once had an extremely rich folk tradition (England, Denmark, the Netherlands), but it flourished in industrially backward regions where a thick layer of medieval culture survived, such as the northern provinces of Russia, Brittany in France, the Tyrol in Austria, Slovakia, the Balkans, Spain, and Sicily.

From the mid-19th century, after the value of verbal folklore had been recongnized, interest in folk decorative art arose in a number of countries. Thereafter, the aesthetics of folk art (both indigenous and exotic) and its colorful and rhythmic quality increasingly influenced professional architecture and fine and decorative art. Folk art collections were assembled. Public organizations and patrons revived a number of declining crafts and organized new ones. With the spread of the art nouveau style and various related national romantic trends in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, interest in folk art grew particularly strong. However, by imposing the solutions of studio art on folk craftsmen, the artists and theoreticians of art nouveau frequently showed a lack of understanding of the nature of folk art. Similar mistakes were also made at a later date, including the Soviet practices between the 1930’s and 1950’s. In a number of capitalist countries, on the other hand, attempts were made to bring folk sculpture and ornamentation closer to abstract art.

Contemporary folk art works are generally decorative objects and souvenirs, attesting to the distinctive aspects of the folk culture of a particular region. Their handmade appearance lends a sense of national tradition and humanity to an environment that has been created largely by standardized industrial means. Folk crafts are important in the economies of the developing countries. In many countries, particularly the USSR and other socialist states, efforts are made to preserve folk crafts and their artistic individuality. The work of folk craftsmen is encouraged through contests and exhibitions, and vocational schools train artists and handicraft workers. Research institutes and museums painstakingly study the traditions of folk art and collect the best examples, in part to discover works and decorative techniques that can blend with modern life. Folk art continues to influence the industrial production of artistic works by helping to discover the most expressive forms and decorations of everyday objects. Certain features of folk art live in the works of amateur masters and in the works of professional artists who use the heritage of folk art. In the USSR, a number of almost extinct folk crafts have been revived, and many have been newly developed and oriented toward Soviet life: for example, the former centers of icon painting have become world-famous for the production of lacquer miniatures. In the many and varied genres of Soviet folk art, careful preservation of folk traditions is combined with a breadth of interest and perception of Soviet reality.


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K. V. CHISTOV (literature), I. I. ZEMTSOVSKII (music), N. I. SAVUSHKINA (theater), and A. K. CHEKALOV and M. N. SOKOLOV (architecture, art)

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
On November 17, I had the opportunity to watch one hour folk dance, music and street play presented by the Dailt girls of Sakthi Folk Art Centre Dindigul, Tamil Nadu.
In the absence of a permanent installation delineating between the folk art gallery and the fine and contemporary art galleries within the same museum, temporary delineations--such as murals--provide an important bridge for museumgoers.
The festival's range of activities will also build communications between the Authority and other governmental and private sectors bodies, resulting in the creation of a unified platform for UAE heritage folk arts and crafts.
Habib bin Mohammed al- Riyami, Secretary General of SQHCCS said that 12 works participated in the field of translation, 3 of them entered the final stage, 17 works in the field of Omani folk arts, 5 reached the final stage and 32 works participated in the field of novel, 11 reached the final stage.
"Folk art shapes the behaviour and patterns of social interaction in various occasions, which occur in everyday social life," said al-Sulaiti.
"Five Philippine tribe weaving traditions have been officially selected among the 150 select folk arts traditions that will be participating," Lat said.
The initiative led by the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) will see each school develop a project based around dance, music, drama or other folk arts using material from their local area that has been sourced from The Full English digital archive.
The programme will furthermore provide training sessions in using folk arts in the curriculum for school staff, and will provide traineeships for 10 emerging folk arts educators.
r Brennan, a musician himself who performs as part of MP4, a cross-party rock band featuring four MPs, took over running the folk arts group last year from the late MP Alan Keen.
Tucson, AZ, October 12, 2012 --( Pima Dermatology, PC, Tucson's premier comprehensive dermatological group serving the region over 25 years, is teaming with the Tucson Meet Yourself (TMY) Folk-Life Festival to sponsor this year's TMY Folk Arts Courtyard.
More specifically, the UO has taken over the Oregon Folklife Network, which under its previous name - the Oregon Folklife Program - bounced around from one agency to another over the years while it tried to help preserve and maintain traditional folk arts practiced in the state, from Irish fiddle playing to maritime storytelling on the coast.