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The Crafts Museum

The Crafts Museum holds a special place among the museums whose history is inseparably associated with Russian patrons. The All-Russia Museum of Decorative, Applied and Folk Art is its successor.

An interest in everything associated with the ethnic element in Russian culture emerged among the Russian intelligentsia in 1860-1870s. They began to study and collect the products of peasants' crafts. Public interest in folk culture made municipal organizations focus on local crafts, try to improve the state of local crafts as a unique component of the traditional artistic culture.

In 1882 the All-Russia Industry and Art Exhibition was held in the Hodynskoye Polye in Moscow where the wide public was able to see the products of craftsmen of the Moscow and other regions of Central Russia for the first time. V. Stasov, a prominent critic of that period, wrote: "Of all Russian exhibitions we had this one is truly brilliant." The section of local crafts had stunning success and drew public attention to the problems of local crafts.

A passionate lover of old times and a wonderful connoisseur of art, representing a famous Russian family of industrialists and patrons, Sergey Timofeyevich Morozov purchased all the collection of local crafts products from the exhibition, and this laid the foundations for the future Crafts Museum.

This collection was transferred to V. Ya. Lepeshkina house in the Znamenka Street where the Trade and Industry Museum of Craft Products opened three years later. Three years after that the museum moved to the premises rented by S. T. Morozov at the corner of the Nikitskaya Street and the Nikitsky Avenue road, and in 1903 the museum got its permanent address – Leontyevsky Lane, 7.

The new house of the Crafts Museum built in the Russo-Byzantine style was constructed on S. T. Morozov's money after the draft of architect S. U. Solovyev. Later, in 1911, the building of the museum was expanded by the construction of a wing for a shop after the draft by architects V. N. Bashkirov and A. E. Erichson.

The Crafts Museum had a special place in the cultural life of the Russian capital. Its influence reached far beyond the borders of Moscow, for the museum did not only perform the collecting, research and enlightenment functions, it was also a driver of growth for local crafts.

The main activity of the museum aimed to support craftsmen as the carriers of traditional folk culture. The museum was to be a center for the promotion of the products of local crafts, enhancing their artistic standards, helping masters of crafts in the perfection of their products, promoting the sale of local crafts products, and taking part in the organization of schools, colleges and studios for them.

The structure of the Moscow Crafts Museum, which differed radically from other museums of the period, was formed in the 1900s. Three independent subdivisions were created at the museum to pursue concrete tasks: the support office for local crafts, the sales department, and the Museum of Samples, which had a special function: it was a kind of a laboratory for experiments in art.

Prominent Russian artists – brothers Vasnetsovs, A. Ya. Golovin, V. D. Polenov, and many others were invited to create samples of high artistic value for the products of local crafts, and craftsmen could copy them. The collection of the museum was continuously amplified with the objects that survived from old time Russia, which provided samples for the development of new artworks and cultivated artistic taste in craftsmen, helping retain and multiply cultural traditions.

To provide samples and drawings for craftsmen, S. T. Morozov supported the growth of the museum collection by the purchases of the works of the XVII–XIX centuries applied art, funding the purchases himself.

The participation of the Crafts Museum in major Russian and international exhibitions was important for the promotion and development of local crafts and arts in Russia.

The Paris Expo 1900 holds a special place among them. The pavilion of local crafts and handicraft stood apart from the other Expo pavilions in its ethnic style. It was a chain of small wooden structures in the style of the XVII century Russian North, with its log cabins and a village wooden church.

The Russian Village – "Village Russe", as the French called this incredible structure, was built by architect I. Ye. Bondarenko after the draft of artist K. A. Korovin.

In 1920–1930s the Craft Museum took great effort to help local crafts adapt to new social and economic conditions. And, in particular, it played an important role in the strengthening and development of lacquer miniature in the old centers of icon painting – Palekh, Mstera and Kholui, promoted the revival of Gzhel ceramics.

A scientific research institute was created on the basis of the Crafts Museum in 1931, it was called the Scientific Research Institute of Art Industry since 1941. The museum was now a subdivision of the institute as its department and was called the Museum of Folk Art.

The 1999 Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation transferred the collection of the Museum of Folk Art named after S. T. Morozov to the All-Russian Museum of Decorative, Applied and Folk Art.