New Gifts to the Collection: Russian Lacquer Boxes premieres a gift to the permanent collection of over forty 20th-century colorful Russian lacquer boxes from donor Wendy Lee McCalvy. This exhibition features intricately decorated, narrative works that combine painting with the creation of three-dimensional objects, epitomizing RAM’s objective to blur the line between fine art and craft. These lacquer objects are comparable to other vessels in the collection, functional or not, that have been decorated with glaze, paint, or other media.
Russian lacquer boxes are made of papier-mâché. Each object represents an intense period of labor—from the making of the box itself to the surface treatment. The surfaces are lacquered and hand painted in a variety of styles that reflect regional interests and traditions. Russian fairy tales and legendary figures show up often, sharing space with popular culture and political subjects. Rooted in icon painting as well as social and cultural changes, the Russian lacquer ware tradition that has blossomed since the late eighteenth century is connected to the nation’s identity and commerce. The four historically important centers for this craft—the villages of Kholui, Palekh, Fedoskino, and Mstiora—are all represented with this exhibition at RAM.