The sparkling treasures of the Ceramics Museum. Getting acquainted with the Neman glass

June 29

We offer you to take an online tour of the Art Glass of the Neman Plant exhibition, which was opened in the Kuskovo Memorial estate. The Neman plant is a legend of the Soviet glass industry. The innovative artists who were gathered there in the 1960s made a small revolution, having changed the idea of how glass things can look. The plant fabricated both mass-produced products and works of authorship that were created in one copy.

The exhibition presents two periods of the plant's life in the twentieth century - before 1939, when the territory on which it was located belonged to the Polish Republic, and after, when the Neman plant already became Soviet. All the exhibits at the exhibition are from the collections of the Ceramics Museum.

From ordinary containers - to exquisite sets

In 1883, entrepreneur Zenon Lensky built a glass factory on his estate in Zaenchitsy, Lida County (the territory of modern Belarus). It was not a question of creating decorative products for interior design or table setting items - Lensky commercialized the production of simple bottles, cans and other simple products that were easy to be manufactured.

Everything changed in 1891, when he leased the plant to Czech engineer Wilhelm Kraevsky and decorator Julius Stolle. At that time, the Czech lands were one of the glassmaking development centers, which set trends for fashion. There were legends about Bohemian glass known since the XII century. Over time, Stolle and Krayevsky bought the leased enterprise from Lensky. They gave their plant the name Neman - by the river name next to which it was located.

The entrepreneurs created a greater variety of products, began to produce items for interior decoration (vases, jardinieres, lighting devices), used different methods of working with glass, purchased modern equipment. In just a few years, they have created a modern enterprise with a wide product assortment demanded in the region and beyond. By the beginning of the First World War, the Neman plant, already under the sole management of Stolle, had become the fastest-growing enterprise in the region.

Troubled times

During the First World War, the plant worked only for the needs of the military industry. It produced exclusively electrical insulators. After signing the Treaty of Riga in 1921, the land on which the plant was located became part of the Polish Republic. Neman continued to receive orders for electrical insulators in large quantities - for railways, mail, telegraph. These orders retrieved the company from ruin.

By the mid-1920s, the production of glass products was restored. The assortment began to expand again. Vases made of thick-walled glass of simple geometric shapes with a decor in the form of a wide face deserve special attention. They were made of both unpainted glass and colored glass. The shades were named after the color of precious stones: rosaline, sapphire, emerald, amber.

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin,

Among the products of the 1930s, those ones made by pressing method deserve special attention. It means placing the glass mass in molds with subsequent pressing. The item gets a shape, and the internal and external surfaces get a decor: surface finish or relief. This method was used for making plates, salad utensils, saucers, glasses, containers for spices. One of the most interesting and recognizable models of those years is the emerald — colored jardiniere vase. It consists of two parts, each of which can be used separately: the upper one - as a salad bowl, the lower one - as a vase. The author of the model was Mikhail Titkov, a design engineer and the first designer of the plant in the 1930s.

In 1939, the territory where the plant is located became part of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic. The company was nationalized. The Neman well-established technology of pressing was of great interest for the Soviet glass industry. By the summer of 1940, employees of the State Experimental Glass Institute had already studied the technologies of the Neman plant. Rosaline glass rosette with geometric decor is the first sample that fell into hands of specialists. Soon, the production of 26 products was commercialize at the largest glass factories of the country: salad bowls, herring fish in the form of fishes, sugar bowls, butter dishes. Some of them have slightly smoothed corners: unlike the Stolle enterprise, manual modification of products was not provided for at the factories.

The Neman was badly damaged during the Great Patriotic War. The plant was restored in 1944. Production resumed in 1945. The forms and decors have changed. There are new colors in the color gamut, for example, rich red.

Main artists

In the first post-war years, the company's products were created according to the models of Polish products of the pre-war period and according to common samples of the beginning of the century. Part of the assortment was made according to the projects of experienced factory craftsmen.

In the framework of the general transformations of the country's life, in the late 1950s-early 1960s, noticeable changes took place in glassmaking. A rapid renewal of the assortment began at the Neman plant, the products manufacturing based on the samples of the Moscow Combine of Applied Arts artists and on the models of the Belarusian artist Galina Isaevich was commercialized.

In 1959, at the request of the Glass and Chemical Industry Authority of the Council of National Economy of the BSSR, graduates of the Mukhina Leningrad Higher Art and Industrial School came to the plant - Vladimir Murakhver and his wife Lyudmila Myagkova.  They became the first artists whose work was inextricably linked with the enterprise and largely determined its development. With their appearance, the Neman products became the dream of every Soviet citizen who was no stranger to aesthetics. Queues began to camp out to buy the Neman glass.

Murakhver quickly rose to the position of chief artist, where he worked until 1975. During all this time, he created more than a thousand glass-wares, most of which were commercialized. Murakhver developed a technique of filling rolling moulding with rolling a roller on hot glass filled on a specially made tin sheet mold with a concave relief. This method made it possible to create complex works in small batches, rather than single copies. One of his most famous works, created in this way, is the easel stained glass window called Glass Blowers.

In addition, Vladimir Murakhver was very interested in glassblowing technique, which means molding a product from molten glass by hand with the help of tools. Lyudmila Myagkova, who later replaced her husband as the main artist, also liked to work in the same technique. She created both mass and small-scale products, as well as unique author's works. Most of her items of products have clear, strict shapes specific for Belarusian clay dishes - simple and concise mugs, jugs. The artist repeated all this in the glass. Smoky and warm brown colors emphasize the similarity.

Myagkova not only used known methods, but also actively experimented with them. The results of her creative and technological research are a decorative bottle Round Dance (1969), a set of dishes Diamond with an application made by the author's method (1970), a decorative set Poultry Yard (1980), which received many awards.

The creativity of each artist who came to the enterprise in the 1960s is distinguished by a bright personality and recognizable method, special features that have influenced the formation of the Belarusian glass school as a whole. One of these artists was Silvia Raudvee, a graduate of the Tallinn Academy of Arts. Bright colors were unusual for the works of her Tallinn colleagues. Typical is one of Raudwee's early works - a faceted set for water made of colorless crystal (1960's). Sylvia's works are characterized by rigor, conciseness, thoroughness in the elaboration of details. Working mainly on the creation of mass produced articles, she brought to the design of even the simplest household items attention to form, a love of refined simplicity combined with expediency and functionality.

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin,

When Vladimir Zhokhov came to Neman factory, he turned to creating a glass sculpture. Together with a team of experienced craftsmen from the pre-war school, he revived interest in glassblowing plastic arts of small forms. One of his most famous compositions is Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

In the early 1970s, a new stage in the development of the Belarusian school of art glass began. The artists who came at this time actively experimented with forms, surface finish, color and methods of work, creating associative compositions. This was reflected in the works of Olga Sazykina, Valentina Dzivinskaya, as well as in the Reflection and Flame compositions by Tatyana Malysheva. The Flame decorative composition really looks like a fire placed in a colorless container.

The artist Anatoly Fedorkov worked here from the 1970s till 1980s. He invented a method of decorating products with threads of sulfide glass. The items were decorated with patterns and intended for production in large series. For the works made in this technique, the author was awarded the Grand Prix at the International Exhibition of Glass and Porcelain in Jablonec (Czechoslovakia) in 1973.

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin,


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