History of the Dulevo porcelain factory

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The history of the Dulevo porcelain factory begins with its establishment in 1832. Dulevo porcelain tableware has a unique warmth and cordiality, which is especially valuable for lovers of high-quality porcelain. Today, Dulevo porcelain factory mainly focuses on originality and folk traditions, which is expressed in unique Dulevo patterns.

Foundation of the Dulevo porcelain factory.

The first owner of the Dulevo porcelain factory is the merchant Terenty Kuznetsov – a representative of famous Kuznetsov dynasty. The history of porcelain production in Russia in the 19th and early 20th centuries is closely connected with this surname.

Terenty Kuznetsov and his family
Terenty Kuznetsov and his family

The second half of the 19th century was a difficult time for Russian ceramic industry. Many businesses did not survive the fierce competition and closed, never adapting to the demands of the time. But Terenty Kuznetsov was a gifted merchant: he could predict that the manufacture of mass-produced porcelain would bring him success. He established production, which had no analogues in Russia yet – Dulevo porcelain factory.

Initially, Dulevo porcelain factory produced simple, refined porcelain with a laconic decor, in which the snowy whiteness contrasted with the dazzling gilding and glaze. However, not every consumer was able to appreciate the luxurious simplicity of Dulevo porcelain: to attract customers, more bright and catchy decorative techniques were required.

This is how the idea of “agashka” (the most popular pattern of the Dulevo porcelain factory) was born. This painting is characterized by naivety, originality, and an emphasis on folk motifs.

There are different versions of the origin of this name. One of them says that the word is derived from the simple and common village name Agafya – also a craftswoman, who invented the pattern.

The heyday of Dulevo porcelain under Matvey Kuznetsov.

The second manager of the Dulevo porcelain factory Sidor (son of Terenty) enriched the company with many talented craftsmen. Sidor brought up a real businessman from an early age in his son Matvey. He tried to instill in him such qualities as purposefulness, perseverance, and business acumen. Matvey studied the manufacture of porcelain in Riga from the age of 15 and graduated from the commercial school there. So, it is not surprising that the flourishing of the enterprise reached its apogee with Matvey Sidorovich.

Matvey owned the Dulevo porcelain factory in 1864 and immediately set an ambitious goal. He decided to become a monopoly of all private porcelain production in Russia. By the second half of the 19th century, Matvey Kuznetsov was the largest supplier of porcelain, faience, majolica.

Matvey Kuznetsov
Matvey Kuznetsov

He owned 18 factories, which allowed him to establish the “Partnership for the production of porcelain and faience products of M. S. Kuznetsov” in 1889. Matvey Sidorovich equipped the enterprises with new machinery issued from France. In 1902, Kuznetsov entered the list of suppliers of the Imperial court. Under his auspices, the most talented masters and artists worked – including one of the most famous russian artists Mikhail Vrubel.

Vrubel. Decorative plate Sadko.
Vrubel. Decorative plate Sadko.

Great deal of Dulevo porcelain magnate.

Kuznetsov bought the famous Gardner factory (the best porcelain factory in Russia at that time) to implement his bold plans in 1892. He managed to make an extremely lucrative deal with the owner of the company due to the fact that he chose the right moment: the plant was going through hard times. However, people said that Kuznetsov had contributed to the decline of the plant in order to buy it on good terms. So, Kuznetsov became a porcelain magnate.

Dulevo porcelain factory was one of his most successful enterprises. By the beginning of the twentieth century, more than 2,300 employees worked here; 8 kilns, 20 muffles, 3 steam engines operated. When the Nizhny Novgorod Railway ran next to the plant, the Dulevo porcelain factory began to flourish at all.

Dulevo porcelain factory, 1896
Dulevo porcelain factory, 1896

Secrets of success of Dulevo porcelain.

One of the main advantages of Dulevo porcelain is its strength. For a long time it was a mystery why Kuznetsov’s porcelain has the same strength as ceramic products. However, the secret is in a special method of processing materials.

The masters kept clay in basements a whole year to make the it plastic. The Russians call this process “letovanje” (“leto” meant “a year”). The quality of peat burned in furnaces was also important in production. People collected it only until July 20, since the later peat did not dry out until the moment of kindling.

Another secret of the success of the Dulevo porcelain factory is the constant introduction of advanced technologies. So, at the end of the XIX century, the factory used European technology of transfer pictures. In the XX century Kuznetsov installed French automatic machines for forming cups at the factory. The owner of the enterprise sought to take the best and actively implemented it in his production. The same applies to the factory workers – Kuznetsov sent them abroad to study with the best craftsmen.

Dulevo porcelain – in every home.

However, even the most magnificent porcelain would not bring the factory profit and fame in the absence of sales. Kuznetsov also understood this. So, he made sure that his porcelain was in demand in all segments of the population and was literally present in every home.

The factory produced such a variety of products that it satisfied the needs of both simple peasant families, offering them strong dishes with light painting, and royal persons, creating refined products with gilding. Kuznetsov did not avoid the tavern establishments, for which special tavern dishes were made.

Of course, the main resource of production is the talent of masters, whose art gave birth to fantastic masterpieces.

Painting techniques of the Dulevo porcelain factory.

At the end of the 19th century, decal, which imitated hand painting, became fashionable in Europe. Kuznetsov kept up with the fashion and produced 900 varieties of his own transferred images in the 1900s. If the images on the finished products were not too bright, they were drawn manually. Often the masters of the factory used decal on tinted products. Popular flower themes, landscapes, and well-known subjects were used as ideas for the pictures.

The Soviet period of the plant’s development.

The Dulevo porcelain factory was nationalized in 1918. In the first years of Soviet power, all forces were directed to the restoration and further development of production facilities. But peaceful, creative work was crossed out by the Second World War.

In the post-war period, the plant reached the pre-war level in terms of production. Many famous artists worked in the unique workshop of the art laboratory plant.

The works of factory sculptors and artists adorn museums and art galleries and stay in demand among collectors around the world. The products of the factory’s craftsmen were awarded numerous prizes and awards.

Dulevo porcelain artists and sculptors.

Peter Vasilyevich Leonov

In 1932, the main artist of the company was Peter Leonov. He devoted himself to creating a new type of national porcelain. His famous sets are “Firebird”, “Beauty”, “Golden Deer”, “Fairy Tale” and many others. Leonov used contrasting decorative combinations and in every detail followed the folk traditions that he absorbed while traveling in Russia.

Leonov’s personal creativity to a large extent determined the artistic face of the Dulevo porcelain factory and the direction of the creative activity of the collective of artists.

Leading artist of the plant Peter Vasilyevich Leonov
Leading artist of the plant Peter Vasilyevich Leonov

His work always has a wide variety of new forms of tableware and decorative items created by him in bright and unusually juicy works.

Leonov’s paintings are always interesting and ornamental, dynamic and temperamental. They merge in an original way with the form and purpose of things. The master knows, feels and loves porcelain perfectly. He deeply understands and implements in his works the national identity of Russian decorative art.

Leonov was a regular participant of domestic and foreign exhibitions. He got Large gold medals at the World Exhibitions in Paris (1937) and in Brussels (1958), an honorary diploma at the International Exhibition of Ceramics in Prague (1962).

The drawing “Beauty” received a large gold medal at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937. The legendary set “Beauty” was so liked by representatives of the film industry that it was repeatedly captured in different films.

So, in the 1964 film “The Marriage of Balzaminov”, the service appears on the table of the merchant’s wife Belotelova (played by Nonna Mordyukova). The service was captured in other famous films of the USSR.

Set Beauty. The Marriage of Balzaminov.
Set Beauty. The Marriage of Balzaminov.

Alexey Georgievich Sotnikov

A sculptor-animalist Sotnikov made a great contribution to the development of sculptural forms and painting at the plant. The decorative expressiveness and understanding of nature distinguishes his works. He is the author of many practical, decorative and animalistic works.

The sculpture of A. G. Sotnikov “Falcon” received the “Grand Prix” medal in 1958 at the World Exhibition in Brussels and became a symbol of the Dulevo porcelain factory. Its graphic image is a trademark of the company.

Vladimir Klimentyevich Yasnetsov

You feel a dramatic contrast of color already in the first works of the artist. Contrasts are mandatory in the Yasnetsov’s palette. It seems that they are in his worldview. The depth of dark cobalt and red berries immediately sets the tension that arises between the image and the background. Among the first works almost the most perfect painting of the 50s — “Dogwood“. The simplicity of the execution made these images extremely popular in painting workshops.

Asta Davydovna Brzhezitskaya

Asta Davydovna worked as a sculptor at the Dulevo porcelain factory from 1945 to 1985. She is the author of more than five hundred works, including a series dedicated to the plant – “We have in Dulevo” (1972-1973). Brzhezitskaya also directed the series of works “Soviet Socialist Republics” (“Sixteen Republics”) as part of the State Order for the preparation for the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy. Her work got a Bronze Medal at the International Exhibition in Brussels in 1958.

These works are in the State Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow), the State Russian Museum (St. Petersburg), the Museum of Ceramics and the Kuskovo Estate, the All-Russian Museum of Decorative, Applied and Folk Art (Moscow), Moscow theaters, art and literary museums in Russia and Latvia, as well as in private collections in Russia and the United States.

Olga Mikhailovna Bogdanova

The sculptor Bogdanova worked at the factory from 1951 to 1982. She skillfully created models of genre sculptures on the theme of happy childhood, modern life, based on Russian fairy tales and Ural fairy tales by P. P. Bazhov. The most successful of her works are “Little Mistress”, “By the sea”, sculptural pitcher “Cat”.

Olga Mikhailovna liked the field of decorative sculpture of small forms. Experts characterize her work by great poetry, sincerity and nobility. The sculptor achieved the expressiveness of the images with very restrained means. A subtle understanding of the decorative properties of the material played a great role in this.

Evgeniya Ilyinichna Gatilova

Gatilova went through a difficult creative path from a sculptor-muralist to a sculptor of small forms. Without a doubt, all her work was affected by the specialization received at the Institute. As a master, she has an extraordinary professionalism, attentive attitude to form and material. Her teachers in the Dulevo porcelain factory were Aleshin and Sotnikov.

The themes from everyday reality always attracted her. Among the large number of works performed by the sculptor in different years, it is possible to distinguish a number of leading themes that took shape in a sculptural series. Gatilova deliberately protected her figurines from strong emotional painting and numerous decorative elements.

Gatilova always tried to show off the white sparkling surface of the porcelain and only slightly emphasize some details with two or three colors. The general color scheme of the statuettes of Yevgenia Gatilova is light, mainly with blue, light green and pink tones.

Nina Aleksandrovna Malysheva

During the student time that Malysheva spent in Central Asia, she became imbued with the spirit, culture and traditions of the folks of these places. It reflects in some of the sculptor’s works. Almost immediately after graduating from the institute in 1947, Nina Alexandrovna began her career at the Dulevo porcelain factory.
For the years of work at the Dulevo porcelain factory Malysheva created a lot of interesting and unique works in small plastic. So, we know “Gossip girls”, “Phone conversation”, “Lost”, “Walk”, “Song of friendship”, “It became our tradition”.

There are also works on the theme of dance and classical ballet. Examples are “Lezginka”, “Belarusian dance”, “Dancing Uzbek”, “Uzbek with a tambourine”, “Dancing Tajiks”, “Young ballerina”, “Russian quadrille” and others. Nina Alexandrovna especially worked out the details of the characters — faces, hairstyles, clothing elements, thereby creating porcelain, often multi-figure “sketches from nature”.

Post-Soviet period of the Dulevo porcelain factory.

Since 1991, the Dulevo porcelain factory has been owned by the labor collective. After the collapse of the USSR, the plant began a temporary period of decline. Financial difficulties forced to sell it in 2012 in private ownership to russian entrepreneurs, who revived the best traditions of production and could bring it to a new level.

Dulevo porcelain factory today
Dulevo porcelain factory today

The latest history of the plant’s development.

Since 2012, the plant is undergoing a large-scale modernization. New furnaces of Czech and French production and new equipment for molding products were installed. Today it is a modern, technically equipped enterprise with a ongoing technological cycle, which employs more than 700 people.

The plant is still the largest factory in Russia and one of the largest factories in Europe for the production of high-quality porcelain for the widest segments of the population.

Masters of the Dulevo porcelain factory carry out a lot of work on the introduction of new forms and drawings. The best technologists are constantly working on improving the technological processes of porcelain production. Dulevo porcelain factory supplies its products to 75 regions of Russia, 6 neighboring countries, as well as to the United States, Canada, Norway and other countries.