11th Artel (Russian, 1908-1917)

Return To Glossary

Based in Moscow, the 11th Artel operated from 1908-1917. The group specialised in producing exquisite services, kovshi, sugar spoons and tea strainers in enamel and silver. The 11th Artel predominantly worked using the cloisonné enamelling technique, but also produced high quality plique-a-jour and guilloché enamels. The 11th Artel quickly became well-known for creating pieces of exquisite style and craftsmanship, resulting in the group becoming a primary supplier to the prestigious house of Fabergé. Works by the 11th Artel can be recognised by stylistic traits such as complete enamel covering, Art Nouveau influence with triangular and rectangular enamel cells, volutes, spirals, silver beads, green, ochre, violet-and-cream tints in a hazy watercolour style.

Artels operated as semi-formal cooperatives of democratically-minded artists and craftsmen, often living and working together as a commune. The first artel was organised by Ivan Kramskoi, who studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts from 1857 to 1863. Kramskoi strongly reacted against academic art and instigated the ‘Revolt of Fourteen’, in which a group of young artists refused to paint an exam picture at the Academy on a given topic. While the rebellious students were subsequently expelled, the revolt represented an important rejection of traditional academic art and resulted in the creation of the Artel of Artists in 1863. This cooperative of democratically minded artists explored novel and intriguing artistic techniques, and the freedom with which they worked encouraged fellow artisans to form similar groups.

Thus the artel tradition was born, and contemporary craftsmen were finally able to explore new artistic boundaries and surpass the decorative abilities of their predecessors. The Russian artels supported and influenced the international art movements in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, focusing on producing unique objects of exceptionally high quality. Initially, payment for a job done by an artel was distributed according to verbal agreements, quite often in equal shares among the artisans. Gradually formalised types of artels emerged, which were based on an internal hierarchy and legal agreements.