About us


Palekh icon-painting traditions

Olga Kolesova
State Museum of Palekh Art

The workshop headed by Alexander Kuzmenko and Leo Lopatin has accumulated rich working experience, which, according to Alexander Kuzmenko, was not that easy to gain. The skills and knowledge obtained in Palekh Art College were far from enough, which had to be compensated by the great interest of the painters in the art of their predecessors and the advice of the veterans of the trade.

Today, following experience of the old masters, the icon painters of the workshop create masterpieces which embody centuries of icon painting tradition. They are extremely skilled in icon and mural painting. Their competitive advantage is the most responsible attitude towards their work and customers’ demands.

Palekh icon painters, shedding the paints onto fresh mural walls gave flesh to the Testament texts, if not the one they could see around them, then the one they could envision in their potent minds… They painted with tempera paints and gold’, this is what people used to say about icon painters of the past.

Following traditions, the painters of the workshop have mastered the technique of egg yolk tempera and leaf gold painting. Moreover, they have gained utmost skills in applying primal coating, incusing on it, gilding with natural leaf gold. They successfully combine old techniques with modern durable materials. The work is done quickly and professionally, using modern materials and strictly following Palekh icon painting traditions. Questionless, all the customers’ demands are met and taken into consideration.


Alexander Kuzmenko

Born in 1982 in Palekh, Ivanovo region, into a family of painters.

Graduated from Palekh secondary school in 1997 and entered Maxim Gorky Palekh Art College.

In 1999, being a student of the college, was employed into Moscow company Artexpo, which much affected his further career.

Since 2000 has participated in various exhibitions in Germany and Italy as well as in Orthodox fairs in Moscow.

In 2002, having graduated summa cum laude from Palekh Art College, was employed into the cooperative society The Union of Palekh Artists.

In 2005 he took part in the ornamentation of a temple in Moscow as well as several churches in different places in Russia and several iconostases. He also participated in various exhibitions and carried out several corporate orders.

Since 2009 Alexander Kuzmenko has been one of the co-partners of gallery New Hermitage – One.

Leo Lopatin

Born in 1982 in a family of Palekh painters. Graduated from Palekh art college. Being on his third year at the college, he was employed to Palekh icon-painting workshop Holy Face where he gained solid experience in mural and icon painting.

He has taken part in decorating many temples: the Ascension temple in Rybinsk; St Nicholas temple in Yak-Bodya, Udmurtia; meeting hall and temple of Alexander Nevsky in Diveevo, Nizhny Novgorod region; Intercession temple in Gorodets.

He also participated in various exhibitions: XII national exhibition Young Talents, October, 23 – October, 29, 2003 Moscow; the exhibition devoted to the 80th anniversary of Palekh art, December 2004, State Museum of Palekh Art, Palekh; interregional exhibition Orthodox Icon – Traditions and Innovations, December, 24 – February, 24 2005, Ivanovo; international exhibition in honor of 60th anniversary of the Victory in Great Patriotic War, 2005, Central House of Artists, Moscow.

Nowadays, when the renovation of previously damaged churches is reaching its heights, the interest in the workshop is steadily growing.


Nowadays, when the renovation of previously damaged churches is reaching its heights, the interest in the workshop is steadily growing.

Let us view the main types of artwork the studio performs. First of all, it is monumental painting of churches and creating various kinds of icons: cellular, lectern, family, signature, measured, travelling, temple and iconostasis. And what can be said about particular details of icon-making process? One of the strictest traditions of Palekh art starts with an important working stage when a wooden intermediate product is selected. It can be produced either of common or fine wood. All materials are utterly conditioned and then dried properly.

An important stage is applying the prime coating which is mainly gelatin-based and is applied in several layers, every of which is properly dried before applying the new one. After the prime coating is done the icon surface is polished to reach a certain glossy condition.

At the customer’s demand the icon may have compositional incusing at the margins, in the background or on the halos of the saints. Next the icon is gilded, which gives it a touch of a genuine masterpiece.

Glossy gilded surface is a traditional feature of a Palekh icon, whose secret has been kept by generations of icon painters. Also, the ornaments on the gilded surface may have some enamel elements, the technique of which is also considered one of the secrets of the trade. The elaborateness may vary from icon to icon: it may contain incuse work, enamels, it may be a single half-length image or a detailed many-figured composition.


The painting is done in egg tempera paints dissolved in the domestic egg yolk emulsion. In the old times the icons were painted by several painters. One of them was responsible for painting the clothes, that is why such master used to be called a ‘dress painter’. The second one painted all the details excluding faces and the open parts of the saints’ bodies. Such painter was called a ‘pre-facial master’. The rest was done by a ‘facial master’.

The old painting traditions are strictly followed in Kuzmenko and Lopatin studio. That is why the icon painting is carried out by several painters: the first one applies the primal color coatings working on the background, landscapes, margins, clothes and underpaint. Then the icon gets into the possession of a pre-face painter whose responsibilities are details on clothes, shade strokes, which can be done in paints or gold. The most important stage of the work is painting a saint’s face. This work is done by a professional face painter. The final stage is polishing and finishing, which carefully follows the strictest technological demands.

Vivid colors, charming expressions of figures, emotionality of their gestures, delicacy of floral ornaments and a bold and neat composition are those qualities which let Lopatin and Kuzmenko studio stand out among the icon-painting workshops. That is the way our old Palekh traditions regenerate themselves. Remarkable and well-recognized style of icon-painting, which has been kept and protected as valuable treasure of Old Russian art culture, is now coming back to life. Great achievements of famous painting schools such as Novgorod, Stroganov, Yaroslavl and Moscow schools, have found their second life within the painting traditions of Palekh. That is why archeologists, experts and amateurs have been so much appreciating old Palekh. And now the traditions of Palekh icon-painting school is carefully and honorably represented by Lopatin and Kuzmenko studio.