The painting was of great importance in design of Russian North izbas (peasant households) fronts and interiors. The folk artists ornamented majority of everyday articles by paintings. These articles accompanied a man from birth up to a great age, and carried joy and beauty in his life. Unfortunately, time has destroyed a great deal of these decorative paintings and only individual fragments reached our days. Among them there are no identical ones, although the paintings are similar in style, manner of performance, and colour.
Mezen painting, as well as a many other folk handicrafts, was named according to location, where this kind of art was conceived. The Mezen river is situated between the North Dvina and Pechora rivers, on the taiga and tundra line.
Mezen painting is the most ancient among the Russian artistic handicraft industries. Their origin was lost in the remote ages, in the initial period of the Slavic tribes formation. Peak of the handicraft popularity dates from the XIX century. At this time Mezen distaffs and baskets of bast were widely practised in the vicinity of Pinega river, and exported to the Pechora, Dvina, and Onega regions.
Themes of the Mezen painting, laconic and expressive stylized drawings, have common features with the ancient rock drawings of the Russian North. The restrained colour, where the black outline emphasizes the strained sounding of the brownish-red colour, resembles unwittingly paleolithic cave paintings of France... Brightness and multi-colourness traditional for the Russian folk art are unusual for the Mezen painting. Ornaments have stingy and relative graphic form.
Artist creates a design in conformity with his inherent mood, and his consideration for future owner of handicrafts; nevertheless, the design follows the strict rules of ornament construction and every symbol has the meaning.
The Mezen paintings were made from carbon-black and clay, dissolved in the infusion of the larch resin. The use of stick and heath-cock feather indicate a very anchient traditions. The board of a very precise proportion should be used: its width must be three times less than the length. The structure of oak became apparent after impregnation the board with a linseed-oil. Tracery of the grains determines, to a large extent, the feature of ornament consisting of the symbols, just as the words are formed from the letters. The inherent content of symbols, their origin and correlation are lost. Lately one began to use a fashion method - painting on the gold background. This is unsuccessful attempt to please the mass buyer. Following this innovation, the refinement, strictness, and originality of style disappeared. Giving age-old traditions up will lead to the handicraft degeneration.
Unfortunately, only few people are engaged in the renewal of Mezen paintings. It may be seen only in Zagorsk museum or directly in Mezen.