The new tendencies at work in all branches of art resulted in a new universal style, comparable, with some reservations, to that of Western European pre - Renaissance. Characteristic of this style were dynamism, emotionality, an intense interest in the individual man (so far only within the framework of religious subject matter), and attention to nature, which began to be rendered more realistically than ever before. A monumental quality was still thought essential to a perfect work of art, yet there was a leaning towards movement, and a tendency to bring the proportions nearer to a human scale.
The Novgorodian wall painting of the fourteenth century was enriched by new themes. Its subjects became more complicated, and narrative elements took on new importance. Greater attention began to be paid to psychological motivation. The painters strove to reveal the feelings and emotions of the people they represented by accentuating the outward signs of pain, grief, melancholy, fear, joy, or ecstasy. The solemn, elevated mood was replaced by one more intimate and homely. Direct observation was now felt in the treatment of character; the eleventh - and twelfth - century figure, static, isolated, and gazing straight at the viewer, as in the Nereditsa frescoes, gave way to a figure shown in motion and in foreshortened poses. A much greater role was assigned to landscape, which was mainly mountain scenery rendered with a strong emphasis on movement. The ornamental designs of the period often included plant motifs, such as buds breaking into blossom, or strange grasses with curling leaves. Trees with pruned lower branches - a sight common in Balkan countries - suggest an influence of the Balkan landscape.
Three kilometres from Novgorod, on the bank of the Volkhovets, or Zhilotug, one of the arms of the Volkhov, stood the Church of the Dormition - in - Volotovo - Field. This precious gem of Russian art, built in 1352 y., was reduced to ruins by Nazi shelling during the War of 1941 - 1945 yy. A four - pier church with a single dome, its appearance was simple and modest. A glance from the door was enough to take in the entire interior, whose principal beauty lay in its almost perfectly preserved fresco decorations, most of which dating, in all probability, from the year 1363 y.
The murals of the Volotovo Church were painted in a harmonious colour scheme combining deep grey - blues with pink and greenish tones. They covered the entire wall surface, and were all united in a common sweeping movement which seemed to fill the interior, uplifting its very vaults. This had a curious effect upon the spectator, giving him a sensation of being surrounded by transcendental space. Human figures in violent motion, riders tearing along on galloping horses, sharp zigzag breaks in the rocks, all seemed blown about the walls by a whirlwind. Most groups and subject scenes were built on a diagonal, which served further to accentuate movement. The objects and figures were executed in a peculiar sketchy manner, their contours softened by shading. The artist obviously strove to create an illusion of space, and his figures like phantoms seemed to float in the air before the wall's surface. No photographs or copies at our present disposal have the power to arouse even the faintest shadow of that charmed feeling which captured a spectator in the presence of the originals.
The Volotovo Church is still in ruins. It may yield a wealth of material invaluable to the art historian, should it be found possible to extract the fragments of its fresco decoration from among the rubble.
Another fourteenth - century architectural monument, the Church of St. Theodore Stratelates built in the Market Side in 1360 - 1361 yy., has survived. Originally it seems to have had a double - pitched roof with four gables: the multiple arch topped by a cornice is purely ornamental. Each of the gently sloping walls is divided into three parts by pilasters which have a decorative rather than a structural function. The splayed windows end in a slightly pointed arch. The drum appears quite ornate, though the means employed in its decoration are of the simplest kind. An effect of carpet design has been achieved by the use of band of zigzag motifs and sunken triangles. This device was to become highly popular with Novgorodian architects.