Latvian Landscape is an Icon of National Identity. Vilhelms Purvītis. “Spring”
From November 16 to December 15, 2012

Latvian Landscape is an Icon of National Identity.

Vilhelms Purvītis. “Spring

From the Collection of Latvian National Art Museum (Riga)

Vilhelms Purvītis is the greatest Latvian painter of the 20th century, an outstanding person of his time, the man of gravitas for the public, who is still a mystery. An honest piety for classical values harmonically agrees with a deep understanding of modern tendencies in his creativity. Rational thought is a distinctive Purvītis’s feature. He paid a great attention to composition tectonics, linear rhythm, contrast of dark and light blots of colour. The master painted the nature of Latvia in different time of day and year, but especially he was popular as a “psychologist” and “physiologist” of snow. “The portrait of snow” was executed by the painter during his creativity. He used surprisingly various styles from distant realism up to close shape, colour and texture expression. Vilhelms Purvītis created his own style of such a “portrait” by hard work, learning from other authors and the nature of the native land. In late years the painter engaged in graphic art for a long time.

Vilhelms Kārlis Purvītis was born on the 3rd of March 1872 in a rural family in Jaužos of Zaube district, Riga , not far from Cēsis city. He finished district school of Drisa in 1888. Noted the boy’s skills, a former student of Petersburg Academy of Arts, a German drawing teacher Schmidt counseld him to study in Saint Petersburg. Vilhelms Purvītis entered Russian Academy of Arts in 1890, where he studied in the painting workshop of Arkhip Kuindzhi. Vilhelms Purvītis was honored with a Painter’s Diploma and a clerk’s degree of the tenth category in 1897. After that he was prized with the Great Gold Medal and the trip, when he visited Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Vienna, Paris and Rome.

The painter returned to Riga in 1899, where soon he won recognition from the public. Vilhelms Purvītis’s international fame happened at the Global Exhibition in Paris in 1900, where his entry “The Last Rays” was awarded with the Bronze Medal of the third rate. The painter was prized with the Gold Medal and Honorary Diploma at the 8th Munich Secession in 1901, and then he was awarded with the Gold Medal, Conspicuous Service Cross (Croix de Merite) and the Honorary Diploma at the 14th International Art Exhibition in Lyon. Vilhelms Purvītis was named as one of the last painters.

Vilhelms Purvītis travelled across Norway, Iceland and       Spitsbergen in 1902, where he explored snow effects. The painter was a member of the Union “The World of Art” since 1895 up to 1910. He lived in Estonia since 1906 till 1909.

Riga City Authority invited Vilhelms Purvītis to take the position of the Director of Riga Art College in 1909. Being an energetic and engaged leader, a nice organizer and keen teacher, the painter began to do deep changes in professional art education in Latvia.

Vilhelms Purvītis was elected as an Academician of Petersburg Academy of Arts in 1913.

The painter went to Petrograd in 1915, after that to Finland and Sweden, and he moved to Norway in 1917, where he was in the Sanatorium of Lillehammer for 11months. Vilhelms Purvītis came back to Riga in 1918.

Vilhelms Purvītis was the Director of Riga City Art Museum since 1919 till 1940 and since 1941 up to 1944.

The painter became as the Rector of Latvian Academy of Arts in 1920, and after that he managed the landscape painting workshop in 1923. Vilhelms Purvītis was a strict as well as democratic leader and teacher, and, actually, the most famous person in the whole history of Latvian Academy of Arts. He stopped working as the Rector in 1934.

Due to high          authority and activity of Vilhelms Purvītis numerous exhibitions of Latvian art were organized in Northland and Western Europe. Foreign exhibitions were regulary held in Riga City Art Museum, where the painter was the Director, beginning from Estonian art in 1926 and finishing with the exhibition of modern French painting in 1939.

The painter was uptight about persecution of Soviet power in 1944, that is why he emigrated to Germany. Vilhelms Purvītis died on the 14th of January 1945 in Bad Nauheim, wher he was treated. The painter’s ash was reintered in 1994 in Riga.

 The Exhibition “Latvian Landscape is an Icon of National Identity. Vilhelms Purvītis “Spring” has been organized by Latvian National Art Museum with the support of the Ambassy of Latvian Republic in the Republic of Belarus and the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus.

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