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PURVĪTIS, an exhibition dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the outstanding Latvian landscapist Vilhelms Purvītis, is on view in the Great Hall of the main building of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga (Jaņa Rozentāla laukums 1) from 28 May to 9 October 2022.

“The deepest essence of a work of art cannot be grasped and exhausted. (...) The works of the great masters are eternally beautiful and indestructible through the fact that they have been created with immense power of the spirit. (...) Eternally unfathomable beauty issues from a true work of art.”
(Vilhelms Purvītis)

The founder and most ambitious moderniser of national landscape painting, Vilhelms Purvītis (1872–1945) is recognised as one of the key figures in Latvian visual art of the first half of the 20th century. At the turn of the century, this accomplished painter of snow and early northern spring was noticed in St. Petersburg, Paris, Munich, Berlin, Vienna and other European art centres. The best-known representative of Baltic modern art was involved as equal in the latest transformations of the genre of landscape, achieving success abroad, authority in the artistic life of Riga and from then on a consistently high standing in the Latvian art world.

In Latvian art history and public perception, the name of this European Latvian classic has become one of the symbols of national identity. As poetic archetypes, “Purvītis-style” images, motifs and moods retain their presence in our sense and understanding of the landscapes that surround us. The painter’s vision of his native northern nature, as well as his classically composed ideal Latvian landscapes in changing seasons, are considered to be the canon of national landscape.

Purvītis deserves particular recognition as an implementer of the idea of higher artistic education and one of the architects of the cultural policy in the independent Latvian state, as the first rector of the Art Academy of Latvia and head of the Landscape Painting Master Class, and at the same time – as director of the prestigious Riga City Art Museum (now Latvian National Museum of Art), creator of the national art collection and organiser of representative international exhibitions.

This anniversary retrospective dedicated to the landscapist encompasses a selection of works from different periods of his career from the collection of the Latvian National Museum of Art – the largest surviving group of the artist’s paintings and graphic art, which is expanded with exhibits from the collections of Liepāja and Tukums museums and several private collections – including from the Belēvičs family, Andris Kļaviņš, the Zuzāns and others.

Alternating between more traditional painterly expression and one modernised by a multitude of influences, the artistic self-development and stylistic fluctuations of “early” and “late” Purvītis are revealed in the exhibition in the spectrum from plein-air studies and neo-romantic mood landscapes to broad panoramas marked by classical tradition and the composition of a majestic national landscape canon.