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2001 | 2 | 7-15

Article title

WHAT WAS THE GENESIS OF ART HISTORY IN LATVIA (Kur meklejami makslas vestures pirmsakumi Latvija)


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What was the genesis pf art history in Latvia? The answer to this question is largely dictated by the criteria which we select in trying to determine the origins of Latvian art history and in deciding how far back we need to look in our search. An effort to provide a provisional look at the way in which European art history entered in Latvia is based on the overall scheme according to which the historiography of art history developed. The initial sparks of interest in the study of art can be traced in the syllabus of the Riga Dome School, the Royal Lyceum and the Academia Petrina in Jelgava. These educational institutions were influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment. An early interest in the local history of art and architecture as a specific field of study was displayed by the Kurzeme Literary and Artistic Association, which was established in 1816 in Jelgava. The association saw as its primary goal the collection and study of materials about history, culture and the natural sciences, and soon enough it began to issue a periodical publication. Julius Doring was a most prolific author providing articles about the arts. Similar processes, following the example of Kurzeme, soon sprang up in Riga. The Association of Researchers of History and Antiquity in the Baltic Provinces of Russia was established in 1834, and it, too, published an annual yearbook. Wilhelm Bockslaff (1858-1945), Carl Lowis of Menar (1855-1930) and Wilhelm Neumann (1849-1919) began to publish in the yearbook in the 1880s, and it marked a distinctive shift in the development of the study of art in the Baltic region. The need for a professional approach to this work became increasingly acute, and in due course the need was satisfied by Neumann, who in 1887 released the important book 'Grundriss einer Geschichte der bildenden Kunste und des Kunstgewerbes in Liv-, Est- und Kurland vom Ende des XII bis zum Ausgang des XVIII Jahrhunderts'. This can be seen as the first book on Baltic art history. Neumann had close links with Leipzig University, which had a serious center for art history in the 1880s, headed by Anton Springer, and where Neumann himself received a doctorate in philology and art in 1892.


  • Elita Grosmane, Institute of Art History of the Latvian Academy of Art, Akademijas laukums 1-160, Riga LV-1050, Latvia


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