ART NOUVEAU AND LATVIAN LANDSCAPE PAINTING AT THE TURN OF THE 20TH CENTURY (Jugendstils un latviesu ainavu gleznieciba gadsimtu mija)
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At the time when Art Nouveau first arrived in Latvia, landscapes were a favored genre - one which offered a wealth of subjects and motifs and which was inherited from Russian and Scandinavian artists who had worked in the spirit of Realism. A successful study of this issue would allow us to determine the phases that were important to the development of the genre more completely, because in Latvia, Art Nouveau did not replace earlier styles, but co-existed with them. Most often, Art Nouveau was expressed as an ingredient in solutions which conformed to the demands of other styles. The arrival of Art Nouveau elements in Latvian landscape painting was a gradual process, and there are relatively few landscapes that are typically Art Nouveau in style. Art Nouveau did not subjugate Latvian art, but it did affect the mentality of Latvian artists. The main resources of its formal idiom (decoration and rhythm) awakened centuries-old sub-conscious understandings of these values, thus facilitating the establishment of a national art. A vivid example of Latvian landscape painting at the turn of the century is provided by the work of Vilhelms Purvitis (1872-1945) who, more than his contemporaries, managed to adapt the formal idiom of the new style to the needs of landscape painting while at the same time not turning his works into typical Art Nouveau stylizations. There should be more research on the work which Purvitis did in the late 19th and early 20th century, because it hides the key to revealing the most important aspects of Art Nouveau iconography and, by extension, the key to a broader understanding of Latvian landscape painting.
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