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2004 | 4 | 105-121

Article title

A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG WOMAN: EVA MARGARETHE BORCHERT-SCHWEINFURTH IN THE ART LIFE OF RIGA IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY (Makslinieces portrets jauniba: Eva Margarete Borherte-Sveinfurte Rigas makslas dzive 20. gs. sakuma)


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Although Eva Margarethe Borchert-Schweinfurth (1878-1964) has been repeatedly praised as the most interesting figure in the whole early-century Baltic German art of Latvia and Estonia, her reputation of the first lady in Riga art life by the World War I so far has not been based on detailed biographical investigations. To the deepest regret of the present-day State Museum of Art, Borchert-Schweinfurth's daring artistic statements, including her 1908 life-size self-portrait with a palette, are destroyed. With very few minor exceptions, it is exclusiveely from black-and-white reproductions of the Baltic Art Yearbook ('Jahrbuch fur bildende Kunst in den Ostseeprovinzen') that we now can learn something of this lost chapter in the local art history. Still a lot of press reviews, archive materials and other sources allow to reconstruct the artist's early career in a great detail, making this intriguing figure more real. Eva Margarethe Schweinfurth was the twelfth child of a wealthy Riga wine merchant, and her initial progress was similar to that of many other women artists of her class: Elise Jung-Stilling's Art School in Riga, drawing instructor's certificate from the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Art and several inspiring study years abroad, in Paris (1898, 1900 or 1901) and Munich (1901). Beside portraits, nudes, landscapes and interiors in oil, pastel, watercolour, various drawing materials and printing techniques, her first exhibitions included fantastic compositions suggesting a possible further development toward the fairy-land Symbolism of her future husband Bernhard Borchert's (1863-1945) work. In 1902 they married, and Eva Margarethe soon found her own true vocation in portraiture. Contemporary opinions about her mostly large-scale pastels and oil paintings of stately women images ranged from sheer admiration to resentment and rage. In about 1905-1910 Borchert-Schweinfurth visualised the spirit of modem womanhood in greatly impressive combinations of imposing attitudes with the 'vertical stripe manner', her bold Neo-Impressionist brushwork that marked the culmination of her creativity.


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


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Publication order reference


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