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2001 | 2 | 130-141

Article title

INTERPRETATIONS OF JAZEPS GROSVALDS' WORK AS A MIRROR OF THE LATVIAN ART CRITICISM AND ART HISTORY (Jazeps Grosvalds Latvijas makslas kritikas un makslas vestures spoguli)


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The work of artist Jazeps Grosvalds has been periodically interpreted throughout the 20th century in Latvian art criticism and art history. Evolution of conclusions about Grosvalds' work combined with texts dedicated to other themes allows to develop a very concentrated look at the way in which historiography of Latvian art developed. At the beginning of the century Grosvalds soon became known as an innovator in the context of the important polemic between Modernists and Traditionalists. After Grosvalds' premature death in 1920, his art began to be seen from a historical perspective. Initial interpretations contained more in the way of Modernist accents (Romans Suta, Olgerds Grosvalds, Edvards Virza), but as time went by, increasing emphasis was placed on the 'Latvianness' of Grosvalds' work, with observers (Janis Silins, Uga Skulme) seeking to link his art to ancient local traditions. In the 1930s Grosvalds was posited as the establisher of the 'national style' and the 'national epos' (Boris Vipper), fully in line with the official cultural policies of the day. During the first year of the Soviet occupation articles continued to appear on Grosvalds' anniversary - largely through inertia. During the first decade of the second Soviet occupation, Grosvalds' name all but disappeared from publications in Latvia, only to be brought back into consideration later. Grosvalds' work, however, continued to be interpreted in accordance with the Soviet era's insistence on dogma of sociologically motivated art history, though at the same time legitimizing the artist's undeniable significance by the broadened concept of Realism (Skaidrite Cielava). In Latvian literature that was published in the West, traditions that had been established during the inter-war period continued to be applied. A significant change in attitudes toward Grosvalds has appeared in the last decade, even though the scattered excursions into his art and his life can still be seen as analogies to the fragmentary nature of depoliticized and free art history of contemporary Latvia.


  • Eduards Klavins, Latvian Academy of Art, Kalpaka bulvaris 13, Riga LV-1867, Latvia


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Publication order reference


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