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2006 | 6-7 | 71-76

Article title

ENTRAPPED BY CONVICTION: KRISTAPS ELIASS' CONTRIBUTION TO LATVIAN ART HISTORY (Parliecibas slazda: Kristapa Eliasa ieguldijums latviesu makslas vesture)


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The contribution of Latvian authors not only to the study of the local artistic heritage but also in raising the general cultural level of society is an important aspect of history of this branch. Art historian Kristaps Eliass' (1886-1963) publications are mostly dedicated to the popularization of the most renowned phenomena of 18th - 20th century Western European art and French art in particular. The main sources of Eliass' theoretical principles came from the then influential but today less known writers on art (Julius Meier-Graefe, Richard Muther, Werner Weisbach, Ludwig Coellen etc.); this allows us to define Eliass' approach as scientifically grounded, especially when compared to the local setting of the social sciences. (Karl Marx's ideas, although found in many quotes, could hardly provide him with a consistent example of writing on art). Since becoming a follower of the ideas of social democracy in his early youth, Eliass' leftist stance placed him in almost perpetual opposition to the ruling state system. These ideas were hated in tsarist Russia as well as during the local nationalist authoritarian regime after 1934 and equally under Stalin's rule after the Soviet occupation. After the end of the Soviet era his leftist phraseology also seems outdated. Nevertheless, his books 'French Contemporary Painting' (written together with his brother, painter Gederts Eliass, 1940), 'Dutch Old Masters' (1957) and 'Honoré Daumier and His Time' (1960) belong to the few comprehensive sources on Western European art published in Latvian during the 20th century. Their informative and educational role, unlike scattered articles in periodicals, reaches far beyond the audience of contemporaries.


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


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