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2009 | 12 | 5-21

Article title

MOTIFS IN THE DECOR OF ART NOUVEAU ARCHITECTURE IN RIGA AND THEIR ORIGINS (Rigas jugendstila perioda arhitekturas dekora motivi un to izcelsme)


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As soon as Art Nouveau began to appear in the architectural decor of Riga at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, depictions of nature became increasingly popular. Of course, there was not just the main and specific Art Nouveau approach, which Robert Schmutzler cleverly described as 'Biological Romanticism', there were also other ways of approaching the natural world. Paul Greenhalg has described this as 'symbolic conventionalization', pantheism, metamorphosis and evolutionism. Pantheism became the main strategy for interior design at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries in Riga, particularly insofar as vestibules are concerned. By contrast, façades manifested ideas of conventional Symbolism or of metamorphosis and evolutionism. Stylisation of natural motifs was one of the most popular techniques in designing wallpaper and stenciled decor on walls. Specialist publications had a major influence when it came to selecting the range of colours and ornamentation and since the mid 19th century their number had increased very rapidly. In Riga, as in several other provincial centres in the Russian Empire, Historicism played a particularly important role in architectural décor. When architects and designers began to move toward Art Nouveau it was often in the context of a reinterpretation of motifs that were popular in various neo-styles. New meaning was also attached to motifs and subjects that had been tested in the decorative arts and remained well known in the latter half of the 19th century and whose sources were to be found in various popular publications such as the ornamental handbook by Franz Sales Meyer, the edition 'Alegorien un Embleme' issued by Martin Gerlach, etc.


  • Silvija Grosa, Latvian Academy of Art, Kalpaka bulvaris 13, Riga LV-1867, Latvia


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