FELLOW NATIONALS AND COMPATRIOTS: THE NATIONAL QUESTION AND TERRITORIAL IDENTITY IN THE ART LIFE OF LATVIA IN THE LATE 19TH AND EARLY 20TH CENTURY (Tautiesi un novadnieki: Nacionalais jautajums un teritoriala identitate Latvijas makslas dzive 19. gs.
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'If we accept that painting has nothing to do with language and that it can be no less international than music, then there still remains something disputable. It is generally known that every nation tries to develop its particularity as much as an individual tries to develop his one', Latvian writer, art critic and painter Janis Jaunsudrabins wrote in the newspaper 'Latvija' in January 1910, where he commented on the rise of the multi-national Baltic Artists' Association (Baltischer Kunstlerbund) and came to a strictly nationalist conclusion: 'To foster this national particularity, our artists must develop more intimate contacts among themselves and with their nation. An organization that unites four or even five nations under German banner will never have such aims that our painters would like to set for themselves.' Jaunsudrabins was neither absolutely wrong nor right but like most of his contemporaries he was deeply concerned with the national question - constantly present in the art life of the future Latvia since the late 19th century until the rise of the independent national state. In this emancipation period of Latvian national professional art the local art scene was dominated by German and Latvian cultural forces whose co-existence ranged from mutual interest and inspiring rivalry to politicised conflicts. Focusing on contact areas in the artistic interests of those ethnic groups which inhabited the Baltic provinces of the Russian Empire, the article explores this scene as a field of interplay between local patriotism, nationalism and the art's general universalism in a changing society that was disturbed by historical collisions. The story covers roughly two decades from the Latvian Ethnographic Exhibition 1896 over the storms in and around the revolution year 1905 until the eve of World War I.
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