2008 | 7 | 155-165
Article title

RELATIONSHIPS OF ART AND RELIGION IN LATVIAN WRITING ON ART IN THE 1ST HALF OF THE 20TH CENTURY (Makslas un religijas attiecibu aspekti latviesu autoru teoretiskajas atzinas 20. gs. pirmaja puse)

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Relationships, connections and contradictions concerning art and religion create a broad field of research focused on the gradual emancipation of various spheres of human activity (science, philosophy, history, art) from the medieval subservient status in respect to religion. The official doctrine of the Soviet period was overtly atheistic, criticising 'religious mysticism' of Latvian artwriting of the interwar period, easily fusing this component with other misguided traits, like bourgeois nationalism, idealism and fascist ideology. In fact, the scattered reflections on art and religion contain both attempts to identify and distinguish these spheres as well as different ideas as to what forms are suitable for expression of a religious message. Unlike in the neighbouring Catholic Lithuania, Christian religion was not so deep-seated in Latvian culture; interpretations of culture and art from the viewpoint of natural sciences, Marxism and Leo Tolstoy's apology of art's usefulness grew more prominent in the early 20th century. Still echoes of neo-romanticist symbolism and aestheticism, treating art as a kind of religion of the present can be viewed in this context, most clearly expressed in the so-called decadent manifesto of 1906. The most developed reflections on this subject are found in Latvian artist and theoretician Teodors Uders' letters where he reflected on the existence of God, finding Benedict Spinoza's pantheism most adequate to his own intuitions. The subject of art and religion increased in importance in 1920s and especially 1930s, responding to the current need for ideological consolidation. The common stance was rather negative towards the traditional Christianity and church as an institution - art should in principle be akin to religion but not in the sense of a traditional sacred art, rather extolling some ideal authority and meaningful message. Three points of intersection between art and religion can be detected in this period. Firstly, these are influences received by art historians, philosophers etc.; secondly, the impact of Theosophy; thirdly, promotion of Latvian national religion dievturiba (God Keeping or God Worshipping).
  • Stella Pelse, Institute of Art History of the Latvian Academy of Art, Akademijas laukums 1-160, Riga LV-1050, Latvia
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