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2014 | 17 | 16-26

Article title

Roberts Johansons un mākslas fotogrāfija

Title variants

Roberts Johansons and Art Photography

Languages of publication



Roberts Johansons (1877–1959) represents the generation of Latvian photographers active in the first half of the 20th century. His legacy mostly concerns the period up to World War II. The largest collection of materials is held by the Riga Museum of History and Navigation (RMHN). Using the term “art photography” in relation to Johansons, one should specify that in this case these are prints or their preparations made for exhibitions. Johansons was born into a peasant family in Aizkraukle. He studied the photographic craft with the German photographer Anton von Bylinski in Riga from 1896 to 1899. Having received the professional certificate, Johansons set off to perfect his knowledge in St. Petersburg. From 1901 to 1902 and also later, from 1903 to 1904, Johansons worked at a prominent St. Petersburg photo studio Rentz & Schrader. In 1910 Johansons opened his first photo studio in Riga. When World War I broke out, photographer was forced to seek refuge in Moscow together with his family. After returning to Riga in 1924, Johansons worked in his photo salon and also opened a photo studio in the late 1930s. Johansons’ and his contemporaries’ professional growth began in the period when the trend of Pictorialism was popular in both Europe and USA, making the picture to look like a drawing or a graphic work. Johansons had mentioned independent studies of art many times – visiting museums to study painters’ works, reading art literature as well as attending lectures organised by photographers’ societies. Art photographs made before the 1920s are largely created in gum print or carbon print techniques. Also among works of the 1920s and 1930s there are either black and white or tinted brom-silver prints. Johansons’ works include landscapes, portraits, thematic pictures and nudes endowed with lyrical moods. These photographs are mostly typified by emotional imagery, balanced composition, well-staged or captured poses, suited lighting and tones appropriate for the intended mood.


  • Latvian National Library


Document Type

Publication order reference


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