Jēkaba Strazdiņa un viņa mākslas kolekcijas liktenis padomju Latvijā
The Fortunes of Jēkabs Strazdiņš and his Art Collection in Soviet Latvia
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Painter and art critic Jēkabs Strazdiņš’ (1905–1958) art collection that he gathered from the last pre-war years until his arrest in 1949, included more than 370 works by Latvian artists of the 19th–20th century. The oldest pieces were prints by Oto Bērtiņš and Augusts Daugulis, drawings by Kārlis Hūns, paintings by Arturs Baumanis and Jūlijs Feders along with more works by the former students’ group Rūķis members – Ādams Alksnis, Vilhelms Purvītis, Janis Rozentāls and Johann Walter. Also included were some paintings by the Riga Artists’ Group modernists alongside a large number of paintings, sketches and graphic works by the artist’s contemporaries and even quite a few sculptures complemented by Russian, German, Italian, Dutch, Flemish, Spanish, English, Polish, Lithuanian and Estonian artists’ paintings, graphic works, applied art items and old books. Strazdiņš, a docent at the Latvian SSR Academy of Art and the University of Latvia, was arrested together with his wife in March 1949. Like many inhabitants of Latvia, he was charged with counterrevolutionary activity according to the then oft-used article 58 of the RSFSR criminal code. After Strazdiņš’ arrest, his belongings, including some 275 artworks, were confiscated and the Finance Department of the Riga City Stalin District handed them over to the State Latvian and Russian Art Museum (now Latvian National Museum of Art). About a quarter of these works were deemed to be of little value and sold. Strazdiņš’ own works ended up in the State Latvian and Russian Art Museum in a similar way. Part of his property – paintings, prints, crockery, furniture and several hundreds of books – were given to the then State Western European Art Museum (now the Art Museum Riga Bourse). After Joseph Stalin’s death, Strazdiņš’ sentence was reviewed and only in spring 1956 it was reduced to the time already served. Because of poor health, the artist returned to Riga already in 1954 and tried to rejoin artistic life but died in 1958. He managed to regain his works and the greater part of this art collection before death.
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