THE FIRST LATVIAN ART SALONS AROUND 1910 AND THEIR CREATORS (Latviesu pirmie makslas saloni ap 1910. gadu un to veidotaji)
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The article reconstructs the history of the first short-lived Latvian-owned art salons that were founded in Riga from 1909 till the mid-1910s. Their interpretation in publications on Latvian early-20th-century art so far has been limited to vague and inaccurate references. However, many of these inaccuracies can be eliminated by a number of recent discoveries. The story begins in December 1909 when painter, writer and critic Janis Jaunsudrabins first inquired who was to blame that 'Riga, which, in cultural matters, is one of the best cities in Russia' is like an orphan where the art of painting is concerned. He concluded that 'above all things, an art salon is needed, where painters could present their works', and announced that such a salon would in the coming days be opened by photographer Janis Rieksts at 17 Alexander (now 41 Brivibas) Street. In January 1910 Rieksts set up an exposition featuring Baltic artists of different generations, nationalities and level: Janis Rozentals and Vilhelms Purvitis, Theodor Kraus and Gerhard von Rosen, Bernhard Borchert and Eva Margarethe Borchert-Schweinfurth, etc. Unlike many of his fellow nationals, Rieksts promoted an international vision of art, and his consulting partner was the artists' club 'Kunstecke' ('Corner of Art'). The need of additional investments made Rieksts drop this business. Grieving over the failure of Rieksts' well-intended art-dealing initiative, one could turn hopefully to the National Romanticist building of Kenins Schools at 15/17 Terbatas Street where the art section of Peteris Saulitis' book and art shop in December 1910 was reorganised into a separate salon, later named the Saulitis-Melderis (Saulit-Melder) Latvian Art Salon. In April the salon news were dominated by the name of Peteris Krastins, who had recently returned from abroad, and soon his solo-exhibition was organised, provoking fears whether any colleagues would ever dare to fill the salon space after him. While Rieksts believed in the inherent internationalism of art, the Saulitis-Melderis enterprise laid stress on Latvianness and Latvian-produced art. The popularity of the visual arts was lagging considerably behind the growing prosperity of Riga in other areas, and the first art salons one after another suffered commercial fiasco. Nonetheless these economically precipitate business activities were very timely diversifiers of the local art scene.
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