The Latvian National Museum of Art (LNMM) will present the Portret exhibition in Latvia by 24th of February 2019, marking the centenary of the Latvian state. 20th Century Face Expression. The project will be held simultaneously in three parts – the main building of the LNMM, the Arsenals exhibition center and Romana Suta and the Alexander Belcova Museum. Independent speakers were the editors of this exhibition, Gintu Gerhardi-Upenieci, head of the Department of Visual Arts of the Latvian National Museum of Visual Arts.
– While waiting for the centenary of the Latvian state, LNMM has organized many exhibitions for a long time, but why is it last dedicated to a portrait? It is the conceptual attitude that humanity is central to the state, as there could already be another if it can be said to be the main objective and the final report could have been devoted, for example, to the landscape.
– There could be a landscape, a quiet environment and the like, but the beginning of this exhibition is at the Rundale Palace Museum. This exhibition is indirectly an epilogue and at the same time a continuation of the portrait trilogy at Rundale Palace, where three portraiture portraits of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were held in 1986, 1997 and 2008 respectively. There was an interval of 11 years between them when serious scientific projects were done. When the 19th-century portrait exhibition was held in Latvia, Imants Lancmanis said the relay was delivered to us because the work of the 20th century was stored directly by LNMM. Since then, many exhibitions have been planned and organized and we always remember the idea of a portrait exhibition, however, it has been postponed constantly. This is the background to this report. It is also important that the 100-year program also has broader economic opportunities.
If they represented only 35 works in the 17th century, this time, of course, it was necessary to choose a much larger project. In the 19th century, the conditions were favorable to the type of portrait and the works that were created were basically conscious, but in the 20th century portraits were created in an incredibly large quantity; they are found in museum collections as well as in private collections and personal archives; from them they were destroyed during the war, disappeared or irretrievably lost. Many artists have created portraits in various techniques, but they can not all be described as masters of this kind. At the same time, the report raises the issue of the state of portraiture in the 20th century and its importance for today.
– A huge volume has also come out with the exhibition.
– It is very important that Neputns Publishing House commit itself to incur such costs, as many researchers had to collect research papers. Professor Eduard Kļaviņš focused on quality and portraiture at the beginning of the 20th century, while Pateris Bankovskis – in the second half of the 20th century. Dace Lamberga wrote about the self-portrait of the artist. Once Imants Lancmanis wrote about the portraits that disappeared in the 19th century, and also the 20th century was not grateful for the works of art, on the contrary – many have not survived. Specialist for Missing Portraits is Janis Kalnačs, who had already published a book on robbery. The history and condition of Latvia in the 20th century was such that we could not gather, collect and store, but we have taken many wars, but not only wars, even cunning, pillaging of apartments … The video presentation is presented in the report – various archive testimonies or the press, who have recorded the existence of works that are no longer available. For example, portraits of Karl Ulmanis during the Soviet era were hiding, destroyed, painted … However, all the miracles are already happening, because there is some work from time to time. It is also worth mentioning Inta Pujte and Laima Slava – they wrote about a photograph in the first and second half of the 20th century, respectively.
– Why did I call Marija Berzins to write an essay on this exhibition?
– We could already go to the archives, look for extracts, the writer's descriptions, but we felt that this exhibition would be better for modern literary work. Marcel Prusts created literary portraits dedicated to art at the same time. Mars Berzins' essay The facial expression reveals in particular the essence of the portrait through the experience of a person – a celebrity, a creative personality or a simple representative of the Latvian people. The author observes the time and ours, both closer and more distant, have a philosophical look at us in the 20th century.
Both the essay and the report as a whole raise the question – does the person's expression show the essence? For example, in many works created during the Soviet era, there are smiling faces who do not express either the human nature or their time. And that's one of the paradoxes and tragedies at the same time – we were living a double life.
– Why does the exhibition, which begins in 1900, does not end with the late 20th century?
– An argument – the report, if it can be said, was intended to begin in the early 20th century, the idea of the broadcasting bowl, to appear before the declaration of the Latvian state. In addition, it is an important period in Latvian art – the Art Museum was built, the first professional Latvian artists began working, and Riga was also a completely different city until the First World War. In theory, the exhibition was scheduled to close in 2000, but the 1990s were in a portrait … Chronologically, the exhibition had to be completed, but there was no sense of finishing, because in the Soviet era portraiture was a specific work, lost their intensity and the show seemed to be over … We have extended the exhibition for a decade already in the 21st century, where the portrait does not disappear, it ends only from the podides, it differs in different ways, it is attractive …
– Although the exhibition is very bulky, it is unlikely that it will be difficult to select projects. What was the priority – the quality of work, the author of the work, the subject that appears?
– It was really a big problem – the huge number of jobs. The question, of course, concerned the selection and was carried out by those responsible for the preservation of the collection at the National Art Museum of Latvia. Three things were important. First of all, the artist was important because there are portrayed artists and there are artists who were never like Wilhelm Purvitis. However, not only the artistic quality of the portrait was important, for example, in historical museums there are also collections of painting and graphic art and no matter if created by the portrait of the artist, the important personality represented in history is important. We did not exclude self-portraits and wives of artists, some people in the community. The third main argument was the era of this project.
Although many works, although they represent a certain period, they are over time. For example, the works created by Jānis Pauļuka in the middle of the last century are not socialist works, it is, if we can say, from time to time, and at the same time we have created works that clearly characterize and represent a specific period – Stalinism, Khrushchev's defrosting , ie artists who are outside the framework and absolutely do not fit into the rules, but they are the ones who perform all the orders, Lenin, Stalin … During the First World War, 9, World War II, it is absolutely impossible to see portraits of what is happening in real life – there is a familiar environment, enclosed by the outside world, silent and personal, somewhat distanced from the real situation, possibly escaping, but understandable. On the other hand, if we look at the works made in the 1990s, they are not just portraits, but the artists wanted to say something about their 90s, expressing their inner attitude towards the particular person depicted.
The exhibition shows the 20th century to the last hundred years – when the city was formed and formed, the Latvian state was lost and restored. It marks a time when people, despite obstacles and conflicts, have invested their experience and strong intellectual and creative potential.
The exhibition points are ten chapters as references to important periods in Latvian history and culture, which we use as keywords to explain a specific work in the context of age. The sections of the exhibition – the stages of one of the history chains – are not limited to cuttings, but are considered only as punctuation marks, reference points during the time that is the explanatory background to the report.