"Gems from a Private CollectionIII"
12.10.2007 - 22.01.2018
Kaarli pst. 8, Tallinn
The masterpieces of the Estonian artists executed till 1945
The third exhibition, showing masterpieces from a private collection, presents a survey of Estonian art during four decades, starting from a study of Nikolai Triik, painted at the Stieglitz Art School in 1905, and finishing with the "Farm Landscape" of Richard Uutmaa, dated 1944.
Two works of N. Triik remind us the complicated way to the great art of the "Young Estonia" generation. The "Vase" has been painted before the enforced leaving of the Stieglitz Art School by N. Triik, Jaan Koort, Konrad Mägi, Aleksander Tassa and some other Estonian pupils because of the participation in the revolutionary disturbances of 1905. The "Vase" reflects the orientation of the school towards applied arts, the dominating Art Nouveau that had a long-time influence on Triik’s oeuvre, his skill that has made a schoolwork into a nice decorative piece.
Another work of Triik is a painted caricature that represents the artist himself and his first wife Valentina Grekova in Paris about 1907, evidently in connection with a certain date in the life of the artistic couple. The years 1906- 8, spent in Paris, were for Triik prolific and relatively carefree thanks to the support of the father-in-law who was been banker. It was the flourishing age of caricature and Triik had a vein for that.
There are no higher or lower genres in the art. It is not easier to make a good caricature than paint a good portrait, it is more difficult to portray an animal probably than a human being. Eduard Wiiralt fortunately has convinced Estonian public in the seriousness of the animalistic genre, his wonderful drawing to the gravure "Lying Tiger" (1937) is exposed here. But before him Paul Burman has drawn attention already as an outrageous animalistic artist. He, too, was before the World War I in Paris and represented all kinds of horses, among them "Paris Circus Horses" (1911-12). He had a certain psychic contact with them. The renowned battle - painter Prof. Franz Roubaud in the Saint-Petersburg Academy, by whom P. Burman studied in 1907-8, taught that the thorough knowledge of animal was the premise of success in this genre.
Roman Nyman, having graduated the Stieglitz school in 1906, got a scholarship for the studies abroad, he visited France, Norway, Italy. In 1910-12 he worked by the Imperial Theatres in Saint-Petersburg and became the first professional scene-painter in Estonian art. Having begun brilliantly as the scene-painter of the "Estonia" theatre (1913-20), he abandoned this genre fast entirely in the 1920s in favour of the landscape painting where the attachment to the interesting points of view and light effects, characteristic to a decorator, still can be seen. As Triik, he was deeply influenced by the Art Nouveau stylization, but the surprisingly expressive painting "Ruins of Toolse Fortress" reflects the impact of the Expressionist tendencies of the 1920s as well.
The early period in the work of August Jansen who graduated the Saint-Petersburg Academy in 1913 with a large decorative canvas "On the Muhu Island", can be better understood thanks to the romantic nightly landscape "Käru Church" (1911, tempera). It shows that he, too, was touched by the pointillistic technique, widely spread in the epoch of the Art Nouveau.
In 1911-12 A. Jansen spent much time with Herbert Lukk, his pupil, and with the future sculptor Anton Starkopf, his company evidently inspired them to study art.
It was a pleasure to rediscover a masterpiece of Felix Johannsen-Randel – "Loth with His Daughters" (1928), which is a remarkable oeuvre of the period of the New Objectivity and Art Deco in Estonian art. The ironical treatment of scriptural histories with allusions to the frivolous modern world was in vogue. The stylish painting of Johannsen-Randel charmingly flirt with archaic subject.
Religious themes were familiar to Eduard Wiiralt since his studies in Tallinn Art Industry School (1915-18) and in the "Pallas" Art School at Tartu (1919-24). In 1923-25 he made about 140 illustrations to the biblical reading-book of E. Tennmann. In 1925 he went to Paris and stayed there until 1939. There the illustrations to the bourlesque of A. Tassa" Swines of Cadarah" (1926) and to the nefarious poem of A. Poushkin "La Gabrielide" (1928) have been drawn and engraved. So it was not the theme that struck with surprise when his water-colour "The Kiss of Judas" (1932) has been brought to Estonia by the Rios Gallery. The birth of the work was connected with the mistress and patron of the artist in Strasbourg Nelly Stulz and her brother Dr. Edgar Stulz. The latter commissioned from him the portrait of St. Vincent de Paul in 1931 and so incited the creation of the so-called series of Saints. In this series, that "The Kiss of Judas" belongs to, Wiiralt has expressed the sweetness of Passion and the mild piety. In spite of the irony, characteristic for his oeuvre until 1933, Wiiralt ‘s painting suggests the evangelic philosophy of the mental superiority to the hypocrisy and treachery. Its style and contents is in harmony with other works of the period of his acme, for instance, with the lithograph "The Preacher" (1932).
These are a few halts in the exhibition that should be sufficient to prove the high quality of the collection.