In the world history of art, the phenomena of modern art from the early 20th century are attracting ever greater interest among researchers and the public.
Classical Modernism. Early 20th Century Latvian Painting tells about the most admired generation of Latvian artists. The period of Classical Modernism in Latvian painting lasted in total about a decade and involved experiments in the synthesis of form by members of the Riga Group of Artists: Jēkabs Kazaks, Ģederts Eliass, Romans Suta, Oto Skulme, Uga Skulme, Jānis Liepiņš, Valdemārs Tone, Konrāds Ubāns, and Niklāvs Strunke. In the era of creativity following the First World War, replete with avant-garde approaches to form, these young artists were engaged in a learning process while simultaneously in search of contemporary expression, and through attaining professional maturity, they developed remarkable styles of their own.
“The united generation of creative individuals of the early 20th century strove with all its spiritual might to free Latvian painting from a sense of provincial inadequacy, at the same time seeking to accustom the viewer to the idea that a work of art may present not only a realistically illusory reflection of the world, copying life, but also a schematised, synthetic language of form.
It was due to the creative achievement of this generation that worthy collections of Latvian art were shown at foreign exhibitions in the period when Latvian painting was joining European cultural life – from Stockholm in 1927 to Paris and London in 1939.
The young artists heeded the words of their teacher from the time of the Riga City Art School, Vilhelms Purvītis: “We are forging a path to Europe with our art, and we hope to succeed in forging it.” Through the inspiring example of their creative work and their professional advice as teachers, this generation trained future artists at the Latvian Academy of Art and in private art studios. In the late 19th century, when the Rūķis student group of artists formed at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg, the members of the group, Janis Rozentāls, Johann Walter and Vilhelms Purvītis, set themselves the difficult but important task of becoming pioneers of Latvian national art, and this indeed they managed to achieve. In later decades, too, groups of like-minded artists of a particular generation have formed, but the exponents of Classical Modernism hold a crucial place in Latvian art history as the first avant-garde artists and freethinkers.” /Dace Lamberga/