The book “The Art Porcelain Workshops Burtnieks and Ripors” is the twentieth publication in the series “Classics of Latvian Art”. It opens a less known but not less interesting chapter in the short and bright history of Riga art porcelain.
It started in 1925 when Latvian artists displayed their works for the first time at the L’Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes, and had already ended in 1940 when Latvia lost its sovereignty and was annexed by the USSR. After the Second Word War the chief focus was on mass production, and the manufacture of unique pieces after the designs of professional artists was halted. It is important to be reminded, however, that during the interwar period of the 20th century, in tandem with the shortlived success story of the porcelain painting workshop Baltars (1925–1928), so highly regarded today, the Burtnieks (1929–1939) and Ripors (1933–1934) workshops also made their contribution to the production of art porcelain, as did the independent endeavours of several artists.
The success of the porcelain painting workshop Baltars became a powerful impetus for attempting to develop this field of art further. The next year after its closure the entrepreneurs Emīlija and Antons Benjamiņš established the company Ķīmiska laboratorija “Burtnieks” Emīlija Benjamiņš (Chemical Laboratory Burtnieks, Emīlija Benjamiņš) and launched a new porcelain painting workshop on its basis, involving the best artists: Sigismunds Vidbergs, Erasts Šveics and Niklāvs Strunke among others.
Enthusiasm for art porcelain reached its highest peak in Latvia in the 1930s when the creative activities of the artists were fuelled by the ideas of National Romanticism and the then current Art Déco style. It was in this kind of atmosphere of elation that fellow members of the Riga Group of Artists, Niklāvs Strunke and Erasts Šveics, established the porcelain painting workshop Ripors (a contraction of the name ‘Riga Porcelain’).
The popularity of painted porcelain in the 1930s in Riga continually attracted new interested parties to this art form. This was promoted by the accessibility of the requisite materials and the relative simplicity of using a muffle kiln. Cottage industry became involved in porcelain painting, as well as artists working in other branches of art and amateurs, creating unique objects that augment and enrich knowledge of porcelain art of the 1920s and 30s.
These days interest in Riga painted porcelain is rapidly increasing, in tandem with this, more and more hitherto unseen objects are appearing on the art market, as well as the names of artists linked with porcelain painting. Great attention to the porcelain of 20th century interwar period is being devoted both by museums and by individual collectors, however, for a comprehensive study of this singular art there is still a great deal of research to be done, concludes Ludmila Neimiševa, the author of the book.
The series “Classics of Latvian Art” offers an easily perceptible information about Latvian classical artists and their works. Similar to the “STUDIJA Library”, the series “Classics of Latvian Art” comprises bilingual (Latvian/English), richly illustrated publications. An attractive supplement at the end of each book is a timeline where the life of Latvian artists can be viewed within the context of world events, revealing connections, parallels or just interesting coincidences.