The voluminous, richly illustrated catalogue is part of the LNMA project – the exhibition “THE PORTRAIT IN LATVIA 20TH CENTURY. Facial Expressions”, which offers an encounter with a selection of the finest portraits from a whole century.
“The wide-ranging exhibition and the catalogue accompanying it are a continuation of the research that was commenced with deep respect for the genre and its history by the director of the Rundāle Palace Museum, Imants Lancmanis,”
says art historian Ginta Gerharde-Upeniece, the editor and curator of the exhibition, in the preface to the catalogue.
This project, realised by the LNMA, is a continuation of the trilogy of exhibitions devoted to 17th–19th century portrait that was held at the Rundāle Palace and which opened at roughly 11-year intervals after long-term scientific research. The exhibition of 20th century portraiture corresponds to this pattern – it is being held after an interval of almost 11 years – and urges us to seek an answer to the question: how are the 20th century depictions of the human being in visual arts different to those which were created in the previous centuries?
The wide-ranging portrait gallery which symbolically begins with a self-portrait of Janis Rozentāls created around 1900 and ends with the work by Imants Lancmanis, Self-Portrait by the Apple Wreath (2011) is accompanied by Māris Bērziņš’s essay “Facial Expressions” dedicated to this exhibition, in which he writes:
“It’s interesting to contemplate the Latvians of the 20th century; delving into the subject more deeply, however, I’ve come to appreciate that there’s no possibility of catching and holding them all: my countrymen slip between my fingers like poppy seeds. […] We are polychromatic, like fast-flowing rivers, still lakes and bog pools, ploughed fields and fallow land, mast pines and broken pines; like apples – green, yellow and red; and so on and so on.”
The catalogue of the exhibition works is complemented by a series of analytical articles that provide a deeper insight into the thematic sections of the exhibition, portrait forms and periods of the creation of the works. Art historian Dace Lamberga in her article “The Artist’s View of Themselves” focuses on the analysis of artists’ self-portraits, Professor Eduards Kļaviņš examines Latvian portraits from 1900 to 1945, publicist and art critic Pēteris Bankovskis – the period after the Second World War, art historian and photography researcher Inta Pujate – “portraits painted by light” or photo portraits in the first half of the 20th century, and art historian Laima Slava focuses on the relationship between the photographic portrait and art in the second half of the century. Art historian Jānis Kalnačs has sought and found evidence in the long-term studies about the portraits lost due to the peripeteias of the Second World War and the subsequent political changes, while Natālija Jevsejeva, art historian and director of the Museum of Romans Suta and Aleksandra Beļcova, gives a glimpse of a “portrait with a smile” – caricatures and cartoons.