Vilhelms Purvītis - Winter. Photographer: Normunds Brasliņš
Vilhelms Purvītis - Winter. Photo: Normunds Brasliņš.

One of the grandest international events marking the centenary of the three Baltic countries in 2018, will be the exhibition “Symbolism in the Baltic art” at Musée d’Orsay in Paris, April 9 – July 15, 2018.

Organized by the national art museums of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, and Musée d’Orsay, the exhibition will introduce the public to the “golden age” in Baltic art through 150 works – paintings, pastels, graphics, lithographs, sculpture – of the period 1980s – 1920s.

In a press conference in Riga, on June 1, 2017, the curators and organizers of the exhibition, headed by symbolism researcher and the author of the exhibition idea, Mr. Rodolphe Rapetti (Head Curator of the French National Heritage), informed that the exhibition will reveal the last “terra incognita” in the history of European symbolism, offering an insight into a Nordic way of thinking.

 “Symbolism in Baltic Art” will be the first exhibition with which Musée d’Orsay will formally open its ground floor space after renovation, informed Béatrice Avanzi, Curator of the public establishment of Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie.

The exhibition has a symbolic meaning for the three countries, as well as for the masters whose works are represented – many of them dreamed of working and exhibiting in Paris, the centre of artistic inspiration and influences of the time. The exhibition will introduce the public to a confident, strong and original art, expressed in diverse techniques in the masterworks by Janis Rozentāls, Vilhelms Purvītis, Johans Valters, Rūdolfs Pērle, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Ferdynand Ruszczyc, Kristjan Raud and Konrad Vilhelm Mägi.

Kristjan Raud. Sacrifice. Art Museum of Estonia publicity photo

The exhibition is structured in three parts: “Myths and legends”, “Soul” and “Nature”, in the artistic language depicting the period when the Baltics experienced rise of national and artistic self-confidence, leading to the formation of independent states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in 1918. The goal of the event – to reveal to Europe that the Baltic art of the time was of a professionally high level, and an integral part of the European art scene.

Symbolism was born in France at the second half of the 19th century, and influenced the entire European culture, including the Baltic region. The focus of symbolism is the soul of an individual, expressed in portraits and landscapes, as well as themes of mythological character, underlining the richness of mystical tradition in all three Baltic cultures. As Rodolphe Rapetti noted, symbolism opens doors to surrealism and abstractionism.

Janis Rozentāls. Death. Photo: Normunds Brasliņš
Janis Rozentāls. Death. Photo: Normunds Brasliņš

The exhibition will be the grandest Baltic culture event in Paris since 1937, when Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia participated at the Paris International Exposition of Art and Technology with joint exposition of decorative arts. 81 years later, in 2018, the symbolism exhibition will launch “the Baltic season” in Paris, with a series of concerts, seminars, performances to mark the centenary of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

Musée d’Orsay is one of the most popular art museums in the world, with over 3.5 million visitors annually. The museum’s mission is to introduce the public to the lesser known art directions, and is therefore making significant contribution to the history of European art.

02.06.2017, Culture