The new permanent exhibition at Tallinn's KUMU art museum tells the story of Estonian art as it evolved through Estonia's multi-ethnic history, growing into a heritage that blends Estonian, Baltic-German and Russian traditions.
The exhibition "Landscapes of Identity: Estonian Art 1700–1945" opens on February 17 and the focus is on the role of art in society and in shaping the identities of diverse communities.
The themes featured include the connections between Baltic-German and Estonian visual culture, the meanings of images in the young Estonian nation-state, visions of modern life, the voices of women artists, art in the authoritarian era of the 1930s and during the Second World War, and the emergence of local identity landscapes.
It also looks at how the visual construction of identities has been influenced, along with high art, by amateur artists, by design and graphic design and by the development of professional art education.
Kadi Polli on Baltic German landscapes
KUMU director Kadi Polli said the new exhibition will start with a video series where different Estonian art specialists talk about the sub-subjects or a concrete work that can be seen on the permanent exhibition.
In the 19th century, an interest in local landscaped arose, Polli writes for ERR's Kultuur portal. Baltic Germans hiked, draw and mapped their local nature, depicted cities, recorded legends, valued architectural monuments and were interested in Estonian ethnography of the peasantry.
The choice of motifs and the way of depicting Baltic landscape paintings were influenced by the artists' travels as well as the broader beauty ideals of the era. Romanticism set the tone in the first half of the 19th century. The wildest and more romantic motifs of Liivimaa nature were also looked for, which could be compared to the views of the mountains and valleys of Germany and Switzerland. In the second half of the century, the Düsseldorf school brought the gray and mundane landscapes of the Netherlands. The flat nature of the Baltic Sea coast blended well with them.
The recordings of early art lovers and artists helped the Baltic Germans to create an understanding of the Baltic provinces as their homeland, homeland, with the monuments, memorials and natural views that are so necessary for identity. These have later influenced the formation of the national landscapes of Estonians and Latvians. Both August Matthias Hagen's romantically mountainous views of Karks and Düsseldorf's coastal and village roads are still a beloved and influential part of the local landscape.
Editor: Helen Wright, Roberta Vaino