LATVIAN ART THEORY 1900-1940: ROUTES AND SOURCES OF INFLUENCE (Ietekmju virzieni un avoti latviesu makslas teorijas lauka (1900-1940))
The issue of centre-periphery relationships has increased in importance in the context of the globalised world and enlarged European Union. While Western researchers seem to be more focused on previously marginal areas, Eastern art historians still see much work to be done exploring the connections between local phenomena and more dominant cultural centres. In fact the largely secondary nature of local material opens up a wide spectrum of influences and analogies waiting for elucidation. There are not many works on connections in particular, but a focus on the context and possible patterns of influence has become an indispensable part of the most recent publications in Latvian art history. Studies of Latvian art-theoretical heritage indicate that German sources have been the most influential in shaping Latvian authors' opinions on what is art and how its development could be conceived. Max Liebermann, Richard Muther, Julius Meier-Graefe, Wilhelm Worringer and other writers on art should be mentioned in this respect. French influences that started to spread with Hippolyte Taine's ideas were important but more indirect, episodic and sweeping, mostly seeking alternative models to the local heritage of German and Russian traditions. So French Cubist and Purist idioms were particularly attractive for local modernists but Henri Begson's stance was especially widespread in the field of aesthetics and philosophy. Apart from the Russian avant-garde ideas introduced by Voldemars Matvejs, Russian art-theoretical sources had a limited impact, more related to particular authors' interests. In general, Latvian writers on art have been inconsistent and rather skeptical towards the radical avant-garde. The argument of national art as being at a relatively early stage of development encouraged the ancient tradition of thinking on art as a recreated and perfected imitation of nature.
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