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EN
The book titled 'Active Art' ('Aktiva maksla', 1923) by the Latvian writer and literary critic Andrejs Kurcijs (1894-1959) belongs to the wide spectrum of avant-garde manifestoes current in Europe of the 1920s. It is a kind of theoretical treatise of activism which deals with problems of both European and Latvian art, including visual art. This work has been examined several times; already Kurcijs' contemporaries made some critical comments but during the Soviet period it had been interpreted mostly as a dualistic split between 'formalist' and 'revolutionary' attitudes. The theoretical background of this treatise is surely related to Kurcijs' studies of philosophy and art theory at the Berlin University in 1922 and 1923. But he had read much of Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Leo Tolstoy, Karl Marx etc. already during his earlier studies of medicine and first literary endeavours. Activism is closely related to formalism - artistic form is that enduring element that excites the viewer with aesthetic means and depends on intellectual effort, contrary to the passive attitudes of naturalist/impressionist legacy. Direct quotes from Amedee Ozenfant's and Fernand Leger's statements testify that Kurcijs was greatly impressed by their ideas. Speaking about activism and cubism, Kurcijs also stress the widely circulating cubist idea that they depict things 'as they really are', apart from their irrelevant, accidental features. More critical is Kurcijs' approach to suprematism. Although it may be the most consequent in rendering 'things in themselves', at the same time it loses its emotional, spiritual qualities, its 'artistic mathematics'. One is prompted to ask if Kurcijs' theory might be derived from the German literary trend named activism. Some common general traits indeed could be discovered, such as emphasis on the autonomy of spiritual phenomena, like literature and art, opposed to the natural determinism typical of the 19th century. Andrejs Kurcijs continued to promote the activist theory and defend his position concerning the fruitful impact of the 'active French painting' on Latvian art in his later exhibition reviews.
EN
The Russian art historian Boris Vipper (Boriss Vipers, 1888-1967) lived in Latvia from 1924 to 1941 when he worked as a lecturer at the University of Latvia and the Latvian Academy of Art. He made a lasting contribution also to the study of Latvian art and continued his earlier initiatives in art theory. Most of his theoretical work, including that on book design, was written during the 1930s and published in the essay collection 'Makslas likteni un vertibas' ('Art's Fortunes and Values') in 1940. This book is distinguished by a thorough analysis, unprecedented in Latvian context, of several kinds, sub-kinds and genres of art, including the particular problems of book design. Boris Vipper wrote these essays in the maturity of his professional biography. Initially he was greatly influenced by the work of his father, the noted historian Robert Vipper. His education at the History and Philology Department of the Moscow University (1906-1911) and practical historical research in various fields of art, including graphics, was also of particular importance. He was also much interested in theoretical explanations of contemporary art and different methodological paradigms (Adolf von Hildebrandt, Alois Riegl, Heinrich Wolfflin, Vladimir Favorsky etc.).Vipper's small essay in 'Makslas likteni un vertibas' is the only significant text in Latvian art theory that deals with graphic art and its subcategory - book design. The essay displays observations of an academic art historian who highly appreciated classical values but was more reserved towards modernist trends. The substance of book design, according to Vipper, was style as an artistic form, emphasizing the correspondence between depiction's formal features and the particular printed work. The essay explores various aspects of conformity between picture and text, praising the suggestive interpretation of reality, using the symbolic tension between lines and areas. The unity of separate pages in an illustrated book is also reflected upon.
EN
This article is devoted to the original sources from which the Latvian art historian Kristaps Eliass (1886--1963) developed his theoretical principles. Eliass wrote biographical and theoretical articles, as well as books about Dutch and French art, and of particular importance to him were the writings of German authors Richard Muther and Julius Meier-Graefe, both of whom were prominent at that time. During the Soviet period, Kristaps Eliass was praised for his texts where he emphasized the influence of social conditions on arts, linking it directly to the progressive role of Karl Marx's conception. However, the work of Muther and Meier-Graefe is much closer to that of Eliass - they saw art history as a systematic and ordered interpretation of processes, criticizing the separation of art and life that was typical of capitalist societies. Kristaps Eliass also placed a high emphasis on the personality of each artist, thus reflecting the ideas of Romanticism, as well as the influential thinking of Arthur Schopenhauer. In his writing Eliass also drew upon the ideas of the historians and theoreticians Alois Riegl and Wilhelm Worringer, among others, about the regularities that are found in the evolution of the arts. He also took advantage of conclusions which the optician Hermann von Helmholtz developed about the impossibility of copying nature directly in a work of art. During the dogmatic period of Stalinism, Eliass' work fell out of favor and was criticized for emphasizing sociological conditions inadequately. Eliass always tried to maintain a certain balance between the importance of the spirit of the times or the class struggle on the one hand, and the value of forms created by a self-expressive artist on the other.
ARS
|
2006
|
tom 39
|
nr 1
91-107
EN
The subject of this study deals with the style, methodological foundations and motivations of Oskar Cepan's interpretations of the abstract works of art. The marginal position of his essays within the Slovak art criticism of the decade does not mean that they are historically unimportant or of lower quality. One must consider them within the officially-favored notion of art and cultural policy in communist Czechoslovakia, which did not support the theory and practice of abstract art. Furthermore, the monographical studies on works of Rudolf Fila, Marian Cunderlik and Vladimir Tatlin were prohibited from being published at the beginning of the 1970s. One of the study's initial proposals is an examination of the relation of avant-garde principles to the formalist method, focusing on composition, structure, the material qualities and the function of the artwork. Second one is an analysis of Oskar Cepan's most important studies provided in comparison to art criticism of the decade and research of other scholars in the field of Russian avant-garde in Czechoslovakia. In particular, the author is concentrated on the analogies between his theory of modern literature, published in book 'Literary Bagatelles', and the steps of his interpretation regarding abstract art. On one hand, Cepan in his writings developed something like a realm of freedom; on the other hand, although rather marginal and fragmentary, his theory represents an interesting contribution to the comparative study of the visual images and words for the period of the late modernism in East-Central Europe.
EN
On 9 April 1933, several months after Hitler's rise to power in Germany, a group of devoted pupils opened the memorial exhibition of Johann(es) Walter-Kurau at Victor Hartberg's in Berlin Charlottenburg. Newspapers published different opinions about the art of the late Baltic painter, but most critics agreed that he has been a beloved and influential teacher. The late, modernist paintings of the 'prodigal son' Johann Walter (1869-1932), usually named Janis Valters by Latvians, are some of the most fascinating exhibits of the State Museum of Art in Riga, although our knowledge about his life and work as Johann(es) Walter-Kurau in Dresden (1906-1916) and Berlin (1917-1932) so far has been very poor. Now much of this blank area may be covered by helpful references to recent publications about his Berlin pupils Otto Manigk (1902-1974), Karen Schacht (1900-1987), Else Lohmann (1897-1984), Hans Zank (1889-1967) and Willy Gericke (1895-1970) by German art historians striving to save several forgotten names from the undue obscurity of the 'lost generation', or art collectors wishing to gain their admission to prominent international sales. Alongside a number of archive materials, catalogues and German press publications, this eclectic, contradictory literature, ranging from fruits of enthusiastic life-long connoisseurship and trustworthy studies on particular women artists to deliberate art-historical fakes, allows us to reconstruct the history of Walter's busy Gervinusstrasse studio in Berlin-Charlottenburg, but a copy of the artist's manuscripts helps to understand the theoretic background of his mature views and creativity. Walter's own much admired authority as a great, generous man and a teacher par excellence was the Russian landscapist, professor Arkhip Kuinji (1841-1910). In his painting and theory, however, Walter drew inspiration from other sources, and his aim in the late 1920s and early 30s was the 'missing link between Impressionism and the abstract art of the day'.
ARS
|
2013
|
tom 46
|
nr 1
86 -93
EN
Considering the impact of Zimmermann's aesthetics on the Wiener Schule der Kunstgeschichte and the influence of Riegl's art history on the 20th century art theory, the relation between philosophical aesthetics and art history is a potent theme. The study focuses on two questions: firstly, what is the place of the aesthetic dimension in Riegl's art history and how does it differ from Zimmermann's aesthetics? Secondly, how did Zimmermann's formalist aesthetic influence Riegl's analysis of the visual work of art?
EN
In this essay, Latvian art theory is interpreted not only as including openly declared principles of artistic creation, but also the theoretical background of any art-historical text. During the inter-war period, those who wrote about Latvian art were influenced by Western strategies of implementation that were in vogue at that time. One of the central traditions emerged from modified versions of the German idealist philosophy. Space and time as a priori forms of Kantian knowledge were transformed into changing forms of artistic vision and supplemented with the Hegelian concept of art as a spiritual expression of the particular age. These intellectual premises were basic tenets for such writers on art as Heinrich Woelfflin, Alois Riegl, Wilhelm Worringer, Dagobert Frey, Wilhelm Pinder and others. Art historian Boriss Vipers was certainly familiar with the broad spectrum of contemporary ideas on art, including the writings of some of the aforementioned critics. He interpreted stylistic differences in art as signs of different conceptions of space, as well as different stages in the formal evolution of art. Art historian Janis Silins stressed the common spiritual aims of each artistic generation, as emphasized in Pinder's theory. For his part, art historian Kristaps Eliass used Riegl's notion of changing artistic will to resist the deep-seated naturalistic criteria of artistic value. As formal concepts, forms of artistic vision could partly be conceived as support to the modernist notion of art's autonomy. But as spiritual hallmarks of their time, their nation, etc., they could also be used as tools by authoritarian and totalitarian ideologies. It is possible to conclude that these theoretical principles derived from German and Austrian (the Vienna school) sources of art literature, formed basis of local thinking about art. While the idea of change in the forms of artistic vision implied some acceptance of the latest trends, the biological metaphors in Latvian art, as being in the early stage of Western art history, also fostered a more conservative orientation toward the classical legacy of European art.
EN
(Polish title: Tradycja, stygnaca poboznosc i niejasne odczucie bostwa. Francois René de Chateaubriand a kryzys sztuki religijnej w XIX wieku). Many consider Francois René de Chateaubriand as the thinker primarily responsible for consolidating radically conservative and fideistic attitudes after the French Revolution. It was allegedly under his influence that French sacred art of the 19th century plunged into an era of barren historicism, which identified religious significance with allusions to the artistic tradition of the pre-revolutionary state. The origins of this idea are commonly traced back to Chateaubriand's statements on art in his apologetic treatise entitled The Genius of Christianity [Génie du Christianisme] It is should be noted, however, that these reflections are limited to but a dozen pages in the book, and it would be a futile attempt to use them as specific guidance on how sacred art should be created. Evident in these pages is Chateaubriand's admiration for the architecture of Gothic cathedrals, which evoke in him 'a kind of awe and a vague sentiment of the Divinity'; he is clearly awed by their solemn ambience, reverberating with echoes of past ages, which 'raise their venerable voices from the bosom of the stones, and are heard in every corner of the vast cathedral.' These statements may indeed be easily read as an encouragement to build churches in a neo-Gothic style, which will always appeal to the common folk. It should be borne in mind, however, that the neo-Gothic rose to prominence in French art thirty years after the publication of The Genius of Christianity. If we assume that the book was treated as an inspiration for reviving past architectural solutions, it may strike us as surprising that the motifs chosen often went directly against Chateaubriand's actual recommendations. At the beginning of the 19th century, French religious art returned to the forms of classicizing baroque and early classicism, which were criticized by Chateaubriand for their pagan origins and their inability to inspire true Christian piety. Therefore, it seems unlikely that the choice of 'retrospective' solutions was influenced by the The Genius of Christianity; rather, it was informed by specific academic tastes dominant in the French artistic milieu at the time and the ideal of 'restoring' French religious art to what it used to be before the iconoclasm and de-christianization championed by the French Revolution.
EN
The article focuses on the short Soviet episode between the independence period and the subsequent German occupation, introducing Socialist Realism as a new paradigm for Latvian art theory and criticism. The doctrine had emerged in the USSR during the 1930s and was codified at the First Congress of Soviet Writers (1934) by Stalin’s propagandist Andrei Zhdanov in his famous speech. He proclaimed writers to be “engineers of human souls”. They were urged to represent reality in its “revolutionary development”, educate the working people in the spirit of socialism as well as to use the best achievements of all previous epochs for these purposes. Reflections of the regime’s officials as well as artists, art historians and critics on Socialist Realism appeared in Latvian periodicals by mid-1940. One of the most theoretical articles was published in the newly founded literature monthly Karogs by the renowned Russian-born art historian Boris Vipper (1888–1967) who came to Latvia in 1924 and returned to Moscow in 1941. He saw Socialist Realism in a quite Hegelian mode. Socialist Realism was popularised in articles praising Russian and Soviet art, for instance, on the Realist trend of the Peredvizhniki (Wanderers). More general surveys emerged too, mainly extolling the flourishing present in particular kinds of arts. Most of these surveys appeared soon after the occupation, likely aiming to quickly educate the public in the newly conquered territories. Some positive reviews on the USSR cultural scene even predated the occupation for example, in the magazine Atpūta whose editors had been involved with the Society for the Cultural Rapprochement with the USSR, functioning as a de facto recruiting agency for the future puppet government. A different tendency was to speculate on local precursors of Socialist Realism or at least some similar phenomena. Most of these pieces emerged in late 1940 and 1941, suggesting some time was needed in the attempt to inscribe the local heritage into the new paradigm. The first Soviet year reveals both continuities and interruptions in regard to the previous period. On the one hand, authors still promoted the traditional neo-realist approach and critique of avant-garde extremes; on the other, they sometimes radically shifted their opinions in favour of Russian art. Most seemingly attempted to somehow “tame” the new doctrine, associating it with established artistic values; these, however, could be exonerated only after Stalin’s death (1953) that started the modernisation and actual disintegration of Socialist Realism.
Filozofia (Philosophy)
|
2014
|
tom 69
|
nr 2
154 – 163
EN
Artistic image is one of the central concepts of Váross’s posthumously published writings titled From creativity to creation (Bratislava 1989). Contrary to most common users of language in Váross the concept was to denote the concretization of an artwork in the percipient’s consciousness. The paper aims at a closer analysis of Váross’s definition of the concept in question, bringing the related citations and showing its place within a wider context of Váross’s theory of art. Further, it unveils some connections between his definition of artistic image and the key issues of the theory of image as reflected in contemporary image sciences (iconology, Bildwisseschaften).
EN
The analysis of the abstract work by Otto Piene shows that the painting, which at first glance seems purely aesthetic, primarily intended to produce a sense of pleasure, can potentially speak to the most profound, existential (in the Jaspersian sense of the term) essence of man. The analysis discusses the visual qualities which, on the one hand, apply to the plane of the painting, and, on the other, to the viewer who assumes a vertical position in front of the painting. The description of these qualities, which come into being in the experience of art grounded not in the soul [Seele] rather than the psyche, employs the concepts of tremendum and fascinosum; these two categories allow the author to express the dual nature of the human experience of the sacred.
EN
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.
EN
The early 20th century brought rapid changes in scientific and technological developments, politics, government and social behaviour, prompting a radical reassessment of art. Theoretical works by Voldemars Matvejs (1877-1914) - 'The Russian Secession' (1910), 'The Principles of New Art' (1912), 'The Principles of Creativity in Plastic Arts. Texture' (1914), 'The Art of the Easter Island' (1914), introduction to the selection of Chinese poetry 'Chinese Pipe' (1914) and 'Negro Art' (1919) - reflect all the peculiarities of the early 20th century modernism. The article aims to reveal the significance of several scientific discoveries and terms in the theoretical works of Matvejs and his contemporaries. The article begins with an examination of two sources that influenced Matvejs' worldview. This developed partly out of the philosophy of nature (Naturphilosophie) of the time, featuring naturalistic overtones partly related to the scientific examining of the human mind. Matvejs' notebooks contain the name of the German physiologist Max Verworn (1863-1921) who dealt with both experimental physiology and the psychology of art. Mysticism was of no lesser importance for Matvejs' theories that endowed every natural process with a mythical significance; in this respect he was hardly unique among the representatives of modernism. It is important to note that Matvejs was familiar with the German Neo-Kantian philosopher and historian Georg Mehlis' (1878-1942) work Formen der Mystik. The idea of 'origins' was related to nature and the effects of the forces of the outer (macro) world. However, it was equally important to find some elementary particle.
EN
The basic premises of Marxism in respect to art are well known - art is a social phenomenon impossible to explain outside the economic structures of the society in which and for which it is made. Although primitive, deterministic versions of Marxism are largely of historical interest only, seeing art processes as a field of interaction of social, ethnic, gender, race and other contextual factors has not only been recognised but also became a dominant set of interpretational strategies. If feminism, gender studies or the post-colonial discourse are relatively new on Latvian soil, Marxist ideas have circulated in the local intellectual milieu since the late 19th century. In line with the dominant Soviet ideology, they have been comparatively well documented. In the interwar period Marxist ideas developed from more radical, expressionist-style echoes of proletarian culture to gradual restoration of order. Art as the indicator of the class struggle also sometimes left room for the concept of artist-genius, his gift consisting precisely in an ability to sense the social change first, as described by art historian Kristaps Eliass. The writer Andrejs Kurcijs who attempted to introduce the trend of Activism, a term coined in the melting pot of European Avant-garde trends, also voiced a compromise between the understanding of form and sociological assessment, each illuminating the other. Though politically unacceptable, leftist views emphasising serious content instead of the bourgeois formalism were selectively institutionalised as 'progressive' in the following period of Soviet domination.
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