Sunday, August 10, 2014

Johann Koler

Eve after Falling into Sin
oil on canvas
136 × 101.4 cm
Kumu Kunstimuuseum, Tallinn, Estonia

 “Traveling is beautiful and can completely enamor some people, especially if they have the greatest interest in nature itself, like myself. Nature, after all, will always remain the eternal primordial source for artists.” (Koler)

Johann Koler (1826-1899) was a leader of the Estonian national awakening and a painter. He is considered as the first professional painter of the emerging nation. He distinguished himself primarily by his portraiture and to a lesser extent by his landscape paintings. Some of his most notable pictures depict the Estonian rural life in the second half of the 19th century. The peak of his career coincided with the rise of the Estonian national awakening and he used his position in the Russian imperial court to promote the cause of the Estonian people. From 1862 to 1874 he was a teacher of the Grand Duchess Maria Aleksandrovna, the daughter of Russian Czar Alexander II.

He was born as the seventh child to a peasant family in Estonia. Despite the poverty of the parents he managed to attend the elementary and the district schools. Then he attended a workshop of master painters. In 1846, he traveled to St. Petersburg to work as a sign writer, where his talent was soon discovered. From 1848 to 1855 he studied drawing and painting at the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts. In 1869-1870, he worked as a lecturer at the Academy.