Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Vilhelms Purvitis

oil on canvas
7.1 x 10.2 cm
Latvian National Museum of Art, Riga, Latvia

Vilhelms Purvitis (1872-1945) was a landscape painter and educator born in Riga, Latvia, who founded the Latvian Academy of Art and was its rector from 1919 to 1934. He is considered the founder of the Latvian national school of landscape painting.

He studied painting at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg, Russia, graduating with the Grand Gold Medal. From 1898 to 1901 his paintings were exhibited in Berlin, Munich, Paris, and Lyon to great acclaim. Thereafter he made his home in Riga, traveling to Spitsbergen in Norway in 1902 to study the painting of snow. Constantly experimenting and becoming a master of snow scenes, he began as a realist, turned to impressionism, and was later influenced by Cezanne and Munch. He paid a great attention to composition tectonics, linear rhythm, contrast of dark and light blots of colour. Especially he was popular as a “psychologist” and “physiologist” of snow.

During his lifetime, he accomplished significant educational and administrative work. As the leader of the landscape painting workshop at the Latvian Academy of Art, of visual arts in the architecture department at the University of Latvia, and director of the Riga City Art School, he had a host of followers and was the acknowledged leader of a whole school of Latvian painting.

Many of his works were destroyed when the Red Army took Jelgava in 1944, while many others were lost when evacuated to Bavaria, Germany. His remains were reinterred in Riga in 1994, after Latvia regained its independence.