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France: exhibition "Wild Souls. Symbolism in the Baltic States"

The classics of Estonian art will be exhibited in Parts at Musée d'Orsay from April 10 to July 15, 2018. The exhibition is opening on April 9, at 6 pm in presence of Estonian minister of culture Indrek Saar.

A high-level exhibition, compiled for the exposition at the Musée d’Orsay (Paris) in spring 2018. The display features the oeuvre of a number of symbolist artists from the Baltic countries, such as Janis Rozentāls, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Kristjan Raud and others.

The independent states that make up the Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, were established just after the end of the First World War. The centenary of this event will be celebrated throughout Europe until 2021 and particularly with this exhibition.

Its aim is to give an insight into a symbolism that was linked to the cultural world of the Baltic from the 1890s to the 1920s-1930s. European Symbolism and the emancipation of consciousness that it disseminated are inseparable in the Baltic countries from their independence.
The exhibition will illustrate the interplay of influences and resistance through which artists forged a creative language appropriate to their intellectual world. Taking elements from popular culture, folklore and local legends, as well as from their unique landscapes, they have created a genuinely original art form.

With the exception of the internationally renowned Lithuanian painter and composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlioni, the works of the majority of the artists are being shown outside their country for the first time.
The exhibition comprises around 130 works, and is divided into three sections, each presenting a different medium: painting, sculpture, graphic arts.

Myths and Legends. This first section explores not only the representation of mythology, but also that of the imaginary world. Symbolism has updated the myth by linking it to contemporary preoccupations. In the mid 19th century, the writer and folklorist Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwal (1803-1882), while travelling through Estonia, collected the legends of oral tradition that formed the Kalevipoeg, the Baltic symmetrical equivalent of the Finnish Kalevala. Later, the musician and painter Čiurlionis would do the same with the popular melodies of his country. This “national Romanticism” was contemporary with Symbolism and the idealistic trend that spread across Europe in a reaction against Naturalism.

The Soul is the theme of the second section, with some extraordinary portraits highlighting the anxieties, questioning and exhilaration of the early stages of psychoanalysis. A display of graphic art entitled Torments of the Soul brings out the violent aspects specific to some Symbolist figurative art.

Nature is the subject of the third section, focusing on the representation of the landscape and beginning with the 13 paintings by Čiurlionis that form his series entitled The Creation of the World. Vast, untouched expanses, the superhuman power of natural phenomena and the succession of seasons form the essence of a truly Symbolist landscape, at times inhabited by supernatural presences.

Curator: Rodolphe Rapetti, general heritage curator and director of the Domaines et Musées Nationaux de Compiègne et Blérancourt

This exhibition was organised by the Public Establishment of the Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, Paris, the Latvian National Museum of Art, Riga, the Estonian Museum of Fine Art, Tallinn, the Lithuanian Museum of Art, Vilnius and the M.K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum, Kaunas, Lithuania, with the support of the Ministries of Culture of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania and the offices for the Centennial Celebrations of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

Scenography: Flavio Bonuccelli
Media Partners: Arte, La Croix, L’Estampille/L’Objet d’Art and Transfuge

The exhibition will travel to Estonia in autumn. From 12.10.2018 to 03.02.2019 it will be on view at Kumu Art Museum in Estonia

Exhibition video:

Johans Valters
Talutüdruk. U 1904
Oil, canvas
Latvian National Museum of Art

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