Wild Souls. Symbolism in the Baltic States 10/04/2018 – 15/07/2018

Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Johann Walter. Talutüdruk. U 1904. Läti Rahvuslik Kunstimuuseum

Wild Souls. Symbolism in the Baltic States

An exhibition called Wild Souls. Symbolism in the Baltic States (Âmes sauvages. Le symbolisme dans les pays baltes), which was open on Tuesday, 10 April at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, includes symbolist art from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania dating from the late 19th century to the 1930s. The exhibition will mark the celebration of the centenaries of the Baltic states in Paris. The presidents of France, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are the patrons of the exhibition and will attend the opening. Indrek Saar, the Estonian Minister of Culture, will also attend the opening.

The international exhibition is the fruit of collaboration between four museums in the Baltics: the Latvian National Museum of Art; the Art Museum of Estonia; the Lithuanian Art Museum, and the M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum. The main curator of the exhibition is Rodolphe Rapetti, a distinguished researcher of symbolism. A total of 150 works of art will be brought to Paris, representing iconic artists in the art history of the Baltic countries: Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Janis Rozentāls, Konrad Mägi, Kristjan Raud, Nikolai Triik and others. After Paris, the exhibition will be on view in the autumn at the Kumu Art Museum, and later in both Latvia and Lithuania. The exhibition in Paris is accompanied by a large illustrated catalogue in French, and a film introducing the culture of the Baltic countries will be produced by the Arte TV channel.

“The joint Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay is a long-awaited and iconic event. I am very gratified that ever-increasing collaboration between the Baltic countries in the cultural field is producing such wonderful results in this centenary year. By appearing together in the international arena, we can attract much more attention and thereby find more opportunities for introducing ourselves in Europe and further afield,” said Minister of Culture Indrek Saar.

The curator Rodolphe Rapetti focuses on European symbolism and the resulting self-awareness integrally connected to the independence of the Baltic countries after World War I. The exhibition demonstrates the dynamic interaction between various foreign influences and the local cultural field, which formed the basis for the artists’ personal creative idioms. According to Rapetti, by using elements related to agriculture, folklore and landscape, the artists of the Baltic countries were able to create a totally unique artistic phenomenon. The three main themes of the exhibition – “Myths and Legends”, “Soul” and “Landscape” – express the artists’ enthusiasm for romantic stories, the individual inner worlds of people, and the mystery of nature.

Sirje Helme, Director of the Art Museum of Estonia, explains: “It has not been very often that we have been able to introduce our art classics in the international arena. We were simply not included among the European countries when the great art histories of the 20th century were written after World War II. Now the time, and opportunity, for our inclusion is here. I am sure that the work of our artists can add a new and interesting viewpoint to the classics of European modernism.”

The exhibition is part of the international programme of the celebration of the centenary of the Republic of Estonia, which includes more that 100 events during the jubilee year. The international programme of the Art Museum of Estonia started last year when Estonia assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Within the framework of the programme, the Art Museum of Estonia and the foreign programme have collaborated to organise an exhibition called The Archaeology of the Screen. The Estonian Example at the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels and a large exhibition of the works of Konrad Mägi at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome. In January of this year, a collaborative exhibition called Michel Sittow: Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe opened at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Both the Konrad Mägi and Michel Sittow exhibitions will be on view at the Kumu Art Museum in the second half of 2018.

See also the website of the exhibition of the same name held at the Kumu Art Museum.