Published 15/05/2023 | 16:17

Tiit Pruuli’s maritime-themed art collection displayed to the public for the first time at the Mikkel Museum

Tiit Pääsuke. Pictures of the Baltic Sea III. Detail. 1995. Tiit Pruuli’s Art Collection

On 20 May the Mikkel Museum will launch the exhibition Setting Sail: Tiit Pruuli’s Art Collection, which provides a fascinating overview of marine painting in Estonia from the end of the 19th century to the present. The display includes artworks by Julie Hagen-Schwarz, Kaljo Põllu, Evi Tihemets, Peeter Ulas, Olev Subbi, Tiit Pääsuke, Aili Vint, Mall Nukke, Kristi Kongi and many other renowned artists.

The display presents all of the dominant themes in marine painting: harbours and fishing villages, ships and sail-boats, artists’ travels in search of inspiration, man against the sea, pure seascapes and abstract marine art. “With its ever-changing face, the sea has been an endless source of inspiration for artists and many others. Anyone who watches ships sailing, waves crashing, or storms raging experiences something special. We also have the opportunity to experience something special when we look at marine art. That’s why I collect it,” says the art collector Tiit Pruuli.

According to the exhibition’s curator, Kadri Asmer, the diverse collection of more than 400 works features art from different periods and by different artists. “It includes works by art history greats, as well as amateur artists, which shows that this collection has been driven by the collector’s true love of the sea. As we delve deeper into the history of marine art, we will find plenty of intrigue and fascinating reflections of different eras, which are also well represented in Pruuli’s collection,“ said Asmer.

Maritime themes and artistic sea representations go back centuries. In Estonia, the basis for maritime art was laid by the Baltic German artists of the 19th century. Even before the local artistic community was overwhelmed by the beauty of Nordic nature at the beginning of the 20th century, the landscape of Estonia and the sea around it had been associated with the search for historical identity, expressed, for example, in numerous representations of Viking ships in art: a motif inspired by the Estonian epic hero Kalevipoeg’s sea voyage to the end of the world. Significant developments took place in the 1930s, when several young Estonian artists who had grown up in fishing villages, e.g. Eerik Haamer and Richard Uutmaa, graduated from the Pallas Art School, and dedicated their entire artistic careers to sea painting. Maritime themes began to thrive then and have remained popular ever since.

The exhibition offers an opportunity to view a selection of the private collection of the sailor and traveller Tiit Pruuli and to experience the different aspects of marine painting: like the sea itself, marine art has a myriad of forms and moods.

The exhibition’s curator: Kadri Asmer, design: Peeter Laurits, graphic design: Külli Kaats. The exhibition was created in collaboration with Go Group, and is accompanied by the book “Setting Sail: Tiit Pruuli’s Art Collection” (Go Group, 2023), compiled by Kadri Asmer and Tiit Pruuli and designed by Peeter Laurits.

The exhibition will remain open until 15 October 2023.