An exhibition of Fridrihs Milts’ paintings will be on view in the 4th Floor Exhibition Halls of the main building of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga (Jaņa Rozentāla laukums 1) from 16 September to 5 November 2017.
The life of legendary personality Fridrihs Milts (1906–1993) was spent between the Riga suburb of Pārdaugava and Manhattan, New York. Thanks to the initiative of collector Filips Kļaviņš, we have the opportunity to become acquainted with the creative contribution of Fridrihs Milts during his exile years in the artist’s homeland Latvia too.
The painter was born on 21 December 1906 in Riga. He studied at the Figural Painting Master Class of the Art Academy of Latvia (1927–1932). Milts painted scenes from peasant life, landscapes, portraits and nudes. At the end of the 1930s he was carried away by the magic of the light touch of the pastel technique and became a much respected author in the eyes of the public.
In 1944 Fridrihs Milts became a refugee and left for Germany, but in 1951 he arrived in New York where he worked for many years as a building supervisor in the Manhattan docks district known as Hell’s Kitchen. The phenomenon of this place has been written about mainly in connection with the poets Linards Tauns and Gunārs Saliņš, but it was the artist’s basement studio that became the legendary heart of the bohemian life of exiled Latvians.
Fridrihs Milts’ painting that gained recognition across the ocean only among a narrow circle of compatriots, changed radically and he turned to the simplification of innovative forms. Milts spent almost forty years in Manhattan. He painted women with extended necks and almond-shaped eyes, still lifes, colourful Mexican landscapes, but his favourite motif was views of the silhouettes of New York’s skyscrapers from the top floor of his building.
Milts died on 5 November 1993 in New York. At the end of his life he expressed his deepest conviction: “I’m a Latvian, I feel like a Latvian and my painting is Latvian. I have two homelands, Hell’s Kitchen and Latvia.”
Dr. art. Dace Lamberga, Exhibition Curator, Latvian National Museum of Art