On show from 29 April 2017 at the main building of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga (Jaņa Rozentāla laukums 1) and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (Skārņu iela 10/20) will be the exhibition Romans Suta – 120. Universal Art Formula, dedicated to the life and work of the versatile Latvian artist Romans Suta.
Romans Suta (1896–1944) is one of the central figures of the epoch of modernism in Latvia – a unique creative personality, whose erudition, unusual reasoning, artistic potential and endless enthusiasm surprised contemporaries. Trying his hand in various fields of art and creating various types of artworks, Romans Suta managed to be recognisable with his original style. It seems the author had discovered some universal art formula that helped his talent to be so multifaceted yet uniform at the same time.
2016 was the 120th anniversary of the birth of Romans Suta. Continuing its broad programme of cultural events, this year the Latvian National Museum of Art (LNMA) is presenting the ambitious project Romans Suta – 120. Universal Art Formula that takes place in two of the museum’s departments simultaneously – the main building of the LNMA and Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (MDAD). These both mutually linked displays have been arranged with the idea of looking at Suta in a different light, as a many-sided representative of his age and the new state of Latvia, to reveal the master not only as a painter and graphic artist, stage designer and book illustrator, art theoretician and pedagogue, but also as one of the founders of the Latvian design school. The exhibitions in the halls of the LNMA and MDAD display the artist’s most important achievements in all the directions of his creative work. They allow viewers to become more familiar with author’s extraordinary personality – charismatic, temperamental, passionate and controversial.
This full retrospective of Romans Suta’s oeuvre combines works from the collections of the Latvian National Museum of Art, National History Museum of Latvia, Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation, Museum of Literature and Music, Riga Porcelain Museum, Film Museum, and Theatre Museum. The displays include brilliant works, hitherto unseen by the public, from the private collections of the Zuzāns family and others. The theme of Riga porcelain caught the special interest of Pyotr Aven, a collector of early 20th century Russian painting and porcelain. Thanks to the long-standing and fruitful collaboration between the LNMA and Pyotr Aven Charitable Foundation Generation, exhibition visitors will be able to see valuable porcelain and ceramic works by Romans Suta that are on show for the first time.
The project Romans Suta – 120. Universal Art Formula is a central event in the LNMA exhibition programme planned for 2017. The two large exhibitions will open on 28 April, Romans Suta’s birthday. A day before the opening there will be an international scientific conference dedicated to issues on the interaction between art and design. A wide range of the accompanying events will be provided during the exhibition, including guided tours, meetings with curators of the project, specialist lectures, creative workshops, educational programmes for schoolchildren, chess tournament, displaying of a film The Maestro, performance by the NERTEN Sketch Theatre, and other activities.
The exhibition Romans Suta – 120. Universal Art Formula will be on view at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design from 29 April to 18 June and at the main building of the LNMA from 29 April to 9 July.
The exhibition at the main building of the Latvian National Museum of Art:
Painting. Graphics. Stage design
29 April – 9 July 2017
The display in the Great Exhibition Hall of the LNMA introduces visitors to Romans Suta’s painting, graphics and stage design. Although Suta had not received the highest level of training in art, he was a very erudite person with broad interests. Suta endeavoured to introduce more modern art trends in Latvia. He actively promoted the work of Latvian modernists abroad through organised exhibitions and writing about it in the foreign press.
The works on show are commented on by the author himself with quotations from his theoretical texts, letters and writings. The necessary context is provided by episodes from Suta’s remarkable life that in one way or another influenced the themes, stories and execution of his works.
In the Great Hall of the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, visitors will be able to see a lesser known and researched, yet a significant part of Suta’s creative legacy – applied art and design. Noteworthy is that Suta was one of the first enthusiasts in Latvia to develop the links “consumer – manufacturer – artist” purposefully and with the future in mind. In 1937, in his letter to the Chamber of Applied Arts Romans Suta remarks: “In the whole world, particularly with culturally active nations, applied arts occupy a visible place, and they are viewed not only as products of commercial expansion, but also as products carrying a significant moment of cultural propaganda.”
Next to the outstanding heritage of Baltars porcelain crockery which is on the list of the Latvian Cultural Canon, his contribution to the M. S. Kuznetsov Partnership’s Porcelain Factory is showcased. This includes design proposals for porcelain ware decoration and new forms for products, as well as decorative ceramic vessels which have never previously been displayed so magnificently. Sketches of glass ware and the only crystal vase, preserved till this day in the collection of the National History Museum of Latvia, testify to the artist’s aspirations to promote production at the Iļģuciems Glass Factory. The exhibited sketches provide also an insight into his constructive and functional approach within the field of interior decoration, as unfortunately almost all public interior decorations and furnishings created by Suta have perished.
The master’s artistic heritage has not lost its relevance today. This is evidenced by the fact that great interest was shown in the design of the project by teachers and students of the Art Academy of Latvia and the Riga Design and Art Secondary School. In order to view the work of Romans Suta from a 21st century perspective, along with original artworks, the display is complemented by contemporary artists’ “readings” on the theme – reconstruction of Baltars salon’s furniture and a special video animation based on Suta’s sketches.
The Latvian National Museum of Art expresses gratitude to the National History Museum of Latvia, the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation, the Museum of Literature and Music, the Latvian Academy of Culture / Eduards Smiļģis Museum of Theatre, the State Archive of the National Archive of Latvia, the Art Academy of Latvia, the Riga Design and Art Secondary School, Pēteris Avens’ Charity Foundation Generation, Igor Bass, Ludmila Neimisheva, the Zuzāns family, Andris Kļaviņš, Jānis Siliņš, Rimma Pancehovska, Pēteris Sliede, Agnese Rūtena, Juris Sils, Agris Tauriņš, Jānis Liniņš and the company Dekorāciju darbnīca Ltd.
Dr. art. Natalia Yevseyeva, Curator of the LNMA exposition,
Head of the Romans Suta and Aleksandra Beļcova Museum / Latvian National Museum of Art
Inese Baranovska, Curator of the MDAD exposition,
Head of the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design / Latvian National Museum of Art
Dace Ļaviņa, Curator of the MDAD exposition,
Curator of the Latvian Ceramics and Porcelain Collection at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design / Latvian National Museum of Art
Anna Heinrihsone, artist, exhibition scenographer at LNMA
Kristians Brekte, artist, exhibition scenographer at MDAD
AUTHOR OF THE UNIFIED GRAPHIC IDENTITY OF THE PROJECT:
Una Bergmane, student at the Functional Design Department of the Art Academy of Latvia