Ginta Gerharde-Upeniece

The role of art in diplomacy and the state’s international representation (1918–1940)


Language: English
Subject(s): History
Page Range: 25-47
No. of Pages: 23
Keywords: , , , ,
Summary/Abstract: Public workers, writers, scientists, artists, politicians, economists, the press and diplomats involved themselves in popularizing their country by spreading information and essential reviews in information offices, media centers and foreign embassies. In the interval from the recognition of the independence of Latvia de facto until its international recognition de iure (1918–1921), issues regarding the proposals made by Zigfrīds Anna Meirovics for the concept of mutual cooperation between the Baltic States became urgent. Therefore the Conference of Baltic States, which took place from August 6 to September 6, 1920, in Jūrmala, was particularly important. In 1925, the Government of France invited Latvia to participate in the International Decorative and Industrial Arts Exhibition. It was right the Paris exhibition where several artists won their first international acclaim. The first national representation of Latvia, a comprehensive art exhibition, took place only in Stockholm in 1927, in the Swedish Artists House. The preparatory work in Latvia for the exhibition was supervised by Vilhelms Purvītis. In the same year 1927, the Riga City Art Museum held Swedish several art exhibitions. The presentation of art work also marked the ongoing development of Swedish – Latvian cooperation, which culminated in the highest level exchange visits of both countries. In 1932, as a result of diplomatic relationships the Latvian State Museum of Art received a donation – a collection of works by Belgian artists, altogether 51 works. Later, in 1935, this was supplemented by a donation of a collection of medals. In Western European countries the ‘marathon’ started with the exhibition in the Oslo Artists’ House in 1933. An exhibition of Latvian art was presented in Warsaw and Krakow, as well as in Helsinki in 1936. In 1937, on an intergovernmental level, exhibitions of Latvian art were displayed in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest; in 1938 – in Copenhagen. Latvia took part in the world art exhibition in Brussels in 1935 with 39 works by 21 artists. Latvian modern art was recognized by critics of that time as the greatest success of the whole international exhibition. ‘Flowers’ by Leo Svemps was acquired by the Brussels Royal Art Museum. The Baltic States organized a joint folk art and ethnographic exposition in the Trokadero Palace in France in 1935. A World Art and Technology Exhibition took place in Paris in 1937. The Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris displayed paintings, sculptures and works of applied arts of Latvian artists from January 27 to March 5, 1939. The exhibition provided an opportunity to get acquainted with Latvian grand masters Vilhelms Purvītis and Jānis Rozentāls, and the new painters who had turned to French art of that time – Jēkabs Kazaks, Jāzeps Grosvalds, Oto Skulme, Uga Skulme, Niklāvs Strunke, Ģederts Eliass, Leo Svempe, etc. Latvian art had gained new, internationally recognized quality in exhibitions abroad in the 1930s. In the dialogue between art and diplomacy Vilhelms Purvītis, the head commissioner of exhibitions and Erasts Šveics, the commissioner, as well as the representatives of the Embassies – diplomats Oļģerds Grosvalds, Kārlis Zariņš, Alfreds Bīlmanis, etc., played an exceptionally important part together with countless helpers in the preparation of the events. World War II and the years of Soviet occupation was a time that severed the recognition of Latvian art in Western Europe. Latvian culture was incorporated into a different ideological channel, and in international cooperation it became dependent on decisions made in Moscow.
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