Unveiling of the Belgian Art Section

On the 15th November 1932, the Belgian Art Department was unveiled at the State Museum of Art at Riga Castle. The substantial gift from Belgian artists was not only a valuable acquisition for the museum collection, but also an unprecedented example of international diplomacy in the life of Latvian art.

In 1932, fifty one works by Belgian artists ended up at the State Museum of Art due to the collaboration between Latvia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in Belgium Jāņis Lazdiņš and the Belgian National Director of Fine Arts and Government Commissioner for Exhibitions Paul Lambotte. Up until 1940, the collection was gradually supplemented by gifts of medals, lace, sculpture and graphics.  


The Latvian State Archive has a draft of a speech by Museum Director Burkards Dzenis in its possession, which he presented at the unveiling of the exposition of Belgian art at the State Museum of Art on the 15th November 1932:


“Highly honourable Mr. President, highly honourable Minister, ladies and gentlemen, today, the flags of the Latvian and Belgian nations are flying next to each other above the entrance to the historical Riga Castle. Latvian society and representations from our allied countries in Riga, have turned up here today to mark the unveiling of the special Belgian Art Department at the Latvian State Museum of Art.


Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for honouring the museum with your attendance at the unveiling of this section, where Belgian modern art is represented richly and beautifully in Latvia. We have been able to unveil the Belgian Department thanks to our many Belgian friends, but in particular due to Belgian Art’s Honorary Director-General Mr. Paul Lambotte’s and our ambassador Mr. J. Lazdiņš’ joint initiative, which was initiated and supported by the activity, rich in merit, of Belgium’s long-standing Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in Latvia, Baron Bellys de Fanson and his untiring regard for the close continual collaboration between the Latvian and Belgian people; but, a very special thanks is due to the large family of Belgian artists who have presented this beautiful, generous endowment to Latvia. [..] I must add here, with pleasure, that this is already the second time that we have been considered in this respect by the Belgian people: The first time, the famous Belgian Army bestowed a very valuable collection to our nation’s Independence Battles or War Museum; now, Belgian knights of the spirit have come to us, bringing us visions of images by Belgian prodigies from the land of beautiful dreams and beauty. [..] Taking all of this into account, this little corner of Belgian art, for us, will continue to be very dear to the people, and I hope, will also be stimulating for our artists. Therefore, a sincere thanks to all of the initiators and makers of this section, but also to you especially, highly honourable Minister.


I declare the Belgian Art Department open.”*


* LSA, 1659. f., 1. apr., 39. l., pg. 86.