Romans Suta (1896–1944) and Jānis Plase (1892–1929). Under the Sign of the ‘Green Crow’
Romans Suta (1896–1944) met the artist Jānis Plase (1892–1929) in 1925, and they formed a partnership. In 1926, Plase helped Suta to produce the set design for the play by Carlo Gozzi, The Princess of Turandot, at the Latvian Theatre in Jelgava. In 1929, they worked together on the Soviet exhibition pavilion at an international industry exhibition in Riga. The two artists also took part in exhibitions staged by the Riga Association of Graphic Artists, drew cartoons for the magazine Hello, and were part of the Green Crow association of artists and litterateurs. Suta and Plase were great friends. For a short period of time, Plase lived at the Baltars salon alongside the family of Suta and Aleksandra Beļcova, and for a short period of time Suta and Plase shared a flat in Stabu Street.
Jānis Plase was a bit older than Romans Suta. They both had academic educations, but Suta clearly played the leading role in the creative tandem. His erudition, authority about artistic issues and stable artistic style influenced Plase’s style, also changing the stylistics, themes and implementation of his art. He moved from Russian Symbolism to Neo-Realism, producing fantastic compositions and images of everyday scenes. Under Suta’s influence, Plase also began to use Indian ink for the purpose of graphic design.
The friendship lasted for some four years until Plase’s premature death, and it was important for Suta. He was very enthusiastic about joining in the activities of the Green Crow association, which involved exhibitions and meetings. He worked with litterateurs, illustrating Aleksandrs Čaks’ Poem About the Cabby in 1930. To a certain extent, Green Crow replaced the important Riga Group of Artists for Suta – one which he had left in 1926.
Green Crow was established in 1925 by Jānis Plase and the artist Kārlis Baltgailis. There are several versions about the name of the group, but it probably has to do with a group of artists that Plase had established a few years earlier in Siberia – Green Cat (the name was based on the example of avant-garde organisations in Russia such as Donkey Tail, Jack of Diamonds, etc. – names that were a bit shocking and also incomprehensible to the lumpenproletariat). Green Cat didn’t last long. Jānis Plase (or Žanis Plase, as he called himself at that time) soon moved from Khabarovsk to the Vladivostok in the Far East, where he met the famous Futurist Wladimir Burliuk. It may be that Jānis Plase tried to do the things that he could not do in the past when he joined Green Crow. He was the heart and soul of the organisation, devoting all of his time and efforts to it. Jānis Plase was responsive, helpful and with an excellent sense of humour. His friends lovingly called him in the diminutive – “Plasītis.”
Green Crow had no clear declarations about art. The slogan was “Bring more into the life of art and more life into art,” but that was implemented rather practically through art exhibitions, the publication of new books and the publication of the organisation’s magazine.
Vivid in the local bohemian life were evening sessions organised by Green Crow. These attracted a great deal of attention because of music, poetry, improvisations, dances, auctions of cartoons drawn by artists on site, and other entertainments. This was all part of the “manifestation of the joy of the green crow.”
This exhibition presents paintings, graphic art and documental materials from the Romans Suta and Aleksandra Beļcova Museum, the Latvian National Museum of Art, and private collections. It offers a look at this exciting period of time in the work of Romans Suta and Jānis Plase, as well as in Latvian culture as such.
Dr. art. Natalya Yevseyeva, Museum of Romans Suta and Aleksandra Belcova / Latvian National Museum of Art