“I am now committed to living for art” Jāzeps Grosvalds. 1891–1920
From 11 November 2023 to 30 March 2024, a major retrospective dedicated to the originator of Latvian modernism Jāzeps Grosvalds, titled I am now committed to living for art, is presented in the Great Hall of the main building of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga (Jaņa Rozentāla laukums 1).
Jāzeps Grosvalds (1891–1920) was a very multifaceted, immensely talented personality about whom it is possible to say that, in essence, all his activities can be considered artistic expression – not only artworks, but also letters, diaries, sumptuous self-made journals, even his modern way of dressing.
The turning point in Jāzeps Grosvalds’ life, which made him mature both as a person and as an artist, was the start of World War I, when, being unable to return to Paris, he became acquainted with other young Latvian artists. Grosvalds, who held the technical ability and broad knowledge of art history of his colleagues in high regard and who himself, in turn, had the opportunity to educate them on the latest artistic trends, was to become the originator of classical modernism in Latvian art, establishing close relationships with his peers and founded the collective Zaļā puķe [The Green Flower]. At the same time, in this moment he became particularly conscious of himself as a representative of the Latvian nation, turning to nationally significant subjects that formed the basis for the modern art of the young Latvian state that was soon to gain its independence. Jāzeps Grosvalds was the first in many respects – with his cycle of World War I refugees, the cycle of Latvian Riflemen, Russian Revolution of 1917, Eastern Cycle based on his own experiences in the territory of Ancient Persia.
The exhibition shows around 400 Jāzeps Grosvalds’ artworks from the collections of Latvian and Swedish museums as well as private collections, among them, more than 150 works from the Värmlands Museum in Karlstad. The presentation is accompanied by extensive research material in various formats, including digital and audio.
The exhibition talks about classical modernism and its emergence in Latvian art, presenting it through the prism of Jāzeps Grosvalds’ evolution into a modern young gentleman, his rather carefree yet creative impulse-driven dandy’s life in Paris and during travels, his transformation into a defender of his homeland and the originator and documenter of nationally important subjects as well as about the significance of the author’s oeuvre for the development of Latvian art in general.
The opening of the exhibition will coincide with the presentation of an exquisite publication produced in collaboration with Neputns Publishing House and editor Laima Slava – Jāzeps Grosvalds’ book Scenes of Persia [Tableaux persans], the manuscript of which was made in Paris in 1919, shortly after the artist’s return from the territory of Persia, while the book itself has only ever been published once, in 1978 in Stockholm. It contains the descriptions of the most vivid observations and experiences from the journey, which directly resonate with the emotions reflected in his Eastern Cycle. The new book is expanded with copious visual material, making this unique work come to life and leaving a contribution that will last beyond the end of the exhibition. The publication is in four languages – the manuscript’s original French, facsimile and translations in Latvian, English and Swedish.
The exhibition is accompanied by a diverse public programme which encompasses questions of art, history, literature, epistolary heritage and others, representing the events and zeitgeist of the entire beginning of the 20th century through Jāzeps Grosvalds’ personality and oeuvre.
* From Jāzeps Grosvalds’ diary entry in January 1912.