PURVĪTIS, an exhibition dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the outstanding Latvian landscapist Vilhelms Purvītis, will on view in the Great Hall of the main building of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga (Jaņa Rozentāla laukums 1) from 28 May to 9 October 2022.

“The deepest essence of a work of art cannot be grasped and exhausted. (...)
The works of the great masters are eternally beautiful and indestructible through the fact
that they have been created with immense power of the spirit. (...)
Eternally unfathomable beauty issues from a true work of art.”

(Vilhelms Purvītis)

The founder and most ambitious moderniser of national landscape painting, Vilhelms Purvītis (1872–1945) is recognised as one of the key figures in Latvian visual art of the first half of the 20th century. At the turn of the century, this accomplished painter of snow and early northern spring was noticed in St. Petersburg, Paris, Munich, Berlin, Vienna and other European art centres. The best-known representative of Baltic modern art was involved as equal in the latest transformations of the genre of landscape, achieving success abroad, authority in the artistic life of Riga and from then on a consistently high standing in the Latvian art world.

In Latvian art history and public perception, the name of this European Latvian classic has become one of the symbols of national identity. As poetic archetypes, “Purvītis-style” images, motifs and moods retain their presence in our sense and understanding of the landscapes that surround us. The painter’s vision of his native northern nature, as well as his classically composed ideal Latvian landscapes in changing seasons, are considered to be the canon of national landscape.

Purvītis deserves particular recognition as an implementer of the idea of higher artistic education and one of the architects of the cultural policy in the independent Latvian state, as the first rector of the Art Academy of Latvia and head of the Landscape Painting Master Class, and at the same time – as director of the prestigious Riga City Art Museum (now Latvian National Museum of Art), creator of the national art collection and organiser of representative international exhibitions.

This anniversary retrospective dedicated to the landscapist encompasses a selection of works from different periods of his career from the collection of the Latvian National Museum of Art – the largest surviving group of the artist’s paintings and graphic art, which is expanded with exhibits from the collections of Liepāja and Tukums museums and several private collections – including from the Belēvičs family, Andris Kļaviņš, the Zuzāns and others.

Alternating between more traditional painterly expression and one modernised by a multitude of influences, the artistic self-development and stylistic fluctuations of “early” and “late” Purvītis are revealed in the exhibition in the spectrum from plein-air studies and neo-romantic mood landscapes to broad panoramas marked by classical tradition and the composition of a majestic national landscape canon.

With the decision of the 41st session of the UNESCO General Conference adopted in November 2021, Vilhelms Purvītis’ 150th anniversary has been included in the list of celebrations with which UNESCO will be associated in 2022. Promoting international understanding of the diversity and achievements of world culture, UNESCO is marking anniversaries of events that are significant to member countries as well as highlighting personalities who, through their work, have made a significant contribution to the development of education, science and culture.

Text by Aija Brasliņa

Exhibition supported by:
The State Culture Capital Foundation, Riga City Council, GroGlass Ltd., Attēls R Ltd., JSC Riga Wood Baltic, Latvian State Archive of Audiovisual Documents of the National Archives of Latvia

Exhibition curator:
Dr. art. Aija Brasliņa, Head of the Collections and Scientific Research Department and Curator of the Painting Collection (18th – 1st Half of the 20th Century) / Latvian National Museum of Art
Ph: (+371) 67 716 118, E:

Scientific consultant:
Dr. art. Kristiāna Ābele, senior researcher at the Institute of Art History / Art Academy of Latvia

Project manager:
Ieva Kalnača, Head of the Project Management Department / Latvian National Museum of Art
Ph: (+371) 67 716 123, GSM: (+371) 28 325 624, E:

Exhibition design:
Sandra Krastiņa

Graphic design and video:
Mārtiņš Ratniks

Related exhibitions

28.05.2022. - 16.10.2022.
Latvian National Museum of Art