I. Introduction

Inessa Rinke

Art Collecting in Latvia

The first City Art Gallery was managed by Riga Mayor Ludwig Kerkovius (1831-1904) in the late 19th century. He was behind the building of Riga City Art Museum, constructed in the central park ring in 1905 and designed by Wilhelm Neumann (1849-1919).  Other mayors of Riga also invested their resources and devoted their time to art collecting, largely gathering works of German and Dutch Romanticists and later donating them to the city. It was a typical gesture and model of spare-time occupation indicating a certain social status – supporting the city’s culture by collecting art and granting it to the city. This tradition was carried on by Riga Mayor James Armitstead (1826-1879) and Friedrich Wilhelm Brederlo (1779-1862) who left their valuable collections to the city, thus laying foundations for the Museum’s collection. 

The Baltic German circles founded Riga Art Society (Kunstverein zu Riga, 1899-1911); on the threshold of the 20th century it organised exhibitions of German artists’ works, invited guest artists from French Impressionist circles as well as stars of German Symbolism. Society invited to exhibit also talented Latvian artists, like Purvītis and Rozentāls, and Jānis Valters. Society members created private collections and the organisation donated its collection to Riga City Art Museum.

Riga Latvian Society (1868-1940) united Latvian entrepreneurs, manufacturers, contractors and culture figures to promote the flourishing of Latvian culture and economy. In short, it united the young Latvian bourgeoisie intending to take over the reigns of power and influence from the Baltic Germans and administrators of the Russian Empire. The Large Ethnographic Exhibition (1896) was an important event, as it demonstrated archaeological finds, ethnographic materials and artworks related to Latvian culture for the first time.

II. Vilhelms Purvitis as the Symbol ...