Rihards Zariņš (1869–1939) is Latvia’s most prolific and one of our most important graphic artists, whose contribution is recognised as notable not only in Latvia, but also in Russia. The selection of exhibits consists of materials from NLL reading rooms and repositories, and a number of collections, and their diversity reveals the artistic versatility of Zariņš, and the riches in the collections available at the Library.
Among the works by Zariņš – the exhibits – the visitor will find the first edition of Latvju dainas (Latvian Folksongs, 1894) with its cover drawn by the artist, specimens of Latvia’s highest orders (the Lāčplēsis Military Order and the Order of the Three Stars), diplomas, banknotes and coins, featuring an image of Milda, the maiden symbolising Latvia’s freedom, with the coat of arms of the Republic of Latvia alongside her. A special place is given to the seminal edition of Latvju raksti (Latvian Ornamentation). The exhibition is complemented by posters, ex libris, illustrated books and other materials from the collections of the NLL, providing a small but memorable insight into the artist’s productive life.
Born in Vidzeme, the artist left the family home in 1887, going to study in St Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire, and on to further studies at centres of western European art – Berlin, Munich, Vienna and Paris. Subsequently, the outstandingly educated artist began a brilliant career at the Russian Government Printing House (1899–1919). Millions of copies of the artist’s graphic works have been printed. This is particularly worthy of note because the Latvian graphic artist is the author or co-author of most of Russia’s early 20th-century banknotes. But they only represents part of his professional activity in St Petersburg. The exhibition portrays this stage of his career with paper banknotes designed by Zariņš and with a singular bibliographic rarity – a book designed by the artist and published at the behest of Tsar Nicholas II.
At the same time, Zariņš clearly identified himself as a Latvian in a foreign country and was tirelessly interested in Latvian ethnography, folklore, culture and national art, whose development he worked on throughout his life. Zarinš’ artistic activities while studying and working in St Petersburg, his significant commissions, personal initiatives, work as an educator and his contribution to printing after his return to Latvia in 1919, highlight the significant role of Zariņš in developing Latvian national self-confidence, national art and creating Latvia’s visual identity and symbols. With his national stance, great technical aptitude and capacity for work, the artist has cemented his place in the contemporary Latvian cultural space.
Exhibition content: Toms Herings, design – Anete Krūmiņa, project manager – Anda Boluža.
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Open: 20.12.2019 - 30.09.2020