NOBA Nordic Baltic contemporary art platform

The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga (Skārņu iela 10) will present an ambitious exhibition dedicated to Latvia’s Centenary, “The Style of Madernieks”, which will commemorate the 150th birthday of Jūlijs Madernieks, the founder of Latvian decorative arts and design.

An innovator, a reformer, a mentor to young artists, and looking back – one of the first professional Latvian designers. “Ornament adorner”, “the sage of drawing”, and “an outstanding nonconformist” – by the words of his contemporaries. Jūlijs Madernieks (1870–1955) has paved the way for the advancement of Latvian design by creating significant public interiors, working in print graphics, applied graphics, and graphical works of art. He was also a talented teacher and art critic. The creative team of the exhibition reveals the universal diapason of master’s oeuvre and his diverse heritage from the perspective of the 21st century introducing the viewer to the designs of Madernieks’ ornamental compositions and textiles, furniture projects, and examples of decorative graphics.


Jūlijs Madernieks belonged to the generation of Latvian artists in the Rūķis [Gnome] group, who saw the unique character of Latvian professional art developing concurrently with Western European modern art streams. He sought to find opportunities for artistic expression that communicated Art Nouveau aesthetics, which were prevailing in the 20th century. It included the belief that art is present in everything, the search for form in nature, and the efforts of the blooming national romanticism to seek affirmation for national distinctiveness. Later, under the influence of research on ethnographic samples, Madernieks turned to geometric stylization of forms, developing a highly individual style based on the movement of national decorativism. The studies at Paris art school workshops and his extensive international travels added a new dimension to Madernieks’ designs.


Jūlijs Madernieks focused on diverse interior design projects: master developed furniture, various compositions of decorative textiles, wallpaper ornament drawings, designs for ceramics, ironwork, and other interior objects. He continued actively working in interior design also in independent Latvia, after the World War I, and became one of the most respected artists in applied arts. During the Interwar period, Madernieks designed several public interiors. The most notable example was the decorative finishing of the ceilings and walls of the State Chancellery (today – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) created during 1925–1926. This beautiful and ornamentally rich interior decoration has not been preserved.


Jūlijs Madernieks is regarded as the most influential ornamental design and typeface reformer in Latvia, and his achievements still inspire designers today. The master worked in graphic design for print, applied graphics and he was one of the first Latvian artists to focus on the development of graphic design for text.


The story about Jūlijs Madernieks will be carried on by the education programme leading the exhibition. It is divided into several cycles, which touch upon the different angles of the artist’s talent and personality: photography, typeface design, furniture design, and music. There will be an opportunity to get a deeper insight into the spheres of Madernieks’ interests theoretically – in lectures, and practically – in creative workshops. Along with the exhibition, a richly illustrated collection of articles is in the making, where the leading theorists of art and design in Latvia will introduce in-depth the creative contribution of the master.







Gallery name: Museum of Decorative Arts and Design

Address: Skārņu iela 10, Riga

Opening hours: Tue, Thu-Sun 11:00 - 17:00, Wed 11:00 - 19:00

Open: 05.11.2020 - 18.07.2021