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Ex-Libris by Latvian Artists

 3804 objects


The National Library of Latvia holds a unique collection of ex-libris of Latvian artists with around 4,000 items from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century. The collection provides a comprehensive picture of the stylistic features, aesthetic requirements, and current trends of Latvian ex-libris. Some artists are represented by individual works, while collections for others are so complete that their work can be studied monographically on the basis of this collection. The oldest ex-libris in the collection relating to the territory of Latvia and the history of Riga libraries, are the library ex-libris by Johann Samuel von Hollander, Ernst Heidevogel, Johann Zuckerbecker – unique examples of Baroque, Rococo and Classicism ex-libris. The ex-libris of Latvian Art Nouveau, Art Deco or classical Modernism currents are represented by typical works of high artistic quality: ex-libris by Armīns Felkerzāms (1861-1917), Rihards Zariņš (1869-1939), Jūlijs Madernieks (1870-1955), Romans Suta (1896-1944), Niklāvs Strunke (1894-1966), Sigismunds Vidbergs (1890-1970), Nikolajs Puzirevskis (1895-1957), Kārlis Padegs (1911-1940), Aleksejs Jupatovs (1911-1975), and other artists. Only a small number of names and ex-libris represent the 1940s and 1950s. The collection also provides a comprehensive picture of the latest trends in the ex-libris of contemporary Latvia (the past 50 years). The ex-libris art of 1960s-1980s in Latvia is characterized by the works of grand masters Pēteris Upītis (1899-1989), Dzidra Ezergaile (1926-2013), Oto Mednis (1925-1976), Zigurds Zuze (1929-2003), Dainis Rožkalns (1928-2018), Rihards Skrubis (1928 -1995), Jānis Liepiņš (1930-1991), which are relatively comprehensively represented in the library. The national scenes and motifs typical of the Latvian ex-libris are reflected in the works of these artists (addressing the national roots, depicting the unique shades of the national culture, reflecting the mutual relationship between man and nature, folklore traditions, etc.) which they link with the realities of modern existence. A unique section of the collection is a set of ex-libris by Pēteris Martinsons (1931-2013), which includes not only finished works, but also print proofs (including artist's corrections), preliminary drawings, sketches of ideas, and original linoleum sheets. In the last quarter of the century, the harsh conciseness of the post-war period was replaced by sophisticated intellectuality, imaginative associativity, a certain degree of surrealism: Māra Rikmane (1939), Jeļena Antimonova (1945-2002), Anita Jansone-Zirnīte (1945), Elita Viliama (1954), Ruta Jepifanova-Švalbe (1952), Andrejs Māris Eizāns (1952), and others. Ieva Markēviča-Caruka (1964) – one of the most impressive creators of Latvian ex-libris of the 1980s – is continuing the traditions of Latvian woodcarving and linocut, creating modern forms of expression, a new European style based on tense expressive movement, deformation of shapes and lines and, at times, use of bright, expressive colours. The Professor of Art Academy of Latvia Jānis Murovskis (1961) is represented in the collection with an interesting and unusual work (1996) from a series of stylized portrait ex-libris. J. Murovskis' ex-libris is characterized by naive, yet poetic primitivism, playing with flat zones of bright colours, pronounced stylization of shapes and lines. The composition is marked by a high degree of generalization, charming lyricism and a sense of humour. The overall excitement with computer graphics in the 1990s resulted in a completely new system of images based on miraculous transformations and deformations of the drawing, the usage of various photographs and borrowed drawings: Viesturs Staņislavskis (1965), Helena Erte (1962). The tradition of classical coloured etching continues in the works of Natālija Čerņecova (1969). The collection of the National Library of Latvia proves that the contemporary ex-libris is a very complex and diverse phenomenon, which, by linking different styles and trends in graphic art with modern technologies, can be deftly transformed according to the changing taste and societal demands.

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