Kumu’s New Exhibition Focuses on Konrad Mägi’s Landscape Views

16 August 2018 ERR
Merit Maarits

An exhibition of Konrad Mägi’s (1878–1925) landscape views will be opened on Thursday, 23 August 2018 at 18:00 at the Kumu Art Museum. Over 40 paintings from the artist’s different creative periods will be on display. His works with dramatic, intense use of colour and sensitive perception of nature will be in focus.

Pühajärv Lake. 1918–1920. Oil, canvas. 52.7 × 68 cm. Author/source: Art Museum of Estonia

For Konrad Mägi, who grew up in Southern Estonia among primeval forests, painting nature was always an attempt to penetrate to the secretive and mysterious forces concealed in nature. Nature and painting nature provided nearly sacral experiences for him since, as an artist with an exceedingly sensitive nature, he continually sought contact with what was beyond reality.

‘There are two ways for how art could incorporate life,’ he once wrote. ‘The convenient way is the road of reason. The steep road that leads over chasms – that is the road of the soul, for which life is deep sleep and an agonising presentiment of different kinds of relationships, different kinds of profundities than the ones that our pitiable reason can penetrate.’

Konrad Mägi’s works already attracted very widespread attention during the artist’s lifetime. Although the display of his works was out of favour for some time in the Soviet era, he turned into a canonical artist of Estonian art history by the end of the 1970s. In recent years, the phenomenon of Mägi has started being appreciated in Western Europe as well: his solo exhibition has been held in Rome, and a selection of his works were exhibited at the Orsay Museum in Paris. Critics abroad have also highlighted Mägi’s uncommon perception of colour and his special relation to nature. The exposition at Kumu is not a retrospective nor does it include all the genres that Mägi cultivated, rather it focuses on his landscape views, beside which works completed on Capri, in Rome and Venice during his Italian period also come to the fore.


Symbolists of the Baltic countries arrive in Kumu from Paris

‘We consider Konrad Mägi to be the most spectacular colourist in art history, an independent creative spirit whose pantheistic view of nature towers over landscape painting, which is so beloved in Estonia. While he was enthusiastic about the creative freedom in art at the start of the century, he always remained sovereign in his creative work. He does not imitate anybody, rather he trusts only his instinct and perception. Konrad Mägi’s oeuvre is a partner in the ranks of the great masters of European modernism,’ said the head of the Art Museum of Estonia, Sirje Helme.

Konrad Mägi’s exhibition is being held as part of the international programme of the celebrations of the centenary of the Republic of Estonia, over the course of which more than 100 events will take place throughout the world during the centennial year. The Art Museum of Estonia’s programme of exhibitions abroad began last year with the start of Estonia’s presidency of the Council of the European Union, within the framework of which the exhibition of contemporary Estonian art Archaeology of the Screen reached the Bozar Art Centre in Brussels, and the major exhibition Konrad Mägi reached the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea through cooperation between the Art Museum of Estonia and the EV100 organising committee.

The cooperative exhibition Michel Sittow. An Estonian Painter in the Courts of Europe was opened at the National Gallery in Washington in January of this year and starting from 8 June, this exhibition can be viewed in the great hall of the Kumu Art Museum. The joint major exhibition of the Baltic states, Symbolism in the Art of the Baltic Countries was opened in April at the Orsay Museum in Paris, and this exhibition can be seen at Kumu in the latter half of 2018. The exhibition Archaeology of the Screen has been open since July.

The curator of the exhibition Konrad Mägi is Eero Epner, the exhibition’s coordinator is Liis Pählapuu, the designer of the exhibition is Tõnis Saadoja, and its graphic designer is Kätlin Tischler.