Åland Motif

Åland Motif

1906Oil on canvas33 × 26.5 cmEnn Kunila art collection

Konrad Mägi’s oeuvre varied greatly and is usually divided into periods according to the regions where he painted. His Norwegian works make up his first integral period (1908–1910), followed by his Saaremaa period (1913–1914), and one in Viljandi and southern Estonian (1915–1920) with a sub-group comprised of works painted around Lake Pühajärv and Otepää (1918–1920), his Italian period (1922–1923) and the Lake Saadjärv summers (1923–1924). In addition, nestled between these periods are shorter segments that do not amount to full-fledged periods, and still lifes and portraits, which Mägi painted across different periods.

This work is claimed to be the first known Konrad Mägi painting. It was painted in the Åland Islands between Finland and Sweden. After studying sculpture at Stieglitz Art Academy in St. Petersburg and leaving during the 1905 Revolution, Mägi arrived in the islands in May 1906. On 19 May he wrote a friend: “I made it safely. The farmers here are all Swedes and live like Estonian manor owners. I generally like it here except it is sometimes a little cold. I’m thinking of staying here for a few months, and where I will be after that I don’t know. Live well!”

Mägi spent several months on the islands. Other Estonians were here as well, including painter Nikolai Triik (1884–1940), on whose initiative Mägi probably came to the islands in the first place. Triik, six years Mägi’s junior and completely different in personality, was one of Mägi’s closest friends up to the end of his days and an influence on many of his life and art choices. Among the most important influences was the fact that Mägi began painting at all on the Åland Islands. It was there that Mägi painted his first works, hanging them in his room.

The work was painted on a fairly rough substrate and is small in size, attributable to the meagre conditions.

In this painting, we see a typical Mägi nature motif. The clouds are worth noting, as they already have some of the tension characteristic of Mägi’s work. But the painting style also has a number of aspects that are hard to call characteristic – compared to drawings and watercolours from the same period, Mägi’s approach is surprisingly ponderous here. At the same time, Mägi underwent significant change in his painting styles and this is, as noted, one of his very first works.