Kasaritsa Landscape

Kasaritsa Landscape

1916–1917Oil on canvas51.8 × 64.6 cmMuseum of Viljandi

Konrad Mägi arrived in Kasaritsa, about ten kilometres south of Võru, in summer 1916, after a perfect stranger, a judge by the name of Martin Taevere wrote to him and invited him to stay for the summer to restore his health. Taevere had dabbled in art in his youth (painting altar scenes, among others), but after studying law, was the chief judge of the second rural court of Võru, and became a Supreme Court justice a few years later. In the middle of the 1910s, Taevere again got into painting.

Taevere’s decision to invite Mägi to spend the summer at his home was related to news from a local beekeeper that Mägi was in poor health. No public information about Mägi’s ailment was provided but the beekeeper’s wife was an acquaintance of Mägi and a few years ago had offered Mägi to stay at her relatives’ home for the winter.

Taevere spent the summer of 1916 at Kurtspalu (Kurtspalo) Farm at the intersection of various roads in Kasaritsa. The farm no longer exists. In the press, it was called Mätlik’s Villa, as it belonged to the Võru-based advocate Konstantin Mätlik, who also spent summers there, and at least in summer 1917, the future judge Elmar Fischer was there – so the house was full of men of the legal profession. A brook called Koreli Stream flowed nearby, and there were many small lakes and small but steep hills in the area.

It isn’t known exactly when Mägi arrived in Kasaritsa, but in late July, several newspapers reported that he had fallen very ill in Kasaritsa. A few days later, in early August, it is reported (once again in several newspapers): “Artist K. Mägi, who is spending the summer holiday in Kasaritsa at Mätlik’s Villa, and had a debilitating stomach ailment, has recovered to the point where, for now, he can continue his work.” The nature of his malady is not known.

Mägi also spent the next summer, in 1917, at Kasaritsa, and possibly later summers. These summers yielded a number of idyllic summer landscapes, characterized by occasional serialism, compositions built through horizontal zones, the substitution of impulsive and affective creative style by a more constructed one. Yet we can also discern the intensification of darker existential views – perhaps due to the illness.

In addition to Kasaritsa, Mägi travelled widely in the region of Võru County, perhaps on foot, and maybe on bicycle (there are reports that a nickel-plated bicycle pump went missing from the villa). He roamed both the nearby vicinity and several dozen kilometres away, near Kanepi. A great many sketches on southern Estonian motifs are extant. Martin Taevere’s memoirs also support the conclusion that Mägi often worked al fresco, producing sketches and also making a start on painting.