Lake Pühajärv

Lake Pühajärv

1918–1920Oil on canvas51.5 × 67.5 cmArt Museum of Estonia

The way Konrad Mägi’s works emulate reality is changeable. In his very first paintings from his Norwegian period, Mägi works in almost an abstract fashion on small surfaces, blurring outlines, generalizing forms, putting emphasis on abstract colour combinations.

When he worked on Saaremaa, we see the presence of the abstract on a number of paintings, yet similarly to the Norwegian period, there are works where reality was copied quite realistically, manipulating forms, dramaturgy and suchlike, yet not actually branching off from reality. Generally speaking, these two impulses have intermingled in early Mägi work, and there is no point in looking for any clear exceptions in any one painting.

In the mid-1910s, the level of abstraction generally diminished. At that time, Mägi did much work in the portrait genre, and even in still lifes and Võrumaa landscapes, he preferred fidelity to reality. If we were to speculate on the reasons for this type of change, the influence of photography might come to mind, yet this is highly doubtful. We can also suppose that there is link between Mägi’s settling down and being drawn to reality. Now, living in Tartu or Viljandi, no longer constantly deriving fresh impulses from world avant-garde, there may have been a withering of sources of creative inspiration, resulting in a move closer to reality. We can only speculate about other reasons seated in creative psychology. Mägi years of peregrination were over, he now moved in very domestic landscapes, gone was the emotional affect that the foreign nature forms had once produced in him and which could have invited a drift into abstract.

In many cases, the Lake Pühajärv landscapes are adjacent to a realistic style of depiction, especially when it comes to landscape forms, since fantasies have been exiled to cloud formations. This work is an exception to the rule. Here we see abstract forms in the landscape itself and although the motif is recognizable, there are a number of ways that the painting diverges from reality.