Lake Pühajärv Landscape

Lake Pühajärv Landscape

1920Oil on canvas63 × 77.7 cmArt Museum of Estonia

Of the paintings in the Lake Pühajärv series, this is the only one that has been dated precisely to summer 1920. During this summer, the group of writers no longer gathered at the lake as they had used to: instead, Friedebert Tuglas spent the holiday in Luunja near Tartu, while Artur Adson and Marie Under spent June and July in Kuressaare. Konrad Mägi himself was at the lake only briefly this summer, as he travelled to Kuressaare instead in June and July both to bolster his health and to teach schoolteachers at training courses.

Context that could be traced here is the importance of summer holidays in the first place. Spending summers as leisure time and using it as a source for artistic material was on one hand, consciously or not, a counterweight to the traditions of the generations who preceded Mägi and his contemporaries, for whom summer was the busiest period of work, a time of pragmatic considerations in regard to agricultural work interspersed with various kinds of intense experiences (celebrations, courting rituals, etc.).

On the other hand, an unstructured holiday period could be seen as a nod at the traditions of Baltic German manor folk, and the shaping of a bourgeois hedonistic tradition, which was accompanied by a more distanced relationship to nature. It was a paradoxical movement in that simultaneously dove into and distanced itself from nature. Although they gravitated to natural areas for their holidays, for Mägi and most of his companions, this did not involve perception of nature as a natural environment; rather, nature and perception of nature had become a separate practice –pursuing enjoyment in different forms. Nature was not seen; instead, it was viewed.