Landscape with a Red Cloud

Landscape with a Red Cloud

1913–1914Oil on canvas70.4 × 78 cmArt Museum of Estonia

Although this is one of the most dramatic paintings in the Konrad Mägi oeuvre, it is also a realistic one. The apocalyptic display of light above the horizon is probably based on a sunset Mägi saw, where the sun sinking behind the clouds bathes the edges of the clouds in sparkling light; the sun is shining through where the clouds are thinner. Right above the horizon however, the light has dispersed and only the red wavelength is left. The unexpectedness of the sight might have increased the dramatic value for Mägi: the weather conditions and the clouds in particular change quickly in western Saaremaa and the idyllic sky could have turned the colour we see on the painting in just an instant.

Yet Mägi has decided to use an everyday phenomenon not for documentary or decorative, but metaphysical purposes. As a sensitive soul, he has reacted to the emotional affect he got from the extravagant display and later, already at the canvas, amplified it with details in the foreground. The lichen-covered stones are a motif seen throughout his Saaremaa works (he does not depict them in later works) but their colours are even wilder and more contrasting than ordinarily in his Saaremaa paintings, where the landscape has been covered with an even light. Here, dark tones alternate with light ones, giving the painting a very dramatic appearance.

The presence of these kinds of apocalyptic, metaphysical and pantheistic moods in Mägi’s work can be explained by his general sense of the world and aims in art, which he has described in early letters (see Mägi’s letters in this album). This spectacle gave him an emotional shock, the influence of which Mägi believed to transcend the borders of the rational and thus became valuable. Mägi generally only experienced such shocks in nature, which could be explained by his childhood, which he passed largely out-of-doors, or that nature was beyond the control of the human mind. Looking at Mägi’s unpopulated landscapes it is likely this, too, was important for him.