If you are in Riga and like museums and art, don’t miss the Latvian National Museum of Art.
The museum is a quick review of Latvian art history and as culture and history go hand in hand, you’ll get a nice refresher of Latvian history after reading all the mandatory guide books before your trip.
The basic collection is divided into four rooms, each focusing on an era of Latvian art. Here are my favorite pieces from each room.
Johans Valters, 1904: “Lonely Walker”
Professional art in Latvia developed later compared to Western Europe, and the art scene was first dominated by the Baltic Germans.
This painting caught my attention as I thought how I’d soon be the lonely walker of the painting, in the Spanish forests, on my way to Santiago de Compostela.
Jānis Tīdemanis, 1930: “Girl in a Folk Costume”
During the National Awakening, Latvian artists and Latvian themes in art were praised more than ever before.
I love how the Baltic people wear their national costumes with pride, gather thousands of people together to sing their national sons and how they value their traditions… It seems to be the case in all ages, from small children to pensioners. The three small Baltic countries are truly unique. This painting reminded me reminded me of that.
Edgars Iltners, 1982: “My Latvia”
Artists were greatly restricted in their work during the Soviet occupation in Latvia. However, they came up with creative ways to express themselves through symbols and other hidden motifs.
Then there were those who plainly rebelled and got in trouble for it. The heros. I fell in love with this painting with its unicorns and rainbows. Hope and small miracles in desperate times.
Edgars Vērpe, 1989: “Refugee”
My friend in Riga told me that it is a crazy place to live at this time… There aren’t any age-old, well-established ways to spend your freetime and people are open to any ideas and willing to try and create new forms of entertainment. He said there’s something new and exciting always happening and coming up in Riga, and you can definitely notice this even as just a visitor. In the museum, I got the impression that pretty much the same goes for Latvian contemporary art.
I stood in front of this painting for a long time, wondering what the artist wanted to say about refugees. Exceptionally long, leaping legs, naked, no face to be seen, the color of coal and fire… I couldn’t quite make it out, but I’m grateful that I stumbled upon this painting and was able to get lost in my thoughts for a while with it. That’s exactly why I like visiting art museums anyway.
After checking out the exhibitions, I climbed to the roof top terrace of the museum that provides visitors with a stunning view of Riga. I had a great afternoon well worth the 6€. Can’t wait to see what the city has to offer on my next visit.