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Portraits and landscapes. Vilis Ridzenieks

The exhibition “Portraits and landscapes” featuring works by Latvian photographer Vilis Ridzenieks from the collection of Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation will be on view from December 12 at the Latvian Museum of Photography.

The exhibition “Portraits and Landscapes” consists of two parts. The section of portraits shows photographs mostly from the famous Vilis and his wife Maria Ridzenieks photo studio “Klio” (1915-1935), trying to draw the wide range of studio’s guests and the artists manner and aesthetic as portraitist. The photographer has tried to catch the nature of the model, the unique and individual that can be read on each face, trying to understand and highlight it.

The work in the photo studio served as a platform for the creative experiments in the landscape genre, which is exhibited in the second part of the exhibition. The exhibition shows four thematically symbolic groups – air, fire, water, and earth – combining the landscapes produced in different time periods and reminding us that Ridzenieks was not only a creator of a man image, but also an excellent landscape photographer. Vilis Ridzenieks was a versatile and vivid personality in the history of Latvian photography in the first half of the 20th century. The photographer was endowed with great workability and a strong sense of mission to capture time, nature and people. Photography in his understanding is an art and, at the same time, a way of recording history. The largest, the most historical and artistically significant part of the heritage of the old photo master Vilis Ridzenieks is preserved in the collection of Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation. The collection was purchased by the museum from the heirs after the author's death. The collection consisting of around 300 photographs made in pigment printing techniques is essential in the context of the history of Latvian art photography. Such old techniques as bromoil print, gum dichromate print etc. which were used by Vilis Ridzenieks in his landscape photographs, were popular in the pictorialism in the early 20th century in order to obtain picturesque effect.

Vilis Ridzenieks (1884 – 1962) – one of the most remarkable Latvian photographers in the first half of the 20th century – widely known as the photographer of the Proclamation Act of the Republic of Latvia, but also a great portraitist and artist. Ridzenieks grew up in a peasant family and started his career as a self-taught photographer. After the 1905 Revolution, he spent time in jail for his political beliefs and activities during the revolution. Later, he fled to St. Petersburg under an alias Aleksandrs Mednis where he became an apprentice for photographer Pavel Alekseyev. After his return to Latvia, Ridzenieks worked for several photographers until he opened his own photo studios “Konkurence” in Ventspils (1910–1915) and later “Klio” in Riga (1915–1935). He was an active member of various associations. He lectured and taught photography courses to students, amateurs and other Latvian photographers. His works have been exhibited and have won prizes at international photography exhibitions.

The exhibition was organized by the exhibition author and curator Lauma Lanceniece, curator Maira Dudareva, Linda Muižniece and Kristaps Tinte.