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150th anniversary of the birth of Janis Rozentāls - the founder of Latvian painting


The anniversary of the birth of this distinguished artist has been included in the UNESCO calendar of celebrations, and an exciting programme of events is being devoted to it throughout the year.

Janis Rozentāls was born on 18 March 1866, in Bebri Farmstead in Saldus Parish, as the seventh child of rural blacksmith Miķelis Rozentāls and his wife, Lavīze. The course of life for this country boy is truly admirable, and his artistic legacy belongs to the golden stock of Latvian painting.

Janis Rozentāls (1866-1916) is one of the founders of the national school of painting and of the modernisers of Baltic art, people who brought Latvian professional art closer to the European level at the crossover point between nineteenth and twentieth centuries. At the time he was one the most influential personalities in the cultural, social, and artistic life of Latvia.

The central event in this anniversary year will be an extensive retrospective exhibition of Janis Rozentāls' works that will be held in the Great Exhibition Hall at the Latvian National Museum of Art, and the exhibition will be held during the second half of the year (between 13 August and 30 October). The museum’s historical building has recently been completely restored and refurbished, giving visitors an opportunity to view the artist’s rich painting legacy. This includes his famous natural landscapes, many of which were painted in his native region of Saldus.

Born in Saldus Parish, the artist later returned there and built his ‘Dream Tower’ - an original building which housed the artist's studio. In honour of the anniversary of this famous artist’s birth, Saldus Museum of History and Art has created a modern exhibition in the Dream Tower, which is dedicated to Janis Rozentāls. The exhibition includes the painter's family photographs and various relics, and there is a unique opportunity to learn about the places Janis Rozentāls immortalised in his landscape paintings.

To learn more about this distinguished painter and intellectual, it is also worth visiting the memorial museum in Riga that is dedicated to covering the lives of Janis Rozentāls and the writer, Rūdolfs Blaumanis. It is located in an apartment that was specially designed for the painter's needs by the prominent Latvian architect, Konstantīns Pēkšēns. This art nouveau building at 12 Alberta Street was designed by Konstantīns Pēkšēns and Eižens Laube, the latter being another great Latvian architect, and it is among the most important art nouveau buildings in Riga.

Visitors to the museum have the opportunity to see the apartment’s art nouveau interior and Janis Rozentāls' art in his own working environment, where many important Latvian cultural personalities of the early twentieth century paid visits, such as the composers Jāzeps Vītols and Emilis Melngailis, the writers Anna Brigadere, Jānis Jaunsudrabiņš, and Kārlis Skalbe, and many others.

Janis Rozentāls was married to Finnish singer Elli Forssell, and he died in Helsinki in 1916.