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"BALTARS" WORKSHOP CHINA 1925–1928

An outstanding expression of classical modernism and art deco in china

"Baltars", the workshop of painted china and faience became an outstanding venue for the expression of ideas of classical modernism and art deco. The founders of the workshop and its leading artists were the painters Romans Suta and Aleksandra Beļcova and the graphic artist Sigismunds Vidbergs; the painters Erasts Šveics and Lūcija Kuršinska also participated. The technical part of the work was carried out under the leadership of Dmitry Abrosimov; the financial support came from the journalist Austra Ozoliņa-Krauze.

At the basis of the collective work of the small workshop was Romans Suta’s idea that Latvia needed a venue for combining contemporary art with the national tradition. Ceramics that had a long history in Latvia had to become part of the new interiors. As opposed to the mass production of the big 19th century factories that imitated foreign forms and decorations as well as to the direct stylizations of ethnographic patterns cultivated by certain ceramicists, "Baltars" strived to find unique form for painted china decorated in the spirit of a generalized Latvian tradition while at the same time expressing the influences of cubism, constructivism, art deco, and other currents in contemporary art. 

In the period from 1925 to 1928, "Baltars" artists created a series of masterpieces that earned international recognition, including two gold and one bronze medal at the prestigious exhibition of decorative arts in Paris in 1925.

Each of the artists had his or her own individual style, yet they shared the ability to fit representations or abstractions in attractive compositions of color planes, lines, and ornaments. Geometrically solid lines and structures were alternating with curvaceous forms, solid colors with sophisticated nuances. The artists varied the compositional regularities, adjusting them to the circular form of a plate or mirror or making them blend in with the total scene, balancing the decoration or making it stand out, freely arranging its elements or making them conform to rhythmic regularity. The motifs were equally varied: abstract geometrical planes reminiscent of cubism, abstract ornaments echoing Latvian traditional patterns, scenes from everyday life or from a carnival; exotic oriental fantasies or reminiscences of Latvia’s tragic history. "Baltars" china represented the collective creativity of outstanding artists appreciated by the contemporaries and nowadays considered the summit of Latvian applied arts.

Eduards Kļaviņš

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