The Enigma of Painting
Fields and meadows beneath a sky divided by restless cloud formations. Coastlines, lakes, mountains, and forests infused by an almost psychedelic colour aesthetic.
In the spring exhibition, Konrad Mägi – The Enigma of Painting, GL STRAND presents the great Estonian modernist painter, Konrad Mägi (1878-1925).
Konrad Mägi is considered a pioneer of modern painting in Estonia. Despite this, little is known about him outside his national borders.
His career extends over just 20 years but demonstrates an artist who adopted many of his contemporaries’ international artistic tendencies and styles in his lifetime.
He used these methods in a free and personal manner to capture the hidden enigmatic forces of nature on his canvases.
Through 64 selected works, the exhibition focuses on this remarkable colourist, bringing one of the more unknown modernist artists out of the periphery and into the spotlight.
The exhibition, Konrad Mägi – The Enigma of Painting, is curated by Pilvi Kalhama and is a co-production between the Art Museum of Estonia, EMMA (Espoo Museum of Modern Art) and Kunstforeningen GL STRAND.
Mägi was a dedicated artist who painted what he saw, felt and learned on his travels. He developed as an artist amidst the flourishing modernism in the early 1900s. Like many other artists from the peripheries of Europe, he sought out energetic European art centres and communities.
Mägi stayed several times in Paris, where he saw and experienced artworks by artists, whom many compare Mägi with today, including Kandinsky and Gauguin.
Nature was Mägi’s primary inspiration. It was a source of strength and a means of investigating the potential of painting, the human condition and the mystery of life beyond visible reality. He was driven by capturing the experiences, emotions and mood of the landscapes he saw.
The exhibition presents a selection of Mägi’s landscape paintings, which he painted in Norway, Estonia, France (Normandy) and Italy, along with a smaller selection of portraits.
It retrospectively follows Mägi’s extensive and dedicated work with the landscape motif as a catalyst for his interpretations of the modernist stylistic idiom: from the early and significant period in Norway (1908-1910), when he found himself as an artist and painted his Symbolist landscapes; from Estonia (1913-1924), where his style developed from a light post-impressionist style into a more abstract and Kandinsky-like palette; and from Italy (1921-1922), where both Venice and Capri provided the scenery for his paintings in his late productive period.
Mägi grew up in the countryside in southern Estonia, where he attended school briefly. After concluding his art studies in Saint Petersburg in Russia, he went to create his first oil paintings in the popular artists’ colony on Åland in Finland. He studied for a short period at the art school Ateneum in Helsinki, from which his travels took him to France, Norway, Germany and Italy. In 1908 he stayed for a short time in Copenhagen, where he rented an apartment on his way to Norway. After several years of intense travelling in western Europe, Mägi settled in the autumn of 1922 in Estonia. Here, he held an important role as a teacher and co-founder of the first art academy in Estonia, Pallas.