Passion. The Early Work of Eduard Wiiralt

June 8 – October 21, 2007
Kumu Art Museum, 3rd floor, B-wing


The title and substantive axis of the exhibition, “Passion. The Early Work of Eduard Wiiralt”, points directly to the artist’s etching entitled Passion (also Man and Woman, 1929). In the period prior to his creative turning point in 1933, these so-called root topics, repeated in various techniques and stages of refinement, were encountered almost obsessively in the majority of the artist’s works. This was the time, when Wiiralt, who lived in Paris, thoroughly explored the world of people’s sensual enjoyment—human weakness, sexuality, bursts of the subconscious, nuances of pleasure, social depravity.


The principal part of the exhibition was displayed during last spring-winter at the Félicien Rops Museum in Belgium. The fact that Wiiralt’s work ended up among the works of the famous Belgian-French symbolist reconfirms the striking individuality of Wiiralt’s work. A number of works has been added for the exhibition at the Kumu Art Museum and it includes drawings that are on exhibit for the first time.


All art lovers know that Estonia’s best-loved graphic artist Eduard Wiiralt (1898–1954) was legendarily fruitful and diverse: the number of his impressions reaches 400; there are about a hundred monotypes; and the number of finished and sketchy drawings approaches a thousand. However, as always with talented artists, the question is not in the number of works. The observant and clever Wiiralt, who was also capable of generalization, formulated his observations into artistic and ideological thoughts. The density of thoughts in his works and a rich world of images inspire one to compile new exhibitions. On the one hand, his best-known etchings continue to sustain their attraction even after repeated viewings; on the other hand, they are only the centers for the network of Wiiralt’s images, from which chains of ideas and images branch out.


There are many women in Wiiralt’s art, but they move in a man’s world. They are consigned to being pleasing and tend to be repressed. For the artist, who was reticent by nature, women seemed to be both a symbol of falling and a riddle. So, instead of romantic sensitivity, Wiiralt’s pictures are filled with angels as metaphors for masculine tenderness, crazed people with distorted facial lines or ecstatic creators. Self-deprivation engages, while the fear of it shackles.


Wiiralt’s art always includes a play of symbols, wicked exhaustion, apocalyptic apparitions, a battle with sensuality and a concession thereto, inspiration, and imagination. An imagination that functions through a trained hand and genius. The spirit of the time, art trends, and events in his personal life are woven into a finely textured fabric of creation, which convinces the viewer that etching and drawing became the only totally free sphere for Wiiralt.


The exhibition includes showings of Rein Raamat’s animated film Hell (1983), which is based on the subjects of Wiiralt’s works.

The curator of the exhibition is Tiina Abel and it was designed by Urmas Viik.