History in Images – Image in History
Location: 3rd floor, B-wing
The exhibition shows how images have, over time, helped to shape the understanding of significant memory places in Estonian history: events, people and symbols. Besides pictures depicting the past, there are works dealing with mythology and heritage, as history is often intertwined with folk poetry and culture.
Pictures are displayed according to the most significant Estonian memory places – the epic Kalevipoeg, Finno-Ugrian origins, Tallinn’s Old Town, the ancient fight for freedom, the St George’s Night Uprising, the War of Mahtra, the 1905 revolution, the Estonian War of Independence, the June 1940 coup, World War I and Estonia regaining independence – and they mark the changing local identity over time. These images also show the impact of transnational motifs on the national interpretation of history: the perception of Estonian history has been influenced by relating to the Baltic-German and Soviet legacy, as well as by international themes and methods.
Understanding history largely relies on images. However, historical images not only tell about the past, but also about the era in which they were created. A wonderful example of this is the three-part panel painted in 1938 by Aleksander Bergman (from 1940, Vardi) for the Estonian Student Society’s building in Tartu and largely destroyed by the Soviet troops in 1940: Kalevipoeg’s Evenings – Blessing of the Flag – Going to the War of Independence. Besides historical events it superbly illustrates the typical ideas and general life of the late 1930s. The painting, over ten metres long, was reconstructed for the exhibition under the supervision of Hilkka Hiiop, a professor at the Estonian Academy of Arts.
The exhibition is paired with the substantial book History in Images – Image in History. National and Transnational Past in Estonian Art. The book summarises the authors’ over five-year-long research on history in images, offering for the first time a comprehensive overview of Estonian historical images, from the early modern period to the present day.
Exhibition curators: Linda Kaljundi and Tiina-Mall Kreem
Exhibition design: Liina Siib
Graphic design: Andres Tali
The exhibition is part of the programme to celebrate the centennial of the Republic of Estonia.