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Wild Souls. Symbolism in the Art of the Baltic States

Wild Souls. Symbolism in the Art of the Baltic States

Time: 12.10.18–03.02.19  10:00–18:00
Location: Kumu exhibition spaces

The high-level exhibition, which is the result of cooperation between the three Baltic states, was initially on display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. And its head curator is Rodolphe Rapetti, the outstanding French researcher of Symbolism.

Almost 150 works by notable artists from the art history of the Baltic countries dating from the late 19thcentury to the 1930s are included in the exhibition. On view are works by Janis Rozentāls, Vilhelms Purvītis, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Kristjan Raud, Nikolai Triik, Konrad Mägi, Oskar Kallis and many other great names of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian art from the collections of four Baltic museums: the Latvian National Museum of Art, Art Museum of Estonia, Lithuanian Art Museum and M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art.

The exhibition reveals the specific features of early 20th-century Baltic Symbolism. The local young artists set out to discover the contemporary art movements in Europe, but also had aspirations to help create their own national identities. Their art often intertwines the international artistic idiom with local folk art and symbols of oral heritage. The idea of creative freedom was brought from Western Europe, along with the belief in the ability of art to express the spiritual levels hidden in people.

The three main themes of the exhibition – Myths and Legends, Soul, and Nature – express the artists’ interest in romantic narratives, people’s individual inner worlds and the mystery of nature. The artists delved into their homelands’ narratives and searched for ways to interpret ancient stories in a contemporary artistic idiom.

The exhibition is accompanied by a voluminous catalogue in Estonian and English. This is the first exhaustive treatment of Baltic Symbolism, which is introduced by Rodolphe Rapetti’s essay “Terra incognita”. Rapetti’s essay is motivated by a desire to introduce the works of the artists from the Baltic countries, which the author considers to be unique in the international context of Symbolism, to the broader art public of Western Europe. In addition to abundant pictorial material, the catalogue includes texts by art researchers from the three Baltic states introducing the works included in the exhibition.

Wild Souls. Symbolism in the Art of the Baltic States has received a grant from Estonia’s Ministry of Culture and it is part of the international cultural programme celebrating the centenary of the Republic of Estonia. The exhibition was initially on display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris from April to mid-July of this year. Almost 250,000 people visited the exhibition.

The Art Museum of Estonia’s foreign exhibition programme started last year, along with the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Within the framework of the foreign exhibition programme, the Estonian contemporary art exhibition The Archaeology of the Screen. The Estonian Example was organised at the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels and the exhibition Konrad Mägi was organised at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome, as cooperative projects of the Art Museum of Estonia and the Organising Committee for Estonia 100. In early 2018, Michel Sittow. Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe was exhibited at the National Gallery, Washington, and later at the Kumu Art Museum. In November, we can look forward to the opening of the exhibition Border Poetics. Estonian Art 1918–2018 at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.


Thu 31.01. – Sat 02.02.2019 in English
Symbolist Art and the Baltic Sea Region, 1880–1930
In connection with the exhibition Wild Souls. Symbolism in the Art of the Baltic States, the Kumu Art Museum and the Estonian Society of Art Historians and Curators organise an international conference highlighting the transcultural networks of Symbolist art across the Baltic Sea Region between 1880 and 1930.

Special opening lecture:
Rodolphe Rapetti, curator of the exhibition Wild souls. Symbolism in the Baltic States, Directorate of Museums of France
Keynote speakers:
Dr. Joep Leerssen, University of Amsterdam
Dr. Michelle Facos, Indiana University
Dr. Kristiāna Ābele, Institute of Art History, Latvian Academy of Arts

Call for papers



Participation with museum ticket 

Curator’s Tour
Sat 20.10.2018 at 4 pm in English
Liis Pählapuu, Curator of the Kumu Art Museum

Art Walk on the exhibition
Sun 30.12.2018 at 3pm
Drop-in guided tour in English
The meeting point is at the museum ticket office; duration 45 min.

Bookable Kumu programmes

Guided Tours
We offer the opportunity to order guided tours in different languages to visit exhibitions.

Konrad Mägi and the Mysticism of Nature
For young people and adults
Gather all of your friends, family or colleagues together, and kill two art birds with one stone! During the supplementary experience programme, a tour will be conducted, along with a professional programme guide, of two Kumu exhibitions: Konrad Mägi and Wild Souls. Symbolism in the Art of the Baltic States. In Konrad Mägi’s paintings, the landscape is often revealed as a mysterious place filled with bewitching and unbridled nature experiences. In their landscape paintings, the Baltic symbolists aspired to express the complex relationship between themselves and nature or humankind and the universe, by experiencing art through unity with the entire biophysical world.
In the second part of the programme, all of the participants will be able to create their own picturesque landscapes and experiment with beautiful colour combinations. Prior art experience is not required, and all of the participants will be able to successfully create colourful landscapes inspired by Konrad Mägi’s landscapes using the hydrographics technique.
Duration of the programme: 2 h
Price: group of 10 or under, 150 €; up to 15 participants for 15 €/person and, up to 20 participants, 13 € per person. Larger groups upon agreement.

Landscapes, Colours and Mägi
For kids
Friends, classmates, and birthday party attendees can have a good time at the Landscapes, Colours and Mägi experience programme. Together they will tour the Kumu exhibitions Konrad Mägi and Wild Souls. Symbolism in the Art of the Baltic States and discuss such topics as: How does an artist communicate the power, beauty and greatness of nature by playing with colours? What emotions are evoked by various paintings of nature?  What memories and experiences are we reminded of by art? How do colours harmonise?
In the second part of the programme, all of the participants will be able to create beautiful landscapes using the hydrographics technique.
Duration: 1.5–2 h
Price: group of 10 or under, 130 €; up to 15 participants for 13 €/person and, up to 20 participants, 11 € per person. Larger groups upon agreement. 

Information and booking Mon–Fri 9am–5pm
Tel. +372 5343 9230
kumu@ekm.ee


Curators: Rodolphe Rapetti and Liis Pählapuu.

Photos of opening of the exhibition “Wild Souls. Symbolism in the Baltic States” at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

The exhibition is part of the programme to celebrate the centennial of the Republic of Estonia.

Johann Walter. Peasant Girl. Ca 1904. Latvian National Museum of Art