Student Fraternity of the Art Academy of Latvia “Dzintarzeme”: Latvian National Art Conservation Policy in Exile (1958–1987)

Agnija Lesničenoka 1
  • 1 Art Academy of Latvia, , Riga, Latvia

Summary

After the proclamation of the Republic of Latvia in 1918, Latvia experienced a rapid influx of youth into its capital city of Riga, looking to obtain education in universities. Students began to build their academic lives and student societies. In 1923, students of the Art Academy of Latvia founded the “Dzintarzeme” (“Amberland”) fraternity. The aim of “Dzintarzeme” was to unite nationally minded students of the Art Academy of Latvia and to promote the development of national art and self-education. Most “Dzintarzeme” members were faithful to the old masters and Latvian art. This phenomenon is significant, because “Dzintarzeme” members grew up with Latvian painting traditions, which are a remarkable heritage of interwar Latvia.

In 1940, when Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union, “Dzintarzeme” was banned. A part of “Dzintarzeme” members were deported, killed in war, went missing, or stayed in the Latvian SSR; the remaining chose exile. Although scattered throughout the United States of America, Canada, and Australia, some members were able to rebuild and sustain the fraternity’s life, gathering its members, organising trips and anniversary art exhibitions.

The aim of this research is to reflect on “Dzintarzeme’s” activities in exile (1958–1987), focusing on the main factors of Latvian national art conservation policy: first, the ability of “Dzintarzeme’s” ideology to preserve the values of Latvian national art in an international environment, and second, the problem of generational change and the enrollment of young Latvian artists who continued to maintain “Dzintarzeme” values in exile.

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