Representation of Nature Spirits and Gods in Latvian Art in the First Half of the Twentieth Century


  • Kristine Ogle Latvian Academy of Art



art, Dievturi, photography, Neo-Paganism


Various examples of Latvian art reveal specific appearances of Neo-Pagan concepts. Early in the twentieth century, inspired by Neo-Romanticism, several Latvian intellectuals strove to revive the boundaries with nature. When trying to visualize these notions, artists often felt free to invent new deities, thus expressing their own subjective understanding and feelings instead of strictly following the ideas of ancient religion. The most prominent examples are works created by Janis Rozent?ls and Teodors ?ders. A second wave of such interest came during the 1920s and 1930s when, next to the ambitions of synchronizing with the Western culture or interest about the East, artists focused upon the national religion and actualized its values in the language of art. As a result, rather exotic and peculiar traits of Latvian artistic heritage were incorporated, including renditions of rendering ancient gods (like M?ra, Laima, Dievs, M?rti?š, ?si?š etc.). In an original way, accompanying the common people in their everyday works, they could appear in genre paintings (by J?kabs B?ne, Hilda V?ka, and other). Or they can be displayed singly (for instance, in paintings by Ansis C?rulis)— and in these cases the most intriguing is the choice of the artistic methods by which the viewer is being firmly assured that those beings, dressed in the national costumes, indeed do represent gods.


Alfons, Francis. “M?kslas darba sabiedrisk? noz?me (Societal meaning of an artwork).” Br?v? Zeme, 123 (1931): 5-6.

B?nes, J?kabs. Diary 1912–1950 (Copy). Latvian State Archives. LVA, 1757. f., 3. apr., 16. l., 51. lp.

B?nes, J?kabs. “Latvisk? m?ksla (Latvian art),” In Latvju m?kslinieku biedr?bas darbu kl?sts 1936. gad?, 5–6 (the collection of the Latvian artists’ society in the year 1936) R?ga, 1936.

B?nes, J?kabs. “Reli?ija un m?ksla (Religion and art).” Labietis 2 , (1933): 24–26.

Brasti?š, Arv?ds. “Anša C?ru?a gleznu izst?de (Exhibition of Ansis C?rulis’ works)” Br?v? Zeme 89 (1933): 9.

Brasti?š, Ernests. “Latvisku m?rogu latvi skam dai?umam (Latvian measure for Latvia beauty).” Br?v? Zeme 39 (1940): 9.

Cielava, Skaidr?te. “Glezniec?ba (Painting).” In Latviešu t?lot?ja m?ksla 1860–1940, edited by Skaidr?te Cielava, 302–65. R?ga: Zin?tne, 1986.

Dombrovskis-Dumbr?js, Fr?drihs. “Laikmeta cien?gu m?kslu (Art respective to the epoch).” R?ts, 84 (1934): 15.

Dombrovskis-Dumbr?js, Fr?drihs. “M?kslinieku uzdevums (The artist’s task.).” R?ts 9 (1934): 6.

Dombrovskis-Dumbr?js, Fr?drihs. “Vakardienas m?ksla (Yesterday’s art).” R?ts 223 (1934): 15.

Egl?tis, Anšlavs. “Anša C?ru?a gleznu izst?de valsts v?sturisk? muzej? (Exhibition of Ansis. C?rulis’ paintings at the State History Museum).” Latvijas Kareivis (Latvian soldier), April 8, 1933.

Goba, Alfr?ds. “Latviešu dievest?ba pacels m?kslu (Latvian religion will raise the art.)” Labietis 4 (1934): 55–59.

Lamberga, Dace. “Painter and Draughtsman.” In Ansis C?rulis: Saules pagalmos (Ansis C?rulis: in sun’s courtyards), edited by R?ta Rinka, 292–98. R?ga: Neputns, 2008.

Mednis, Voldem?rs. “Kop?j? latviešu m?kslas darbu izst?de. (General exhibition of Latvian artworks)” Ilustr?ts Žurn?ls 10 (1927): 313.

Muther, Richard. Geschichte der Malerei im XIX Jahrhundert. Bd. 1–3. Munich, 1893–1894.

Pelše, R?dolfs. “K?da m?ksla un vi?as veidi piem?roti tagad?jam laikam (Which art and manners would be appropriate for this time?)” R?ts 69 (1935): 12.

Pelše, Stella. History of Latvian Art Theory: Definitions of Art in the Context of the Prevailing Ideas of the Time (1900–1940). R?ga: Institute of Art History, Latvian Academy of Art, 2007.

Pe??erots, Visvaldis. Lietiš?? grafika (Applied graphics). R?ga, 1925.

Podgaiska, Santa. “Stylisation in the Decorative Art.“ In Ansis C?rulis: Saules pagalmos, edited by R?ta Rinka, 304–13. R?ga: Neputns, 2008.

Puj?te, Inta, and Putni?a-Niedra Anita, eds. Dz?ves palete: Ja?a Rozent?la sarakste (Pallette of life: The correspondence of Janis Rozent?ls). R?ga: Rai?a Literat?ras un m?kslas v?stures muzeja izdevniec?ba “Pils,” 1997.

Puj?te, Inta, ed. Janis Rozent?ls. R?ga: Liesma, 1991.

Pur?ts, Alfr?ds. “Nacion?l?s m?kslas renesansi! (Renaissance of the national art!)” Jaun?k?s Zi?as (The latest news) 147 (1933): 5.

Sili?š, J?nis. “Ansis C?rulis.” Ilustr?ts Žurn?ls 1 (1925): 14.

Skulme, Uga. “Anša C?ru?a glezna ‘Laima.’ (The painting “Laima” by Anša C?ru?a”). Daugava 1 (1938): 1087.



How to Cite

Ogle, K. (2013). Representation of Nature Spirits and Gods in Latvian Art in the First Half of the Twentieth Century. Pomegranate, 14(1), 47–68.