Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Two Latvian modernists: Rikovsky and Dannenhirsch

One of the pleasures of the art revue Byblis: Miroir des Arts du Livre et de l'Estampe, of which I now possess a complete run, 1921-1931, is its occasional surveys of graphic art in far-flung corners of Europe, illustrated with original prints. The 35th issue, for instance, has an article entitled L'art graphique moderne en Lettonie by Visvalds Pengerots, and this article is the source of my entire knowledge of Latvian art. The two original prints accompanying the article are by Jury Rikovsky and Bernard Dannenhirsch.

Jury Rikovsky, Les pêcheuses (Fisherwomen)
Wood engraving, 1930

Jury Rikovsky, born in 1893, studied in Paris under André Lhote. He exhibited his first wood engravings in 1930. Rikovsky was influenced by Russian artists of the day such as B. Grigorief and J. Annenkof. I think this wood engraving a very finely-observed study in light and shade. It may be due to Parisian influence that one strap of the younger woman's dress has slipped aside so fetchingly.

Bernard Dannenhirsch, Riga
Linocut, 1930

Bernard Dannenhirsch, born in 1894, was particularly known for his wood engravings and linocuts. In the 1920s, his interest in social affairs was noticeable in cycles such as L'air et la lumière - propriété privé, and his illustrations for Bruno Jasiensky's novel Je brûle Paris. This bleak study in barbed wire and brutal architecture has, I think, an air of social protest about it.

Besides these two, Pengerots writes interestingly about artists such as S. Vidbergs (influenced by Aubrey Beardsley), Niklavs Strunke (a pupil of the Russian artist W. Maté), Romans Suta (who is compared to Grosz), Nicolas Puzirevsky (a pupil of Emil Orlik), Isaac Friedlender (who emigrated to New York), Serge Antonov (who specialised in colour linocuts), the wood engravers Indrikis Zeberinsch and Alexandre von Stromberg, the etchers Théodore Brenson and Jacob Belzens, the engraver Charles Krauze, and the lithographers Vilis Kruminsch and Eugène Klimov.

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