During the second half ofthe 19th century, considerable social, economic and cultural changes took placein Latvia. The traditional agrarian society was transformed into modern societywith its characteristic way of life and values. The beginning of modernisationinvolved many processes – industrialisation, urbanisation, formation of social structures, cultural environment. The ideas of liberalism and individual freedom gained importance in public space. Peoples' places of residence, lifestyle and relationships changed, significantly affecting aesthetics.
With the help of works of art, the Mūkusala Art Salon exhibition Modern Society. Scenes of Urban Life illustrates several episodes of the history of the early 20th century Latvian society, which are related to the period of formation of modern society, putting particular emphasis on episodes of urban life. The rapid process of change, which began in the second half of the 19th century and continued in the first decades of the 20th century, affected all spheres of life, fundamentally altering the society's way of living, which is revealed in the works of art from this period. Latvian artists – participants and shapers of this historical period – with the help of their works have created images of this time, which, in addition to artistic value, encode traces of history. The works included in the exhibition were created from 1900 to 1940, the period also referred to as the first Latvian Republic. For many artists, it was the time of highest artistic achievement, which is commonly included in the golden fund of Latvian art.
The exposition consists of thematic sections, which aim to present the visual model of the urban environment of the turn of the 20th century, whose content is made of images belonging to the city – silhouettes of the growing city, the new city dwellers of various classes, emancipated modern women, newly created green zones and places of entertainment. They can be seen as historical tales created by artists.
Diāna Barčevska, curator of the exhibiton
1. Ādolfs Zārdiņš. Modern Society. 1926 – 1947. Indian ink on paper. 24 x 20 cm. Zuzāns Collection. Photo: Jānis Pipars.
2., 3. Installation view. Photo: Andrejs Strokins