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 Ludolfs Liberts  (1895 - 1959)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: cityscape, landscape

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Ad Code: 3
Ludolfs Liberts
from Auction House Records.
Paris
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following information was submitted in September of 2006 by his granddaughter Rebecca Basden:

LUDOLFS LIBERTS (April 3, 1895 - March 11, 1959)

Ludolfs Liberts, a Latvian artist of international stature, came to America in 1950.  In spite of an insidious physical ailment during the last decade of his life, the artist worked with an unusual intensity and fervor. 

Ludolfs was born in Tirza, a picturesque countryside: of Latvia.  Leaving there. his parents moved to Riga, the capital of Latvia.  The son's first teacher in art was Julius Madernicks, an outstanding master of design.  At the age of sixteen Liberts enrolled in the Stroganoff Art School at Moscow. Next year, with some Latvian friends, he went to Kazan, Russia, and entered the art school.  There Ludolfs received the greatest help from the well known Russian painter, Nicolai I. Feshin.  Liberts had already proven his fine ability for stage design and decorative painting in 1913-14 at the Opera in Kazan (scenery for Carmen, Madame Butterfly, etc.).

His artistic development was interrupted during the five years of the First World War, the Revolution, and Latvian struggles for independence.  As an officer of artillery, Liberts was wounded three times and received decorations for his gallantry.  When he finally returned home, Latvia was by this time an independent state.

A period of hard work, full of sacrifices, began in order to regain the lost years.  Liberts belonged to the vanguard of Latvian artists born about 1890.  Inspired by the national struggle for freedom, this generation was also enthusiastic about the freedom of a new artistic expression.  Mostly influenced by the contemporary French art, the young Latvian artists revolted against academic art and impressionistic naturalism in these dynamic and turbulent years of the twenties.

A feverish worker and prolific in his output, Liberts had his first show in 1923 at the Municipal Museum of Art in Riga.  That was the acme of his stormy early period, marked by expressive constructivism (1921-1923).  Gorgeous colors, sharp, almost metallic, outlines defining the planes are typical for these tumultuous years.  In the ornamental and rythmic patterns of Liberts' pictures appeared cityscapes with red brick-walled factories; viaducts or more idyllic suburban scenes; working people in repose; still lifes with stone-hard pears and apples.  These images were fervent, vital, and at the same time, checked by intellect and will power.

From 1924 to 1930, Liberts' painting exposes two different lines of development: one in easel painting and another in stage design. His splendid career as a stage designer began in 1924 at the National Opera and National Theatre in Riga, then abroad (Kaunas, Helsinki, Malmoe, Zagreb). Liberts also directed several operas.  Altogether he produced approximately eighty stage settings.

The unreal world of ballet. of legendary or fabulous operas and plays has been the proper domain of his scenic creation.  It was a time of powerful unfolding of his romantic fantasy.  Having at its command both perfect artistic and stage techniques.  Ambitious and purposive, with high potency of accomplishment, Liberts formed a fantastic grand style of his own.  He showed an inexhaustible intricacy of bold tracery and filigree, using various motives of curves and angular elements; but, on the other hand, cascades and fountains of brilliant, often intoxicating colors.  Thus everything contributed to marvelous effects in a magic scenery of temples, palaces, and other kinds of architecture; also in enchanted gardens and exotic landscapes, now preserved only in hundreds of his projects.  These projects, perfectly executed in casein, have been on view at many international exhibits of stage design, and in some one-man shows, from 1926 to 1938, in Paris, New York, Philadelphia, Brussels, Berlin, Munich, Barcelona, Zuerich, Cologne, Bonn, Wiesbaden, Vienna, Breslau, Winnepeg, and Ottawa.

Quite different from the stage design is his oil painting of the period. In 1924 Liberts went to Paris on a state scholarship. He studied contemporary French art, the old masters, and he was much impressed by Corot. These studies resulted in a greater calmness of his landscapes, a gradual elimination of linearity, and a transition from gorgeous flat coloring to more unified spatial tones. In 1927 and in 1929 Liberts had one-man shows in Paris and Brussels.

A new development began in 1930, when the artist traveled to the Adriatic Sea and to Venice. The silence and charms of Venice greatly inspired him. Liberts was earlier enchanted by the boulevards of Paris.  Now, at sight of Venice so unique and personal became equally important to the northern artist.  In Venice, Liberts confirmed his painterly style.  It was developed and amplified in the thirties, and carried on through different variations until the end.

An extravert Romanticist and aesthete, Liberts discovered the imagery of his visionary reality.  His rivers, his snowy or blooming meadows of Latvia, and the flowers and fruits of his still lifes are mostly memories or fantasies.  As poetic visions the representations became fantastic and remained vehicles of the artist's mood and his inner life.  Based rather on contrasts, tensions, and dramatists than on harmonious relaxation, Liberts' painting gives some modern flavor to a Baroque-like dynamism.  It seems to have in common with Baroque art a certain outlook on the world as a stage.
 
The unifying agent of Liberts' palette usually is a warm or cool amber in which lie inserts the dominating arabesques and silhouettes of dark bright masses, sometimes enhanced by pure black and pure white.  Amidst the complex texture of this painterly design, he throws in a jewel-like spectral color, now in broad streaks, now in smaller blobs.  Within a turbulent movement of the brush strokes, the painting develops its magic centers.  Liberts has elaborated a remarkable richness and perfection of the vibrating texture, revealing the artist's handwriting.

The versatile and prolific painter has treated different subject matters; however, his highest achievements are the cityscapes.  As a passionate traveler, rambling actually or in imagination, Liberts enchants the dreamlike images of places, towns, and cities making us believe in the existence of his visions. Riga. Venice, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, afterwards New York, to mention a few.  The buildings and the streets with their surroundings reveal in a passing show some inner melodies.  These are eternal melodies of a life accumulated through the centuries and of humanity, exposing ideas and aspirations of Western culture.  So these “symphonies of the cities” become living symbols of the human condition in past and present.

As an independent artist, Liberts has always liked the great dimensions of American life. But, at the same time, he remained deeply rooted in his small native country.  The artist dreamed about remote Latvia. And some snowy landscape which portrays the towers of Riga has to be a symbolic fulfillment of his love and his wishes.

Source:
An article by Janis Silins, Rollins College, in a booklet published in 1960 to accompany a memorial exhibition of the artist's work at the Barbizon Plaza Art Gallery in New York City.                              

Some data on Ludolfs Liberts
Born in Latvia, in 1895; died in New York, in 1959.  In 1936 was appointed director of Latvian Government Printing Office and Mint; Professor at the Latvian Academy of Art, Riga; instructed at the City College of New York.

Awards: Gold Medal, Barcelona, 1929; Gold Medal and Grand Prix, Paris, 1937.

Work: Latvian State Museum of Art, Riga; Municipal Museum of Art, Riga; Latvian Historical Museum, Riga; Theatre Museum, Riga; Art Museums at Tukums and at Talsi, Latvia; Museum of Sevres, France; Musee Jeu de Paume, Paris; Louvre (Pavillon de Marsan ), Paris; Muses des Arts Decoratifs, Paris; Musee Royal de Bruselles, Brussels; New Western Art Museum, Moscow; National Galery, Stockholm; Malmoe Museum, Sweden; Archives des Dances, Paris; Theater-museum & Theater institute at the University of Cologne; National Library, Vienna; Atheneum, Helsinki, Finland; The White House, Washington, D.C.; Public Library, New York; New York Museum of French Arts; Southern College, Lakeland, Florida; Art Center Gallery, Oklahoma City.

Thirteen monographs in five languages devoted to the art of Liberts were published.

Exhibited: Internationally. One-man shows in Latvia, France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Austria, the United States.

Stage Design: More than eighty operas and ballets since 1913 - in Latvia, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Yugoslavia. In 1929 vas appointed stage director and stage designer of the National Opera of Latvia.

He was decorated for his stage designs and paintings by the Swedish, Belgian and Latvian Governments.


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