In Search of a New Art: Voldemārs Matvejs at the Crossroads of Exploring Non-European Culture and Scientific discoveries in the Early 20th Century Cover Image
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Nākotnes mākslu meklējot: Voldemārs Matvejs ārpuseiropas kultūru pētniecības un 20. gs. sākuma zinātnes atklājumu krustceļos
In Search of a New Art: Voldemārs Matvejs at the Crossroads of Exploring Non-European Culture and Scientific discoveries in the Early 20th Century

Author(s): Irēna Bužinska
Subject(s): Fine Arts / Performing Arts
Published by: Mākslas vēstures pētījumu atbalsta fonds
Keywords: Voldemārs Matvejs; Vladimir Markov; art theory; philosophy of nature; mysticism; abstractionism; scientific discoveries; colour; line; texture

Summary/Abstract: The early 20th century brought rapid changes in scientific and technological developments, politics, government and social behaviour prompting a radical reassessment of ideas on time, space, reality and value systems developed over centuries. This complex situation was mirrored by similar processes in art. Like the stunning discoveries on both micro and macro levels in many branches of science, the theory and practice of art was also engaged in similar tasks. It seemed important to define both universal and fundamental values of creativity and the specific nature of particular means of formal expression – colour, line, texture, volume, and plane. Theoretical works by Voldemārs Matvejs (1877–1914) – “The Russian Secession” (1910), “The Principles of New Art” (1912), “The Principles of Creativity in Plastic Arts. Texture” (1914), “The Art of the Easter Island” (1914), introduction to the selection of Chinese poetry “Chinese Pipe” (1914) and “Negro Art” (1919) – reflect all the peculiarities of the early 20th century modernism, especially those of the early transformational phase of the Russian avant-garde. The article aims to reveal the significance of several scientific discoveries and terms in the theoretical works of Matvejs and his contemporaries. The article begins with an examination of two sources that influenced Matvejs’ worldview. This developed partly out of the philosophy of nature (Naturphilosophie) of the time, featuring naturalistic overtones partly related to the scientific examining of the human mind. Matvejs’ notebooks contain the name of the German physiologist Max Verworn (1863–1921) who dealt with both experimental physiology and the psychology of art. Some of Verworn’s ideas possibly inspired Matvejs to take up the analysis of creative process in “The Principles of New Art”. Mysticism was of no lesser importance for Matvejs’ theories that endowed every natural process with a mythical significance; in this respect he was hardly unique among the representatives of modernism. The creative process could also be regarded as a kind of form creating ritual. It is important to note that Matvejs was familiar with the German Neo-Kantian philosopher and historian Georg Mehlis’ (1878–1942) work Formen der Mystik.As we know, in the early period of abstractionism, the problems of visual form related to the searches for a romantic and utopian world of spiritual, pre-historic nature came to the foreground in order, according to Matvejs, “to delve into the divine origins of beauty”. The idea of “origins” was related to nature and the effects of the forces of the outer (macro) world. However, it was equally important to find some elementary particle. In early 20th century Russian avant-garde circles “atom” became the keyword but in Matvejs’ case it was “radium” which he used in the manifesto “The Russian Secession”.

  • Issue Year: 2010
  • Issue No: 13
  • Page Range: 35-45
  • Page Count: 11
  • Language: Latvian