Voldemārs Matvejs

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Matvejs in c1912.
Born October 13, 1877(1877-10-13)
Riga, Latvia, Russian Empire
Died May 16, 1914(1914-05-16) (aged 36)
St. Petersburg, Russia
Photograph for Matvejs' book The Art of the Easter Island, 1914.
Matvejs in 1912.

Voldemārs Matvejs (Vladimir Ivanovich Markov; Владимир Иванович Марков; Voldemar Janovič Matvej; Hans Waldemars Yanov Matvejs; Valdemars Matvejs) was a Latvian artist and art theorist, active in Russia.

Life and work[edit]

Born 1877 in Riga. In 1895-1902 he studied at the private art school of Benjamin Blum in Riga. For two years he worked as a teacher in Tukums. After that he moved to St. Petersburg and in 1905 entered the Academy of Arts as a student of landscape painting. In 1906-07 he attended the private painting studio of the Polish artist Yan Tsionlinsky. He graduated Academy in autumn 1914. [1]

As the principal spokesman for the St Petersburg art society, the Union of Youth (1910–14), Matvejs published articles defending the group’s artistic experiments, organized its early exhibitions and travelled to western Europe to establish links with the German and French avant-garde (Walden, Kandinsky, Marc). [2]

Matvejs spent on these travels every summer from 1910 to 1913 and he also used them as an opportunity to study medieval art, Negro art (sculpture), and French modernism. In 1909 he visited the Swedish island of Gotland and was fascinated by the medieval city of Visby and the Early Gothic sculptures there. In 1911 he travelled throughout Italy. In 1912 he was in Paris, Berlin and Cologne. The Union of Youth partly subsidised Matvejs' journeys in Europe in the summers of 1912 and 1913. The 1913 journey was especially important for the development of his theoretical essays. Together with his close friend and later wife Varvara Bubnova he visited different collections of the ethnographic museums in Germany, Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, France and Britain. In museums he made notes and took photographs. [3]

In 1910 his programme for the re-examination of the formal principles of art was manifested in two Union of Youth exhibitions in St Petersburg (K.Petrov-Vodkin, N.Goncharova, M.Larionov, D.Burljuk, I.Mashkov) and Riga and in his article "Russian Secession" [4]. He explored the move from Symbolist-Impressionism to Neo-primitivism and the overlap between them, and indicated the continuing emphasis on spiritual content in Russian art combined with the call for a new social and cultural awareness. [5]

In 1912 he took 'Vladimir Markov' as his nom de plume. His article "Principles of the New Art" [Принципы нового искусства] (1912) and his book Creative Principles in the Plastic Arts: Faktura [Принципы творчества в пластических искусствах: Фактура] (1914) recommend an intuitive, subjective approach to art invoked through empathy and altered states of consciousness. Such a position provided a theoretical basis for the new developments in the art of Malevich, Filonov, Rozanova and Larionov (Cubo-Futurism, analytical art and Rayism), as well as the zaum ('transrational') aesthetic promoted by Kruchenykh. Matvejs' last essays—which included analyses of Chinese poetry ("Chinese Pipe", 1914), Easter island sculpture (The Art of the Easter Island, 1914) and African art (Negro Art, 1919)—were grounded in his attempt to redefine the principles of beauty and to re-establish the essential relationship, lost in the alienated world of the Russian art establishment, between modern artists and the world they perceived and experienced; here he concentrated more on plastic and literary principles, analysing creative form from the viewpoint of material conditions and the artist’s psyche. [6]

Matvejs died suddently of peritonitis in 1914 in St Petersburg and was buried in Riga.

Varvara Bubnova wrote a preface to his work Negro Art (1919), and in 1920 introduced to Matvejs' unpublished work Kandinsky, who himself used to correspond with him. Rodchenko, Drevin, Stepanova, Popova (who worked with Bubnova at INKhUK and Tatlin (member of Union of Youth as was Bubnova) were all familiar with his work. [7]


Vladimir Markov, Faktura, 1914, PDF.
  • "Russkiy Setsession", Rizhskaya Mysl' 11-12 (24-5), Aug 1910, No. 908-9, p 3. (Russian)
    • "The Russian Secession: Concerning the Union of Youth Exhibition in Riga", trans. & annot. Jeremy Howard, in Howard, et al., Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism, 2015, pp 157-163. [8] (English)
    • "La Secesión rusa", in Markov, Factura y otros escritos, Madrid: Asimétricas, 2017, pp 88-97. (Spanish)
  • "Printsipy novogo iskusstva" [Принципы нового искусства], Soyuz Molodezhi 1, Apr 1912, pp 5-15, & 2, Jun 1912, pp 5-18. (Russian)
    • Principles of the New Art", trans. & annot. Jeremy Howard, in Howard, et al., Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism, Ashgate, 2015, pp 165-178. [9] (English)
    • "Principios del arte nuevo", in Markov, Factura y otros escritos, Madrid: Asimétricas, 2017, pp 98ff. (Spanish)
  • Printsipy tvorchestva v plasticheskikh iskusstvakh: Faktura [Принципы творчества в пластических искусствах: Фактура], St Petersburg: Soiuz molodezhi (Union of Youth), Jan 1914, 70 pp. Drafted in Autumn 1912. Discussed in Rozanova 2000. (Russian)
    • "Texture Material", trans. Maria Laakso, in Russian Avant-Garde 1910-1930: The G. Costakis Collection, 2, ed. Anna Kafetsi, Athens: National Gallery and Alexandros Soutzos Museum, 1995. (English)
    • "The Principles of Creativity in the Plastic (Visual) Arts: Faktura", trans. & annot. Jeremy Howard, in Howard, et al., Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism, Ashgate, 2015, pp 179-216. [10] (English)
    • "Factura. Principios de creación plástica", in Markov, Factura y otros escritos, Madrid: Asimétricas, 2017, pp 12-87. (Spanish)
  • Svirel kkitaya [Свирель Китая; The Chinese Flute], St. Petersburg: Soiuz molodezhi, 1914. (Russian)
  • Iskusstvo ostrova paskhi [Искусство острова Пасхи; The Art of the Easter Island], St. Petersburg: Soiuz molodezhi, 1914; repr., Moscow: Kniga po trebovaniyu, 2011, 58 pp. [11] (Russian)
  • Iskusstvo negrov [Искусство негров], Peterburg: IZO Narkompros, 1919, 153 pp. 26 х 18 cm, edition of 3000. Commentary: Koshchevskaya (1969). [12] (Russian)
    • "Iskusstvo Negrov, Vladimir Markov, with a Memoir by Varvara Bubnova and Foreword by Levkiy Zheverzheev", trans. Jeremy Howard, annot. Z.S. Strother and Jeremy Howard, in Howard, et al., Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism, Ashgate, 2015, pp 217-252. [13] (English)
  • The Art of Northern Asia, unfinished.
  • "On the 'Principle of Weightiness' in African Sculpture", trans. Jeremy Howard, annot. Jeremy Howard and Z.S. Strother, in Howard, et al., Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism, Ashgate, 2015, pp 253-270. (English)
  • Factura y otros escritos, Madrid: Asimétricas, 2017, 122 pp. [14] (Spanish)


  • Irēna Bužinska, Laima Slava, Voldemārs Matvejs: utställningskatalogen, GotlandsKonstMuseum, 14 april - 18 juni, 2000, Visby: Gotlands Konstmuseum, 2000, 94 pp. (Swedish),(Latvian),(English)
  • Irēna Bužinska (ed.), Voldemārs Matvejs. Raksti. Darbu katalogs. Sarakste. Sastād, Riga, 2002. (Latvian)


  • U. Skulme, "Voldemārs Matvejs", Laikmets 3 (1923), pp 51-52. (Latvian)
  • J. Siliņš, "Voldemārs Matvejs", Illustrēts Žurnāls 5 (1925), pp 141-145. (Latvian)
  • Varvara Bubnova, "Последние годы жизни и работы В.И.Матвея", 1960. (Russian)
  • Varvara Bubnova, "Voldemāra Matveja pēdējie dzīves un darba gadi", Māksla 1 (1968), pp 14-16. (Latvian)
  • T. Haļāpina, "Voldemārs Matvejs", Zvaigzne 3 (1968), p 16. (Latvian)
  • Margit Rowell, "Vladimir Tatlin: Form/Faktura", October 7 (Winter 1978), pp 83-108. (English)
  • J. Paudrat, "Vladimir Markov", Cahiers du musée National d’art Modern histoire & Theorie de l’art 2 (1979), pp 316-318. (French)
  • Evgeny Kovtun, "Владимир Марков и открытие африканского искусства", Памятники культуры: Новые открытия 7 (1980), St. Petersburg, pp 411-416. (Russian)
  • Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, "Faktura to Factography", October, Vol. 30 (Autumn 1984), pp 82-119. (English)
  • Irēna Bužinska, "Daži vārdi par Matveju krievu futūrisma vēsturē", Grāmata 4 (1991), pp 91-92. (Latvian)
  • Irēna Bužinska (ed.), Chteniia Matvei: Sbornik dokladov i materialov po istorii latyshskogo i russkogo avangarda [Чтения Матвеяю Сборник докладов и материалов], Riga: Memoralnyi Muzei Teodora Zalkalna, 1991. (Russian)
  • Irēna Bužinska, "Voldemārs Matvejs", Studija 7 (1999), pp 88-91. (Latvian)
  • Irēna Bužinska, "Dažas piezīmes par Voldemāru Matveju ― gleznotāju, teorētiķi, fotogrāfu", Latvijas Zinātņu Akadēmijas Vēstis 2/3 (2002), pp 30-38. (Latvian)
  • Voldemar Matvey i "Soyuz molodezhi" [Волдемар Матвей и "Союз молодежи"], Moscow: Nauka, 2005, 450 pp. (Russian)
  • Irēna Bužinska, "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], Art History and Theory 13, 2010. [15] (Latvian)
  • Jeremy Howard, Irēna Bužinska, Z.S. Strother, Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism: A Charter for the Avant-Garde, Ashgate, 2015, 318 pp. TOC, Introduction, Index, [16]. (English)
  • Irina Lyubchenko, "Faktura as Noise in Markov and Malevich", Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, Feb 2018. (English)

See also[edit]