Voldemārs Matvejs

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Also Vladimir Ivanovich Markov; Voldemar Janovič Matvej; Hans Waldemars Yanov Matvejs; Valdemars Matvejs; Voldemārs Matvejs. Latvian artist and theorist, active in Russia.

Born 1877 in Riga. Trained at the Riga art school of Benjamin Blum (1861–1949) before moving to St Petersburg, attending the private studio of I. Tsionglinsky and entering the Academy of Arts in 1906 (until 1914). He studied medieval art, Negro art (sculpture), and French modernism in Italy, Scandinavia, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. As the principal spokesman for the St Petersburg art society, the Union of Youth (1910–14), he 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). 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" [1]. 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. 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 Kruchonykh. Markov's 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. Died 1914 in St Petersburg.

  • 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 (Latvian) [2]