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Suta, Romanslocked

(b nr Cēsis, April 28, 1896; d Tbilisi, Georgia, July 14, 1944).
  • Mark Allen Svede

Latvian painter, printmaker, ceramicist, interior designer, tage and film set designer and theorist. He was the foremost ideologue for modernism in Latvia and was one of its greatest innovators. His militant defence of avant-garde principles befitted his experience as a soldier and as one of the artists who, after World War I, was denied a studio by the city officials and staged an armed occupation of the former premises of the Riga Art School. At the end of the war he painted in an Expressionist manner: In Church (1917; Riga, priv. col., see Suta, 1975, p. 19), for example, is an exaltation of Gothic form and primitivist rendering. Unlike his peers Jāzeps Grosvalds and Jēkabs Kazaks, he was extremely interested in Cubism and Constructivism, the theories of which informed his paintings, drawings, prints and occasional architectural projects of the 1920s. At this time he and his wife, the painter Aleksandra Beļcova (1892–1981), along with the graphic artist Sigismunds Vidbergs (1890–1970), began ‘Baltars’ (derived from the Latin ars Baltica), a porcelain workshop that produced (1924–9) internationally acclaimed functional ceramics; these united Cubo-Constructivist motifs with Latvian folk subjects (e.g. The Wedding, 1928; Riga, Latv. Mus. F.A.). Such a synthesis was characteristic of Latvian modernism as a whole, but nowhere was it more explicit than in a café in Riga bearing the name ‘Sukubs’, an acronym of the Latvian ‘suprematisms’ and ‘kubisms’; the interior (mid-1920s; destr.), designed by Suta, also expressed its hybrid nature in a combination of modernist styles. In 1920 he was a founder-member of Riga Artists’ group and promoted the modernist work of his fellow members in articles written for numbers 10 and 25 of L’Esprit nouveau. He also wrote 60 Jahre lettischer Kunst (Leipzig, 1923), the first history of contemporary Latvian art to be published abroad. During the 1930s and early 1940s he designed sets for the theatre, opera and film. In his late work he retreated somewhat from modernism, moderating his style in response to more romantic subject-matter, such as that of peasant celebrations (e.g. the Open-air Ball, 1935; Riga, Latv. Mus. F.A.).

Writings

  • 60 Jahre lettischer Kunst (Leipzig, 1923)
  • Contributions to L’Esprit nouveau, 10 (1921), 25 (1924)

Bibliography

  • T. Suta: Romans Suta (Riga, 1975)
  • T. Suta: ‘Im Gleichschritt mit der Avantgarde der Welt: Das schöpferische Werk von Romans Suta’, Unerwartete Begegnung: Lettische Avantgarde, 1910–1935: Der Beitrag Lettlands zur Kunst der Europäischen Moderne (exh. cat., ed. I. Bilzens and others; Berlin, Staatl. Ksthalle, 1990), pp. 45–58