For the penultimate pastel painter in this series, I’d like to take you to Estonia, a country on the Baltic coast between Finland, Russia, Sweden and Latvia, to see the art of Ants Laikmaa (1866–1942). Born as Hans Laipman on a farm in rural Estonia in 1866, in the 1890s he trained at the Düsseldorf Art Academy and returned to the capital city of Tallinn just before the end of the nineteenth century.
In the early years of the twentieth century, he travelled widely in Europe, and was a major influence on the development of painting in his home country. Between 1910 and 1912, he lived on the island of Capri and in Tunisia, where he painted many pastel landscapes.
Meanwhile, Estonia was in the process of change. Long a divided land within the Russian Empire, the 1905 and 1917 Russian Revolutions brought oppression, transportation to Siberia, and finally a declaration of independence in 1918. That was followed by the War of Independence from Soviet Russia, settled by the Tartu Peace Treaty in 1920, which established Estonia’s future as an independent nation.
His Capri Landscape from 1910 is unusual for showing the interior of the island, with its scattered white houses.
Night Motif from Capri from the same year is more of an impression of the coast, dotted with lights.
At some time between 1910-12, he painted this Tunisian Landscape.
View from Capri (1911-12) shows the island’s rocky coast.
In 1913, towards the end of a tour of the major art cities of Europe, he visited the city of Berlin.
He painted this Landscape with a Farm or Saaremaa Landscape in 1914. Saaremaa is the largest island in Estonia, and lies off its western coast, in the Baltic Sea. Laikmaa’s view is almost tropical, with this semi-derelict farm by the beach standing in deep serenity near the water’s edge.
His portrait of this Tunisian Girl, or a Bedouin Woman in White, was painted in 1914, suggesting that he may have returned to North Africa then.
The following year, during the Great War, he painted this more colourful Portrait of a Bedouin Woman (1915).
Late in the summer of 1915, he painted this Landscape with Grain Fields with its unusual gold and green clouds echoing the land below them.
Taebla-Nõmme from 1918 shows a more substantial farm near the west coast of the Estonian mainland. His sky is again rich in colour.
Talk about a Farm (1919) shows a grand country mansion reflected in its large lake.
As the Estonian nation developed, Laikmaa documented its people, for example in this portrait of Selma from 1922.
He painted this farm in its Early Spring Landscape in 1923.
Laikmaa also painted many fine portraits. Among them is this posthumous Portrait of Fr. R. Kreutzwald, also known as In the Distance I See Home Thriving (1924). Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald (1803-1882) is the father of Estonian national literature, and in addition to being a distinguished physician, he is the author of the national epic Kalevipoeg which is closely related to the Finnish epic, the Kalevala.
He painted this Self-portrait in 1925, when he was in his late fifties.
This Girl in National Costume, painted in 1929, is one of his finest later works.
In 1932, Laikmaa settled near Taebla in this farmhouse, which he designed himself, and is now a museum.
He painted this winter Taebla Landscape in 1936, close to his home.
Laikmaa died in 1942, and his pastels are now in several of the art museums and private collections of Estonia.