Konrad Mägi –The Enigma of Painting transports viewers into the extraordinarily colourist world of the leading Estonian modernist.

Konrad Mägi, Meditation (Lady in a Landscape), 1915–16. Oil on canvas. © Art Museum of Estonia.
Konrad Mägi, Meditation (Lady in a Landscape), 1915–16. Oil on canvas. © Art Museum of Estonia.

EMMA presents the largest exhibition ever by the Estonian modernist Konrad Mägi (1878–1925). The exhibition showcases some 150 works that highlight Mägi’s expressive power, stunning colourism and uniqueness as an artist of his day.

Konrad Mägi was the most important representative of Estonian modernism and an avantgarde artist who developed a colouristic style entirely his own. The exhibition presents an unprecedented selection of the artist’s surviving paintings, including landscapes and his portraiture gems.  Konrad Mägi –The Enigma of Painting is divided into sections that explore the origins of Mägi’s career, his impressive portraits and his extensive landscape paintings from Finland, Norway, Estonia and Italy – and more.

“Mägi was a cosmopolitan who painted what he saw, experienced and learned on his travels, yet he always presented his own version and interpretation of the art movements of his day, which makes his work fascinating for the contemporary viewer. It is important today to shine the spotlight on talent on the periphery and to understand the true diversity of modernism,” says EMMA’s Museum Director and the curator of the exhibition Pilvi Kalhama.

Seeking connection with European art and identity, Konrad Mägi studied throughout and travelled across the continent, including Helsinki and Åland in Finland, Russia, Norway, France, Italy, Germany and the Estonian countryside.

“Mägi felt he was Nordic at heart, but his palette has the brightness and vivid colours of southern Europe. Colour was everything to him, and I would even venture to say it was the starting point of his art. I hope that the exhibition and accompanying artist book will open up Mägi’s work to a wider audience, both in Finland and internationally.” Kalhama continues.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book, written and edited by Pilvi Kalhama, that examines Mägi’s life and works from new perspectives. In addition to texts by Kalhama, the book includes articles by Mägi’s biographer; dramaturg Eero Epner; art historians Bart PushawKai Stahl and Inka Laine; and meteorologist and writer Seija Paasonen.

Produced in cooperation with the Kumu Art Museum, Konrad Mägi –The Enigma of Painting is, to date, the largest exhibition of the artist’s unique work. The exhibition’s partners, the Art Museum of Estonia (Eesti Kunstimuuseum) and the Konrad Mägi Foundation both work to promote Mägi’s international reputation. The support received from them for the exhibition at EMMA is an important part of that effort. Artworks received on loan are the result of cooperation with the Art Museum of Estonia, Tartu Art Museum, Viljandi Art Museum, Enn Kunila Art Collection, Under and Tuglas Literature Centre and private collections.

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