Kurts Fridrihsons Collection
The collection of 1,476 paintings in water-colours by Kurts Fridrihsons made during his imprisonment in the Gulag in 1951-1956 is only part of the 3,500 artworks he produced during his time in the Gulag. A part of works depict Gulag camp and its environments, but the most of them reflect associations with literature and drama, and are testimony of artist's effort to dissociate himself from atmosphere of the camp and to sustain his intellectual interests.
LV-1050 Rīga Raiņa bulvāris 7 , Latvia
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Name of collection
- Water-color paintings by Kurts Fridrihsons - OMF 11035/1-1476
Provenance and cultural activities
Kurts Fridrihsons (1911-1991) was arrested and sentenced in 1951 to 25 years for ‘treason of the Motherland’ together with other Latvian intellectuals. The main charge was that an anti-Soviet group was created at his initiative, and existed in 1945-1947, whose main activity was anti-Soviet propaganda, and especially discussions on the translation into Latvian and the dissemination of the book Retour de l’U.R.S.S., 1936 by André Gide. In reality, a group of his friends met regularly and discussed literature and the arts. For example, the poet Elza Stērste (1885-1976) recalled that she twice gave lectures at these meetings, about the aesthetics of Baudelaire and about French theatre in the 18th century. Although they discussed mostly West European literature, there were also discussions on Soviet literature, for example, the poetry of Vladimir Mayakovsky. In post-Second World War Riga, which was eventually isolated from any cultural influences from the West, these discussions were like a breath of fresh air. The meetings were not illegal or closed, every participant could bring friends along. During his imprisonment in the Gulag in 1951-1956, in Kamishlag near Omsk, Fridrihsons produced a lot of drawings and paintings in water-colours. The collection under consideration consists of 1476 paintings in water-colours, and was donated to the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia by a niece of his wife, the writer Gundega Repše, in 2003, and by her brother the painter Jānis Spalviņš in 2006. This collection was virtually unknown to the public before 1991.
Description of content
Some of the 1,476 paintings in water-colours were inspired by the environment of the Gulag camps, but for the most part they reflect impressions of literary works, his memories of places he visited before his arrest (such as Paris), images of the Central Asia he wisited after the war, etc. Some of his paintings were like love letters to his wife Zenta. The themes and style of the paintings were developed by Fridrihsons after his release from the Gulag in watercolour and felt-tip pen. Fridrihsons was one of the most intellectual and aesthetic Latvian painters, and this collection of paintings is an expression of the intellectual strength and integrity of the artist in the almost unbearable conditions of the Gulag.
- paintings: 1000-
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Date of founding
Place of founding
Latvia, LV-1050, Riga, Raiņa bulvāris 7
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Part of network
Author(s) of this page
- Bleiere, Daina
Kokneviča, Taiga , interview by Bleiere, Daina , October 27, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection