An Arrogant Style of Youth - JugendstilEstonian Institute
Karin Hallas
Furniture design by Teodor Ussisoo Extravagant and attractive Jugendstil (Art Nouveau, Modern) provoked diametrically different opinions at the beginning of the 20th century. Even now researchers still do not agree whether it was only a decorative trend or something more. A short period of being in vogue was followed by sharp criticism; the rehabilitation of Jugendstil began only in the 1970s.

Opposed to the external impressiveness of Historicism and seeking contacts with its own age, including modern building materials and techniques, Jugendstil brought about a real change in architecture. The style was based on the English cottage, where the stress was laid on expediency, orientation by the cardinal points, considered location of rooms, plenty of light and air, and elaborately detailed interiors. At the same time we cannot deny that, considering form, Jugendstil quite often remained exuberant, and perfunctorily decorative, and pursued programmatic innovation, which was sometimes even overstrained. In the fine arts, Jugendstil blended with Symbolism and Naivism; it was characterised by a certain amount of mannerism and decadent snobbery. In architecture it was closely related to the search for identity, but also with the craving for luxury of the bourgeoisie and merchants (the nouveau riche of the time). As a motto l'art pour l'art came into use regarding arts, while architecture could be characterised by the motto l'architecture pour l'architecture.



Furniture design by Teodor Ussisoo Jugendstil arrived in Estonia in the first years of the 20th century, finding expression primarily in the design of books and magazines and in the fine arts. The influence mostly originated in Germany and Finland. Such magazines as Die Jugend, Simplicissimus, The Studio, and others were read in Estonia too, and their modern design found imitators. The Estonian magazines Linda, Rahva Lõbu Leht and others became modernised.


Konrad Mägi. Norwegian landscape The rapid spread of art culture (as well as everything else, from engineering to the labour movement) was strongly influenced by the explosive development of international communication and a steep rise in the publication of art and architecture journals and magazines. World exhibitions developed into the field events of the 'communication boom'. The Paris World Exhibition in 1900 accommodated 50 million visitors. Estonian newspapers paid lively attention to this exhibition. This —century of international communication… (an expression coined by Bernhard Linde in 1912) should also be the background for viewing the programmatic aspiration of the literary circle Noor-Eesti (Young Estonia) towards modern European culture, inspired by similar movements in Finland, Poland, and many other countries.


Villa Ammende These movements were indeed led by young people - they published their first literary collections while still students in high school. Literary collections of 'Young Finland' gave inspiration for a literary anthology, Kiired (1902). The Jugendstil cover illustrations were designed by Gustav Mootse and executed in xylography by Märt Pukits, but the overall design of the anthology copied the Finnish ones. Märt Pukits studied xylography in Leipzig in 1899-1902 and introduced the new style into Estonian magazine design. The Jugendstil vignettes of the Noor-Eesti III Album (1909) were designed by Aleksander Tassa, and the Oriental and erotic drawings in Indian ink of the IV Album (1912) were created by Erik Obermann.


Villa Ammende The Nordic countries exerted a strong influence on artists and architects. Ants Laikmaa, Nikolai Triik, Konrad Mägi, Aleksander Tassa and others drew inspiration from Finland, where they stayed for long periods. Jaan Koort, Nikolai Triik, R. Nyman, Aleksander Tassa and Konrad Mägi travelled in Norway in 1907-8. K. Mägi's Norwegian landscape with a pine (1908-12) is one of the purest Jugendstil paintings in Estonian art at the beginning of the century. Emphatic stylisation, vague dreaminess, elegiac sadness and sometimes even mannerist decorativeness are frequent features of Jugendstil paintings. In the works of Ants Laikmaa, such as Portrait of Marie Under or Capri, Jugendstil blended with Impressionist or even realistic form; in Nikolai Triik's portraits it was mixed with strong outlines and unexpected colour combinations. Oskar Kallis, who died young, created romantic poetical generalisations. The best examples of Jugendstil sculpture were by Jaan Koort.


Vanemuine Theatre in Tartu Jugendstil cultivated decorative form play, and spread widely in design and the applied arts. Aesthetisation of the objective environment, which was, following the English Arts and Crafts Movement, mostly based on applied arts, expressed a protest against increasing factory production. Home design and handicrafts were also promoted in Estonia at the turn of the century. A magazine Käsitööleht ('Handicraft Magazine') first appeared in 1906. Just as in several Scandinavian and Central-European countries (Finland, Norway, Latvia, Hungary, Poland and others) that were still fighting for their own statehood, Jugendstil in Estonia coincided with the new rise of National Romanticism. As it was only a stage of the so-called pre-statehood 'construction of nationality', this nationalism was not based on the idea of a state, but on myths, fairy-tales and legends. These motifs were also depicted in fine arts. Following the Finnish example of a competition for illustrating their national epic Kalevala, Estonian artists were encouraged to find modern visual forms for the Estonian national epic. In 1903 Gustav Suits, the spiritual leader of Noor-Eesti, published a programmatic article 'On fine arts in Estonia and the illustrations of Kalevipoeg', formulating the need to relate style to nationalism, and calling directly upon the need to learn from the Finns.


Manor house in Taagepera The symbiosis of archaic and modern found the liveliest expression in the work of Kristjan Raud. His works of that period are characterised by conscious angular naivism and powerful symbolism. Raud's works on the motifs of Kalevipoeg are mentioned prominently when talking about nationalism in arts. In architecture the first heralds of the new style were the Estonian Students' Society building in Tartu (1902, G. Hellat), the clubhouse of the Luther Factory in Tallinn (1904-1905, Gesellius Lindgren and Eliel Saarinen), and the Ammende villa in Pärnu (1905, F. Mieritz and I. Gerassimov).


Apartment house at Tatari 21b The workers' club of the Luther Plywood Factory was one of the first buildings in the new style in Tallinn, and also the first and only building in Estonia which was designed by the architectural firm of Gesellius, Lindgren & Saarinen. Daring arches lend dynamism to the building, making it more monumental. A remarkable feature of the building is its limestone façade. The stone has been worked in different ways, from robust surfaces to a finely modelled relief depicting a worker. The most perfect and complete expression of Jugendstil can be found in the architecture of villas - here it was possible to realise idealistic dreams of a dwelling as a work of art, making it artistic in every detail. The Ammende villa in Pärnu is an excellent example of such attempts. The heart of the building is a great hall with a fireplace, all other rooms being grouped around this central hall. All details of the villa were executed precisely, from door jambs to ornamented ceilings. But if a certain amount of arrogant sumptuousness can be found in the Ammende villa, another remarkable Jugendstil villa - the Luther villa in Tallinn (Pärnu maantee 67, 1910) - follows restrainedly the national romanticism common in the Nordic countries. The façade of this villa has been built of square blocks of granite and of local limestone of different finish.


House at Pikk 18 The Jugendstil building of the Vanemuine Theatre in Tartu (1906, destroyed in WWII) became the national symbol of Estonia. The Estonian Society demanded the theatre be built in the —new or modern style…. As the architectural firm of Gesellius, Lindgren & Saarinen was already breaking apart at that time, the project of the theatre was ordered from Armas Lindgren. The Vanemuine was built to be national and modern at the same time, its façade was forcefully archaic, the back facade facing the garden was elegantly European. The low arch of the front entrance was flanked by two powerful projections, and the back facade had large small-paned windows, testifying to the influence of Charles Rennie MacIntosh and Joseph Hoffmann. The interior rooms of the theatre were of simple and austere style. The curtains of the theatre were ordered from a master of Finnish art Akseli Gallen-Kallela, but they were not made (probably due to the lack of money). Examples of the Nordic Jugendstil can also be found among the manorhouses of Baltic-Germans. The most beautiful among them is Taagepera Manor in Valga County (1907-1912, Otto Wildau). The building has a lively flexible structure with wide triangular gables and semi-rounded projections and balconies, forming a rhythmical unity.

A modern apartment house in town also had to be in the new style. The house at Tatari 21 b (1912, Karl Burman) represents an early version of a villa-like apartment house. Its asymmetric façade presents a powerful, rounded projection, a spirited half-circle pediment and lively roofline. Austere late Jugendstil, which returned to symmetry and classical compositions, is represented by the Credit Bank building, at Pärnu maantee 10, designed by Eliel Saarinen (1912). This is a superb polyfunctional building, with shops on the ground floor, a bank on the first floor, (now the Ministry of Culture), and spacious flats on the upper floors. The house is centred around an inner courtyard, offering good connection between the wings of the building. A grand staircase with a high arch on the main façade of the building leads to the first floor and to the courtyard, which was decorated by an impressive arcade. The construction of the most modern building in Tallinn at that time was based on an innovative reinforced concrete frame, which enabled large shop windows to be built along the street front on the ground floor.



German Theatre in Tallinn In Tartu, St. Paul's Church was built according to Saarinen's project in 1913-19; it is the only church built by this eminent Finnish architect before he emigrated to the USA. Unfortunately the church was not completed - one wing is still missing. The spire of the tower, destroyed in WWII was restored in 1999.

The development of Jugendstil towards austerity led to Neo-Classicism in the 1910s, also called Jugend-Classicism. Representative of this style is the Estonia Theatre in Tallinn (1913, Lindgren & Lönn). The project submitted to the competition in 1908 still had clear features of Jugendstil, but the building, completed in 1913, was powerfully Neo-Classicist.

The number of Jugendstil buildings is not very large in Estonia, but the existing ones form an expressive list of buildings of different variations of the style, ranging from Historicistic Jugendstil to Neo-Classicist Jugendstil. The common features of them all are a self-conscious striving towards innovation and youthful romanticism, a wish to express in the language of art the inspiring visions of the future and the undecided inconstancy of their time. The century had just begun, all roads were open to innovation, and the slogan of the old nobility —Noblesse oblige… had been replaced by a new one - 'Jeunesse oblige!'



| Estonian Art 2/99 (6) | Published by the Estonian Institute 1999 | ISSN 1406-5711 | einst@einst.ee | tel: (372) 631 43 55 | fax: (372) 631 43 56 |