Enn Kunila's Art Collection

Aleksander Vardi (1901—1983)

Aleksander Vardi, one of the first students at the Pallas Art School, had a creative career by 1946 that had lasted for over 20 years already and he had gone through several changes in his style. He had attracted widespread attention. Critics related positively to him and called Vardi both a poet and a romantic. A change took place in the 1940’s however: Vardi’s colouring became more threatening and he himself withdrew from artistic life. It has been speculated that the reason for this was that he had worked intensively on a major solo exhibition, which was supposed to be held in 1944. Yet a fire that destroyed Vardi’s studio together with the paintings in it scuttled that plan. This was a moral blow to him in addition to the destruction of a large portion of his works from the 1940’s.

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Aleksander Vardi

Flowers at a Window

1937

oil/canvas

57.5 x 53.0 cm

Still-life is a genre that is also widespread in Estonian art. As a sub-category of still-life, it was popular in the 1930’s to depict flowers on windowsills. For instance, Adamson-Eric had several works depicting a flower vase at his studio window, but Kristjan Teder and many others also created similar works. Aleksander Vardi’s work seeks colours first and foremost. He preferred to study the relationships between different colours over interest in botany or interiors. The scene was more of a pretext than an objective for him. Vardi’s creative work from the latter half of the 1930’s is highly valued – in the opinion of many, this was his strongest period when he achieved notable results by working on the basis of impressionism.

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Aleksander Vardi

Notre Dame de Paris

1937

oil/canvas

46.0 x 61.0 cm

Aleksander Vardi was in Paris twice. He went there for the first time in 1925 and stayed for four years, and went the second time in 1937. His Paris views from his second period there are very well known in art history. The myriad shades of light and nuances of colour are highlighted. “Even the atmosphere in Paris was attractive – slightly foggy, intimate, embracing…Impressionism probably couldn’t have been born anywhere else,” is what Vardi himself has said.

Paris was a place for learning, living and working for very many Estonian artists. When an artist went there, then as a rule it was not for weeks but rather for months and years. At different times, artists such as Konrad Mägi, Nikolai Triik, Jaan Koort, Aleksander Tassa, Erik Obermann, Eduard Wiiralt, Aleksander Vardi, Karl Pärismägi, Jaan Grünberg, Ado Vabbe and many others lived in Paris. The influences and examples of French art attracted them but also the city itself with its distinctive bohemian-poetic atmosphere. Incidentally, Vardi recalls how he listened to Aleksander Tassa’s impressions before travelling to Paris. “Tassa talked and talked, he was a kind of fantasiser…We got a colourful picture of what lay ahead for us and what Paris means for artists. In his elation, Tassa considered only those individuals to be artists who had been to Paris or were at least heading for Paris…”

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Aleksander Vardi

Southern Estonian Landscape

1945

oil/paper

46.0 x 63.0 cm

Southern Estonia was an important place to go painting for many artists who worked in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Since whoever studied at the Pallas art school lived and worked in Tartu, it was easy to go southwards from Tartu on excursions by train or also on foot. The tradition of painting Southern Estonian landscapes began with Konrad Mägi, yet this remained a favourite region for very many artists over the subsequent decades (and also after the Second World War).

While Southern Estonia’s picturesque scenes (gently sloping hills, small lakes) were charming for many artists, Aleksander Vardi has depicted Southern Estonia much like Northern Estonia: as a flat land with sparse brushwood instead of large forests. Anxious clouds express the tension of the times (the painting was completed in 1945), yet instead of a specific natural motif, the painting’s abstract treatment of colour should be focused on. This is not a painting of nature but rather a painting of colours.

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Aleksander Vardi

Female Nude Standing in Greenery

1946

oil/cardboard

71.5 x 49.0 cm

By 1946, Aleksander Vardi’s creative career had lasted for 20 years and he had gone through several changes in his style. He had attracted widespread attention. Critics related positively to him. At the end of the Second World War, however, his style became more serious. Shortly, removal from artistic life and more active painting for political reasons began that was to last about sixty years.

Stylistically speaking, Vardi has been considered one of the most consistent and thorough impressionists in Estonian art. The most distinctive feature of his paintings was the three primary colours from which he derived all the rest of the colours. By virtue of this, his paintings were full of light and air. He also conveyed experiences and impressions of nature through colours, for which reason he was called both a poet and a romantic. The colours he used turned darker and more sombre in the 1940’s, which is connected with wartime. Prior to 1946, Vardi had withdrawn for a long time from artistic life. He did not participate in a single exhibition, yet at the same time, he worked energetically and planned a large solo exhibition. A fire that destroyed Vardi’s studio together with the paintings in it scuttled that plan, and thus few of his works from the 1940’s have survived.

The depiction of nudes in nature was a frequent subject in Vardi’s early work. The aim was not to create erotic, sensual nudes but rather to blend figures and nature together and to convey light and nuances of colour.