Åland Motif

Konrad Mägi Åland Motif 1906 oil, canvas 33 × 26.5 cm

This motif painted on coarse burlap is supposedly the first known painting by Konrad Mägi. He painted it in Åland in the summer of 1906 when he had arrived there after hectic years in St. Petersburg. He had left behind unfinished studies at the Stieglitz school, participation in events of the Revolution of 1905, and intermittent studies at art studios. On the one hand, his life had calmed down to a certain extent in Åland. The edginess of the metropolis and political tensions abated, yet on the other hand, two delights emerged – painting and nature. Delight in the island is reflected in Mägi’s letters. He relishes its tranquil rhythm of life as well as Åland’s scant yet colourful natural settings. On the other hand, he starts painting, evidently following the example of Nikolai Triik and perhaps also under his direct guidance. The painting’s motif is chosen rather randomly, just a clump of trees, and no particular emphasis is placed on nuances or shades in colours. Mägi has painted straightforwardly with the initial delight of the beginner, yet his decision not to capture reality in its realistic abundance of detail, but rather to move towards generalisation, already stands out. Note the green ground surface in front of the clump of trees, for instance, which is first and foremost a field of colour, yet not an exact copy of the natural object. It is difficult to say whether inability or disinclination was behind his decision. Yet on the background of Mägi’s later oeuvre, it can be assumed that Mägi could have been interested in nature from the beginning not thanks to that which can be seen there, but rather thanks to that which cannot be seen there. We could turn our attention separately to the mass of clouds drifting across the sky behind the clump of trees, which already appears to portend Mägi’s later dramatic cloud landscapes.