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Pine Trees on the Seashore

Ants Laikmaa Pine Trees on the Seashore 1916 pastel, paper 51.2 × 67 cm

Although this painting is not gigantic, it is one of the largest of Laikmaa’s known works. It is all the more remarkable that the artist has chosen a sparse view of his Estonian homeland as the picture’s motif – he had depicted numerous views of luxuriant, dramatic and lofty southern nature just a few years earlier when he lived and worked on the island of Capri. At the same time, a number of similarities can be seen with views of Capri: the tree trunks of the pine trees along the northern coast and those of the Capri stone pines differ only in nuances.

The same kind of somewhat rounded contour defines the landscape, and a romantic atmosphere prevails with shimmering water and a sunset. Such romanticism was not at all foreign to Laikmaa: for him, the depiction of a landscape often meant the projection of certain feelings into that landscape. The sunset, which acquired an apocalyptic meaning in the paintings of Konrad Mägi or Edvard Munch for instance, is in the case of Laikmaa very clearly meant to romanticise the view and to deeply move the viewer in a sentimental way.
It may possibly make sense to seek the reasons for this emotion in Laikmaa’s biography. Before creating Männid mererannal [Pine Trees on the Seashore], he had lived abroad for years. The aftereffects of the Revolution of 1905 had forced him to leave his homeland. That revolution sent many people of culture into political exile. The revolution was followed by years of travelling around Europe for Laikmaa and it was possible for him return to his homeland only a few years before painting this work. Unlike Konrad Mägi, for instance, or also Eduard Wiiralt, Laikmaa was very much oriented to Estonia when he lived abroad and constantly yearned to return to Estonia. Hence this seems like an entirely logical reason for why someone who was forced to leave home decides after his return to depict his homeland on the background of a romantic evening sunset. This is an idyll that cannot be argued with and which continues an attitude inherent to its time towards Estonia that is full of feeling.

This work belonged to the collection of the writer Jakob Mändmets, who was Laikmaa’s neighbour.