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Pirita Abbey

Paul Burman Pirita Abbey undated oil, plywood 51 × 71 cm

Paul Burman was a patient at a mental hospital at the time that this painting was completed. Since he was a voluntary patient, so to speak, the hospital’s chief physician, who was also a supporter of Burman, allowed him to undertake long walks that extended farther afield from the territory of the Seewald mental hospital located at the beginning of the current Paldiski Highway. Thus several views of Tallinn’s Old Town by Burman are known, for instance, but Burman also got as far as Pirita on his painting excursions. Several more views of Pirita Abbey are known to have been painted by Burman, since it apparently charmed him with its architectural distinctiveness, but also with its romantic atmosphere, which suited Burman’s emotional nervous system.

“Burman left home with his painter’s box and sheets of plywood or pasteboard, and when he had found a suitable place to sit on a rock or a stump, he set to work,” wrote art scientist Aino Kartna. Jaan Koort’s widow Mari Koort has recalled that when she was in Paris with Paul Burman, a quarter of an hour to one hour was enough for him to finish a painting. He had worked continuously like that, looking at what he was depicting in nature or in the city.