Portrait of Fr.R. Kreutzwald (also In the Distance I See Home Thriving)

Ants Laikmaa Portrait of Fr.R. Kreutzwald (also In the Distance I See Home Thriving) 1924 pastel, paper 76.5 × 60 cm

This work depicts the writer Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, who put together the Estonian epic Kalevipoeg (Son of Kalev) and was an active figure in the Estonian national awakening movement. Laikmaa created the initial version of the work "In the Distance I See Home Thriving" in 1903 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald. The significance of the portrait nevertheless grew beyond that of a simple portrait and its public exposition developed into a manifestation of nationalist moods. Laikmaa has recalled: “We celebrated Kreutzwald’s 100th birthday – our father of song – here and throughout the country in 1903. I painted a picture of Kreutzwald for the occasion where he stands facing the rising dawn with his eyes glistening, as if awaiting a new morning, a new alertness and life and faith for Estonia.”

This painting achieved true grassroots popularity thanks to the colour postcard Laikmaa made in Germany in 1907, which reportedly spread to hundreds of homes. Over the years, Laikmaa painted additional copies of this painting and gave them to Estonian societies and institutions as gifts.

At the same time, the ideologically charged nature of the work is also somewhat problematic insofar as Kreutzwald definitely did not hold out very much hope for the survival of Estonians as a people and culture. It has been written that Kreutzwald was rather sceptical in regard to the spiritual and intellectual development of his compatriots and the preservation of their distinct ethnic traits.