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Southern Estonian Landscape

Richard Uutmaa Southern Estonian Landscape 1944 oil, canvas 60 × 92 cm

Unlike most of the artists who painted southern Estonia, that neck of the woods was not familiar or homelike for Richard Uutmaa. He was born at the seashore along the country’s northern coast and only arrived in southern Estonia as a student at the Pallas School. For this reason it is perhaps no wonder that his gaze at this landscape resembles the perspective that opens up when looking out to sea: instead of the hilly landscape that constantly cuts off the horizon, the artist has cleared all obstructions from the view and our gaze can wander far into the depths of the picture. Belts of forest start resembling sea waves. By dividing up space with the same kind of dynamics, this painting could also be described as a ‘view of the sea on dry land’. Uutmaa has placed a simple work scene beside this dreamy perspective leading on into the distance, thus juxtaposing the ‘lofty’ with the ‘commonplace’. On the one hand we see a dramatic carpet of cloud and an endless divine glimpse of the end of the world, yet in the foreground we notice people bustling about altogether busily in a patch of light, trying to set hay or grain products in place. The artist’s decision to surround this commonplace little scene not only with light, but also with light colouring, and to bring it into the foreground signals that alongside the loftiness of nature, Uutmaa is also able to see something festive in people’s labour which ennobles life. Uutmaa continued with that approach in his works depicting the northern coast as well, where he combined programmatically open views of nature with working people.