Venice

Konrad Mägi Venice 1922-1923 oil, cardboard 66 × 51 cm

Konrad Mägi has paid more attention than before to the city, admittedly more precisely a few of its symbolic structures, in this painting in the vertical scale that is somewhat unusual for Mägi. Still, in summary the churches are in the background in this work as well since Mägi has paid altogether more attention to the gondolas. At the same time, the concrete motifs apparently are not the question, rather it lies in a certain direction in particular – this painting is about verticality. We see how not only church towers and their auxiliary towers stretch up into the heights, but also the mast of a sailboat, even the front ends of the gondolas in their own particular way, the little lighthouse standing between them, and also the black cross drawn on the background as an exceedingly enigmatic element. This cross was already added at the time when the painting was being painted since some blue tones used in painting the background have also ended up on it. Nevertheless, this cross is anything but realistic, leaving the impression of an inexplicable impulse on the part of the artist: was this a Konrad Mägi-like reference to mysticism, or was this painting painted later in Tartu according to sketches made in Venice and did Mägi, whose health was rapidly deteriorating, see the symbolism of death in it? Or is the black cross similarly one way of adding verticality to the painting, since the question lies not only in a certain geometrical scale? Rather, verticality denoted religiosity for Mägi, aspiring towards something higher (and better). Hence this painting is also as if only a cityscape at first glance, but the forest of vertical objects aspiring to the heights gives the painting an altogether more serious and even more solemn connotation.