Aleksandra Beļcova

Russian-born artist Aleksandra Beļcova (1892-1981) is known in her homeland only to a narrow circle of specialists. Beļcova lived most of her life in Latvia, where her work was recognized.

Beļcova studied at the Penza Art School (1914-1917), where she met her future husband, the artist Romans Suta (1896-1944), and other young Latvian artists.

After graduating from school in Penza in 1917, Beļcova left for Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), where she entered the Petrograd State Free Art Studio (1918-1919) and studied with the famous avant-garde artist Nathan Altman (1889-1970).

In 1919, at the invitation of Romans Suta, the artist left for Riga, where she quickly entered the local art environment, participating in exhibitions and other projects.

Beļcova is one of the first modernist painters in Latvia.

Through her creative work, she introduced an original interpretation of the principles of modernism and an original perception of the world into the general picture of Latvian art.

In the 1930s, the artistic, cultural and political landscape changed in Latvia. As a result of the coup in 1934, Kārlis Ulmanis came to power. Just like in other European countries, a parliamentary republic was replaced by an authoritarian dictatorship in Latvia.

The centralization of artistic life took place and the so-called “National style” was popularized. Many artists turned to ethnic themes. The modernist quest was no longer relevant. In this situation, Beļcova’s work was outside the fashions of her day – both thematically and in the manner of works.

Being outside the mainstream and rarely participating in exhibitions partly explains the fact that in the 1920s, 1930s and early 1940s, Beļcova received scant attention from critics, wrote relatively little about her work. However, there is another possible reason – the national issue.

In her diary in the 1940s, Beļcova notes that the attitude of local Latvians is detached, but the Soviet Russians do not consider her “theirs” either. At the same time, the artist was not isolated, she had friends and acquaintances of various nationalities.