Urban culture in Latvia has a comparatively short history and is most related to non-Latvian groups, so the connection between national and rural elements have often interested Latvian writers on art. The peasant nation's peculiar world outlook dominated often nationalist-type art history texts. In the Soviet period the peasant culture could be approved as democratic and pertaining to the simple folk; recourses to peasant mentality still resurface in recent studies as well. The origins of Latvian art in the latter half of the 19th century coincided with the dominance of Realism; also most of artists were of countryside origin. The article largely focuses on pieces of theory and criticism, discussing whether urban environment should or could provide motifs for artists and advance (national) creativity. The spectrum of answers is rather diverse and changing, but one can single out the rather leftist modernists'idea of the city as a topical subject allowing for art to reflect the contemporary life, and more traditional authors'interest in the countryside as the true cradle of national specificity. The artist Niklavs Strunke in his passionate manifestoes of the late 1910s promoted the new art and emphasised the architectonic simplicity of street noises and automobile movement, also the writer Andrejs Kurcijs in his theory of Activism spoke about urban themes as a sign of new, contemporary Romanticism. A peculiar and contradictory view of the problems of modernity was proposed by the folklorist Ernests Brastins who synthesised a passeist idealisation of ancient Latvian society and almost Futurist excitement about technological advances. If opinions voiced in the early 1920s contained at least partly optimistic views on the urban development, gradually the city became interpreted as a threat to a truly national creativity, especially after the local authoritarian regime replaced parliamentary democracy in 1934.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.