The exhibition presents Waldemars Matvejs' paintings from the collection of the Latvian State Art Museum, modern prints made from the artist's negatives, works by his professors from the Petersburg Academy of Arts, members of the Union of Youth association, and documents from the manuscript department of the State Russian Museum, covering the master's life and work. This exhibition is the first joint project by two leading museums of art in the Russian Federation and Latvian Republic. It is supported by Consulate General of Latvian Republic in St Petersburg.
Waldemars Matvejs was born on 13 October 1877 in Riga. He studied at the Third Riga Real College (1892-1895) and in the Blum School of Painting and Drawing (1895-1902). In 1902, after evaluating his drawings, the Petersburg Academy of Arts granted him permission to teach drawing in secondary educational institutions. For a short period of time, Waldemars Matvejs worked as a teacher in the small town of Tukums, in Courland. In 1905, he moved to St Petersburg to continue his art studies.
For about two years Waldemars Matvejs attended a private studio led by the famous painter and pedagogue Jan Ciaglinsky. He also studied at A. Kiselev's (later N. Dubovsky's) workshop at the Academy of Arts. During this period of studies, Waldemars Matvejs led an active public life. In 1906-07, he edited a monthly Vystavochny Vestnik (Exhibition Herald) magazine. He was one of the founding members of the Union of Youth in 1910. This organisation boatsed many future famous members of the Russian avant-garde - Vladimir Tatlin, Olga Rozanova, Kazimir Malevich, Mikhail Larionov amd Natalia Goncharova. Waldemars Matvejs organized an exhibition of the Union of Youth in Riga in summer 1910 and published the Russian Sezession manifesto - one of the first manifestoes of the Russian avant-garde. An article by Waldemars Matvejs, Principles of the New Art, was published in the first and second albums of the Union of Youth in 1912.
From 1907 onwards, Waldemars Matvejs travelled to Europe every year in search of material for his art and writings. In 1914, the Union of Youth published Waldemars Matvejs' books (under the name of Vladimir Markov) - Artistic Principles in Plastic Arts: Texture, The Art of Easter Island and an album of Chinese poetry called Pipe of China. The artist signed all his works under the Russian pseudonym of Vladimir Markov.
Waldemars Matvejs did not manage to graduate from the Academy of Arts. He died a month before his final painting was to be discussed, on 16 (3) May 1914. In 1919, the People's Commissariat for Enlightenment posthumously published a book by Waldemars Matvejs (Vladimir Markov) - The Art of African Americans.
Waldemars Matvejs made an important contribution to the development of the Russian avant-garde. He introduced new topics, primitive sculpture, and oriental vividness into the Russian art of his epoch. He worked on the theory of the new art, scrutinised its plastic principles and organised exhibitions. The issues he was the first to address were later studied for many years and are relevant even today, many decades after his death.