Mārtiņš Krūmiņš

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Mārtiņš Krūmiņš at an Exhibit of his Paintings in New York City

Mārtiņš Krūmiņš (March 2, 1900 – 1992) was a Latvian-American Impressionist painter. He left Latvia after World War II and came to the United States in 1950. As Janis Siliņš wrote in a book about Mārtiņš Krūmiņš (Published by the Latvian Humanities and Social Science Association in 1980 and not copyrighted) "Mārtiņš Krūmiņš ... belongs to those artists of his generation, who amidst the changing trends of contemporary art, after thirty years in exile and emigration, as still basically close to and developing the traditions of their homeland art – of the 'Latvian or Riga School'".

Early life[edit]

Mārtiņš Krūmiņš was born in 1900 in Riga, Latvia. His father owned rental cottages along the Baltic Sea and engaged in various forms of business. The family was not wealthy and life was hard. Mārtiņš was a keen observer and the images which he observed as a child – the seashore, the many cloudy, northern days, the fishermen and their boats and work – these influenced his entire life and work. These were the early images upon which his heart opened.

Mārtiņš attended a traditional elementary school in Riga and when the First World War broke out the family moved to the provincial town of Valmiera to escape the advancing front. As the front advanced again, Mārtiņš moved to Valka in Northeast Latvia and when living conditions deteriorated again, Martiņš moved to Irkutsk in Siberia to live with his half sisters and their husbands. Mārtiņš graduated from the Irkutsk Commercial School but as the communist regime came closer and closer and civil ware broke out between the Red and White Armies, a Latvian regiment was formed under the protection of the Allied forces which Mārtiņš joined. An order came for the regiment to go to Siberia and this led to an important adventure for Mārtiņš; exotic places, different cultures, ports in different countries: China, Korea, India, the Suez, the Mediterranean and North Atlantic.

Years of Art Studies, 1929–1942[edit]

Master Class Graduates at the Latvian Art Academy, 1942. Mārtiņš Krūmiņš is seated first on left. Seated in the middle is Professor Vilhelms Purvitis

Martiņš Krumiņš was influenced by the Russian emigre painter, Sergei Vinogradov and studied at Vinogradov's studio from 1929 to 1935. In 1935 Kruminš enrolled in the Latvian Academy of Art and was admitted to Vilhelms Purvītis'[1] masterclass of landscape painting. The Soviet occupation took place in 1940–41 and the communists made changes in the management of the Academy and the German occupation followed in 1941 through 1945. In 1942 M. Krumiņš earned the title of an academic "artist-painter" for his diploma work "Purvciems"

The Years as a Refugee in Germany 1944–1949[edit]

On June 14, 1941, the Soviets deported thousands and thousands of people to Siberia. When the Germans came in, the German gendarmes were arresting people on the street. In October 1944 Mārtiņš Krūmiņš took his roll of canvases and sailed from Liepāja in Latvia to Danzig in Germany with hundreds of other refugees on the same ship. As Hitler's Reich collapsed, Mārtiņš Krūmiņš, as a displaced person, settled in a refugee camp in Augsburg. This was the beginning of productive years as an artist, despite the poor quality and scarcity of painting materials that could be purchased after the war in Germany. J. Silins wrote in his book about Mārtiņš Krūmiņš; "Krumins was well recognized by the German art critics for the simple reason that he was an articulate artist, different from Cezannists, from German and French Expressionists, Surrealists and adepts of Fauvism. A German art critic, H. Kellenbenz, placed the Latvian painter amidst the Western Impressionists with his very personal and restrained palette. Several years later, the art critic of The New York Times judged the same pictures differently; Martins Krumins, whose wintery landscapes are expressionistic."

Mārtiņš Krūmiņš took part in exhibitions organized by the International Refugee Organization in Amsterdam, Hague and Paris and also taught at the Latvian University Extension in Augsburg. In 1950 he sailed for the United States.

In the United States 1950–1992[edit]

In 1950 Mārtiņš Krūmiņš arrived in New York and began a difficult process of adjusting to life in the United States. He did not speak English and now had to secure a job to earn a living and, of course, continue the creative work itself. Compared to the poor quality of artist's materials available in the refugee camp, the canvases and oil paints available in the United States helped his work tremendously, as can be seen from the paintings themselves. Krumins passed the examinations in architectural drawing and worked until his retirement for a company in Elizabeth, New Jersey which, incidentally, has a collection of his paintings at their headquarters in Pennsylvania.

Mārtiņš Krūmiņš has had many individual exhibits of his work throughout the United States, and also in Canada, Sweden and Latvia. He has also taken part in many joint exhibits with other Latvian artists. Some of these were organized by the American-Latvian Association Culture Fund and also the New York Latvian Artists Group. He was also a friend of Latvian-American Artist Lucia Peka. They both lived in New Jersey.

Latvian Diaspora[edit]

Mārtiņš Krūmiņš is part of the Latvian Diaspora – Latvian nationals who produced art outside of Latvia during the Soviet occupation. As more than 200,000 Latvian citizens died during World War II and the Nazi occupation, thousands of Latvians fled the country to become the Diaspora. When these Latvian "Displaced Persons" came to the United States and other western countries, they saw in the subsequent Soviet occupation of their homeland, an effort to eradicate Latvian culture. But resources are now available, in Latvia and abroad, to provide a substantial overview of art from this Latvian Diaspora period. In Latvia the three main institutions responsible for maintaining such information on artists of the Diaspora are the Latvian National Museum of Art, the Latvian Center for Contemporary Art and the Latvian Artists' Union. Together, they have begun to complete the history of European art.



  1. ^ Purvitis Archived July 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.

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