On 19 September at 16:15 Kadi Polli will defend her doctoral thesis "Kunst der Aufklärung. Kunstliebhaberei und Praktiken des Zeichnens in den Baltischen Provinzen um 1800 / Enlightenment Art. Baltic Dilettanti and Drawing Practices at the Turn of the 19th Century".
Professor PhD Juhan Maiste
Professor PhD Ulrike Plath, Tallinn University
Professor PhD Krista Kodres, Estonian Academy of Arts
PhD Andreas Fülberth (Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)).
This PhD thesis examines the Baltic art field during the Enlightenment, focusing on the amateur pictorial legacy. By turning our attention from the professional-institutional art world, which was still quite limited in the 18th century, to the broader circle of dilettanti, and from artistically high-quality pictures to everyday drawing practices (travel and scientific drawings, cartographical records, pictures related to local history and archaeology, journal vignettes, etc), the sudden increase of art appreciation and drawing skills among the Baltic nobility and educated class in the second half of the 18th century has been traced, along with the noteworthy role played by pictorial media during the Baltic Enlightenment. In the thesis, this change of perspective and a certain re-evaluation of the descriptive patterns related to the local art field help to highlight the special features of Baltic art, by allowing the limited aesthetic quality and the modest creative flight of the early local pictorial legacy to be treated without an inferiority complex and for its inherently Enlightenment-based pragmatic attitude and applied nature to be viewed as one of the main features of Baltic German art culture. Along with the mapping of the local art lovers’ pictorial experiences and prototypes, the topographies of Baltic sights and landscapes that were the most important and most characteristic pictorial genre of the Baltic Enlightenment, and which created the local visual identity, are examined. Various articles explore the aspect of female dilettanti, the theme of art collections and the art market, and provide a view based on the history of mentality as it relates to the various functions and art/artist positions in Baltic society. Attention is separately paid to distinguishing between an artist’s hobby and artist’s profession and the awareness thereof in the Baltic mentality; and to several, cultural self-determinations that developed locally during the Enlightenment, and which continued to feed the amateur, Enlightenment-based and pragmatic attitude toward artistic creation during the 19th century.