Harlequin and Pierrot. Eternal Celebrations – Spirit of the Interwar Era

Commedia dell’arte images in the work of Latvian Modernist painters. Carnivals organized by Latvian artists. Photographs and costumes from the collection of Alexandre Vassiliev

Masks, though not carnival ones, have become part of our everyday lives. The Spanish flu was raging a century ago, and in the wake of the horrors of World War I, people were yearning for joy and merriment. Balls, carnivals, dance evenings, events in honour of various reasons – reading both Latvian and foreign press of that time gives the impression that the 1920s and 1930s were a continuous celebration, one long party between two world wars. The French poet and artist Jean Cocteau called this period “eternal 14 July” – the date of the French national holiday, marking the anniversary of Bastille’s capture, which is considered a symbolic moment of birth of the French Republic. Latvians did not lag behind – in the 1920s and 1930s, every corporation, every association, even government institutions regularly held carnivals. Artists, of course, did the same.

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