Original selfies among the exhibits at the Curonian Spit History Museum

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2019-07-12

The heritage of Nida Art Colony which was known as the paradise of artists at the turn of the 20th century attracts interest from both art lovers and researchers till this day. An opening of the exhibition centred around the topic of Nida Art Colony will be held at the Curonian Spit History Museum in Nida on 14 July (Monday) at 6:00 p.m. It will explore the topic from a different angle, i. e. through the lens of the history of the female creators that resided there. This exhibition is part of the 23rdThomas Mann Festival programme.

Up until 1945, when the history of Nida Art Colony, which had spanned almost one century, was interrupted by the Second World War, over 200 painters had resided in this remote fishermen’s village, half of whom had come from East Prussia, as estimated by art critic Kristina Jokubavičienė. Nida was first discovered by writers; they were later joined by painters. The professors and their students at Königsberg Academy of Arts were particularly active in pursuing artistic activities at Nida Colony.

Among them was painter and graphic designer Anna Michelau (1872–1931) who spent the better part of her early creative career in Nida. Anna started studying in Berlin before transferring to Königsberg Academy of Arts to continue her studies. Her younger sister, Helene Michelau (1880–1967), was also artistic by nature: she studied at Photography School in Berlin and later founded a photography atelier in Rostock, specialising in artistic and scientific photography.

In 1913, the sisters’ life began to revolve around the city of Königsberg. The two emancipated artists settled in Amalienau, a scenic villa suburb which survived to this day as part of the central district of Königsberg. The artists shared the house with Gertrud Windelband, painter and creator of art objects who had already operated a workshop under the same roof. This workshop became one of the centres of the artistic life of Königsberg and served as a gathering place for female artists and women in general. The Michelau sisters were actively engaged in the artistic scene of that period and also travelled around Germany. However, East Prussia always remained their artistic home.

Lore Drath, the sisters’ distant relative living in Lübeck, Germany, began exploring their creative destiny and compiled materials for the exhibition. The exhibition will feature the sisters’ paintings and works of photography as well as historical documents which will shed light on the realities of the life and work of these artists.

Regrettably, the majority of A. Michelau oil paintings did not survive to this day. The visitors will have a chance to see her watercolour works at the exhibition. Meanwhile H. Michelau’s photography works are today more relevant than ever as they closely resemble modern-day selfies in terms of poses and compositions. The exhibits, like fragments of a mosaic, were taken from private collections with the majority of works being brought from Germany. Meanwhile, the watercolour work titled Kurėnas Nidojewas borrowed from Klaipėda art collector Aleksandras Popovas.

Visitors will be offered a total of 30 events dedicated to music, art, film and spoken word during the 23rdThomas Mann Festival which will take place from 13 to 20 July in Nida. All events will be held in Lithuanian and German. Full festival programme and tickets are available at www.mann.lt. The festival is sponsored by the Lithuanian Council for Culture.