The evolution of art in Latvia is closely linked to the fundamental periods of its history. In the first period, as has been attested by archaeological excavations, an original style and decorative repertoire also developed at the same time as the rise and flourishing of national culture. Excavations conducted in 1909 on Mount Kauguru-Peka and in 1930 on Rauna-Tanis revealed an evolved wooden architecture, at least for the 9th-12th centuries. Beamed buildings with oak or fir walls and floors in planed oak or even clay have been found; traces of thatched roofs have also been found; it can be assumed that the buildings consisted of a cellar and probably some floors. It is possible to make yourself a approximate idea of the architectural decorative motifs from wooden fragments with ornamental carvings found in the excavations of Ludza and Ghinevici and bearing a rhombus network and a series of deeply hollow rhombuses. Geometric motifs arranged in symmetrical and rhythmic series (triangles, rhombuses, series of dots or denticles, drops, often concentric circles, more rarely half moons), decorate in various ways bracelets, necklaces, buckles, brooches, crowns and bronze belts. The motifs are twisted, imprinted, beaten, or fused; sometimes they are reminiscent of intertwining ornaments, at other times they repeat motifs of wood carvings adapted to the metal and its technique. The richly decorated woolen fabrics reveal exquisite taste, especially the cloak cloths, with woven bronze rings, bronze lapels, adorned with wools and multicolored fringes. The various colors of the fabrics attest to a lively sense of polychromy. In general, architecture and minor arts show a notable development. Some pendants (birds, horses) mark the rise of the sculpture. For now there are no pictorial works; the color illustrations (1270) of the Latvian Jurgis in the Slavic Gospels (formerly in Moscow) bear no particular imprint; they are drawn according to the schemes of the Novgorod school.
In the second period there were foreign masters closely linked to the artistic tendencies of Western Europe, particularly Germany and Sweden. Only rural architecture and folk art continue the previous tradition, continuing to carry out Latvian forms and ornaments and maintaining their color harmonies and spirit. Characteristic is the Latvian house, with a thatched roof, with the bathroom, the barn and the stable, each of these buildings remaining isolated to itself. Protruding and carved lintels support the roofs; decorated beams and doors with rich moldings demonstrate an original style in which ancient forms echo. As before, crowns and large buckles (saktas), now in silver, now decorated with pieces of cut glass; much appreciated the chains of amber and the rich cloths for cloaks (villaines); the female national costume with its colorful embroidery was very picturesque. The wooden furnishings were often decorated on the outside : chests and cupboards were richly painted.
We also want to remember works perhaps by Latvian painters, but it is difficult to prove their origin and the names of the artists are unknown. Only in the century. In the nineteenth century the bonds of foreign subjection began to slow down, and in the second half of the century the attitudes of indigenous artists flourished in full: K. Huns (1830-77), J. Fedders (1838-1909) and J. Roze (1823-77) were the pioneers of Latvian painting. Paintings of historical and genre subjects, landscapes, portraits, while adhering to models of Petersburg, Paris, Düsseldorf and Munich show what achievements Latvian art has been capable of. In architecture we should remember Pèkšens, who built the Latvian club in Riga, the first meeting place for the national cultured circles, destroyed by fire and rebuilt, with noble proportions, by Polis and E. Laube (born in 1880). Saeimas nams), the courthouse and the hotel Roma are still today among the most beautiful monuments in Riga.
At the end of the century XIX, in the awakening of the Latvian national consciousness, the romantic A. Alksnis (1864-1897) and the notable genre painter A. Baumanis (1866-1904, son of the architect) preferably painted scenes from ancient Latvian history and life popular. The two artists tragically ended their short life, but their drawings incited the love of country; they began the era of the conquests of the Latvian people. Their contemporary, J. Rozentàls (1866-1916), is already a first-rate master, the surest affirmator of Latvian sentiment and taste. Although, a restless researcher, he passed from the Petersburg Academy to French impressionism and German symbolism, he nevertheless remains regional and original, the noblest artist of Latvia. T. Udris (1868-1915), who in his drawings accentuates and stylizes the rhythmic movement with a peasant frankness and roughness; the landscape painters J. Walters (born in 1869), A. Romans (1878-1911) and P. Kalve (1882-1913), sweet dreamers, V. Zeltiņs (1884-1909) whose works are characterized by a bright color, R. Pērle (1875-1917) and K. Brencens (born in 1879) who reproduce the floral world with lyricism and V. Matvejs (1877-1914) imitator of the lively and clear tones typical of Byzantine sacred images. Latvian artists of the 19th century enthusiastically followed academicism, impressionism, symbolism and a love of primitives from time to time. Three other painters who are still industrious today arose and developed at the same time: the draftsman and engraver R. Zariņš (born in 1869), author of Latvian banknotes and postal vouchers; T. Tilbergs (born in 1880), severe and distinguished portrait painter; V. Purvits (born 1872), presently rector of the Latvian Academy of Art.
The war poet, fugitive J. Grosvalds (1891-1920), and J. Kasaks (1895-1920) begin the art of independent Latvia triumphantly. Among the contemporary painters we also mention J. Kuga (born in 1878) and Latvia Liberts (born in 1893), authors of valuable scenographies, A. Cirulis (born in 1889), who tried to give a popular imprint to the applied arts and to painting, A. Plīte-Pleite (born in 1888, died in 1921), K. Miesnieks (born in 1887), N. Skulme, B. Tone (1894), K. Ubans (1893), N. Strunke (1894)), and S. Vidbergs (1890), the best engraver of Latvia. Noteworthy are the stylized popular scenes, which R. Suta (born in 1896) performs with lively imagination on the porcelain called Baltars.
Sculpture enjoys less favor in Latvia, so we limit ourselves to mentioning the sculptors T. Zalkalns (born in 1876), B. Dzenis (1879), and K. Zāle. Architecture flourishes in the cities and in the countryside; to remember for the stylistic sensibility E. Laube (hall of sessions in parliament) and E. Stalbergs (born in 1883), (large hall of the faculty of agriculture; floating seat of the Yacht Club; sanatorium in Kemeri); P. Kundzins (born in 1888), scholar of popular forms, who energetically promoted national architecture (Allaži church, stage for the singers’ festival). J. Madernieks (born 1870) attempted to rework old Latvian decorative motifs to apply them to modern architecture.