The exhibition policy of the Adamson-Eric Museum has over the decades focused on the extensive study and presentation of the oeuvre of the eponymous artist and his contemporaries.
The topical exhibition Laundry Day presents some outstanding works of art from the late 19th century to the 1970s from Estonian state collections. In addition to Adamson-Eric, the display includes works from legendary masters: August Jannsen, Andrus Johani, Lydia Mei, Karin Luts, Karl Pärsimägi, the twin brothers Kristjan and Paul Raud, Ülo Sooster, Olev Subbi and others.
More than fifty works of art serve as great examples of the artistic quest of modernist artists who had both academic and, later, “French painting school” backgrounds. The most common motifs in the pictures are laundry flapping on clotheslines under summer or autumn suns, piles of linen folded into baskets, frozen sheets hung up to dry against the backdrop of snow, and laundry dancing in the spring breeze.
The exhibition Laundry Day might have a bit of a surprising focus, but it serves as an intimate reflection by a dozen artists on their own and their family’s everyday chores.
Personal hygiene had become much more important in the 20th century than ever before, as awareness spread through medical advances and scientific discoveries. Clean homes both in the country and city ensured healthier lives and better conditions primarily for small children. A symbol of babies’ brighter futures was the nappy drying in the sun and breeze; nappies were even ironed in more diligent households. The traditional sauna evening with sun-bleached clean clothes was an inseparable part of life back in those days, also serving as an inspiration to artists. As sub-topics, the display includes the carrying of water to the sauna and laundry room, heating fireplaces, kitchen scenes, and rinsing clothes in the river.
We can also admire a few more intimate depictions of daily life in the oeuvre of Karin Luts and Mart Org, showing the self-images of the artists through the prism of humour.
The works of artists from the second half of the 20th century also contain more generalised compositions, catching the viewer’s attention as reflections on a wider context. The most famous of these is Nikolai Kormašov’s City View (1969): the nappies drying in the background of a metropolitan construction site, together with a pram, allude to young families having moved into the newly-built homes.
Through the various techniques used, the exhibition highlights the different aspects of the talent of Estonian artists, taking a fascinating approach to showing their artistic aspirations within this narrowly defined subject matter.
Exhibition curator: Ülle Kruus
Exhibition designer: Inga Heamägi
Exhibition graphic designer: Külli Kaats
Education and visitor programmes: Liisi Selg
Karl Manberg. In the Yard. Undated. Art Museum of Estonia