Karin Luts

1904Riidaja, Estonia | 1993Stockholm, Sweden

Estonian painter and engraver.

Karin Luts studied fine art from 1922 to 1928 at the Higher Art School Pallas in Tartu, under the tutelage of Konrad Mägi and then Ado Vabbe. From 1928 to 1929, a scholarship enabled her to study in Paris, where she took courses for some time at the Académie de la Grande-Chaumière. She moved to Tallinn in 1929 and rapidly made a name for herself in the Estonian painting scene of the 1930s, a scene that was at the time dominated by men. In 1944, on the eve of the second Soviet occupation of Estonia, she went into exile in Sweden, where she continued her training and her career. She became a member of several artists’ organisations, notably the Union of Women Painters and Sculptors (Paris). K. Luts began working in the second half of the 1920s with compositions strongly influenced by the style of the German New Objectivity: stylised human subjects often seen in profile, flat shades of colour, and a rejection of perspective (Maketajad [The Chess Players], 1927). The naïve style and the grotesque would remain constants throughout her work. In the 1930s, her painting came under the influence of post-impressionism.

She progressively reincorporated perspective and more vibrant colours. She painted human subjects with archetypal, troubled, and sometimes distorted faces (Koridoris [In the Hallway], 1935), still life scenes, as well as unforgiving self-portraits. In the second half of the 1940s, she began to work extensively in engraving. Her painting practice then began to evolve in very eclectic ways: influenced for a time by Picasso and Massimo Campigli, she turned somewhat fitfully to a more dynamic and colourful abstraction at the end of the 1950s, before reintroducing silhouettes and human faces in the 1970s. For a long time little known in Estonia, her post-1944 work was discovered in the 2000s thanks to a bequest of over 3000 works to the Tartu Art Museum and a major exhibition organised by that museum in 2004-2005. K. Luts is currently recognised as one of the most original female Estonian artists of the 20th century.

Antoine Chalvin

Translated from French by Anna Knight.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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