Graphic documents and art literature

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Rihards Zariņš. Poster for the exhibition of paintings of the Society for the Promotion of Traveling Art Exhibitions. Riga: F. Deutch, 1900. Litography, 112 x 92 cm.
Rihards Zariņš. Poster for the exhibition of paintings of the Society for the Promotion of Traveling Art Exhibitions. Riga: F. Deutch, 1900. Litography, 112 x 92 cm.

The Art Reading Room collection, named after artist Konrads Ubāns, holds more than 293 000 graphic documents and books. This number, which continues to increase, enables us to call it the largest collection of graphic documents available to readers in Latvia. The reading room's repository holds posters, postcards, art exhibition catalogues, bookplates, prints, drawings, art, photograph and engraving albums and other visual material. Some items are worthy of special mention, for example, the foreign graphic art collection, the collection of drawings by outstanding ceramicist Pēteris Martinsons, the personal library of architect Gunnar Birkerts, the photographic-negative archive of the Diena newspaper, and the photographic records of the Latinform news agency, nevertheless, it should be stressed that valuable material can be found on almost every shelf and drawer of the Art Reading Room. One important part of the collection is the diverse collection of art literature, parts of which are freely accessible in the reading room. It covers topics such as art history and theory, art movements, architecture, photography, cinema, theatre, etc. The latest art periodicals are also available in the reading room.

Art exhibition catalogues
The collection of art exhibition catalogues is one of the most comprehensive and diverse both in terms of scale (around 15 000 items) and period coverage (mid-19th century to the present day), as well as in the geographic distribution of its publishers.

With more than 10 000 items, the poster collection is the most extensive and complete collection of posters in Latvia. It enables the major trends in poster-art development over more than a century to be traced – from the last quarter of the 19th century to the present day. The collection contains the works of Latvian poster luminaries Rihards Zariņš, Sigismunds Vidbergs, Romans Suta, Aleksandrs Apsītis, Niklāvs Strunke, Jānis Liepiņš and other artists. The most complete part of the collection covers the post-World War II period. The selection of non-conformist posters is particularly noteworthy.

Latvian graphic art
The graphic art collection consists of three equally important and complementary collections – bookplates (ex libris), prints and drawings. The collection of Latvian ex-libris is relatively small – around 4 000 works. It consists of the ex libris of Rihards Zariņš, the pioneer of Latvian professional bookplates, and works by Jūlijs Madernieks, Romans Suta, Niklāvs Strunke, Sigismunds Vidbergs, Kārlis Padegs, Aleksejs Jupatovs, Dzidra Ezergaile, Jeļena Antimonova, Natālija Černecova and other artists. The collection of Latvian prints contains some 1 500 items and is more fully representative of the 1960s-80s, which coincides with the time the collection was actively being established. These are the works of Pēteris Upītis, Gunārs Krollis, Arturs Ņikitins, Lūcija Zikmane, Juris Petraškevičs, Ilmārs Blumbergs and others. The core of the Latvian drawing collection is the unique archive of drawings by Pēteris Martinsons (circa 700 items).

Foreign graphic art
The NLL's collection of foreign prints and drawings is considered to be the second largest and most valuable collection of its kind in Latvia. It includes almost 12 000 items representing the works of 15th to 21st century artists and engravers from Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, France, England, Russia and other countries. One important part of the collection is the gift of graphic prints and drawings, with Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque, Romanticism, Symbolism and Classical Modernism examples, received in 2016 and 2019 from German art scholar and collector Peter Böttger (1936). A small but very valuable addition was the donation of American bibliophile and collector, James Howard Frazer (1934–2013) of Western European and American graphic prints. The NLL collection includes works by Lucas van Leyden (1494–1533) and Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), Hendrick Goltzius (1558–1617) and Jacques Callot (1592–1635), William Hogarth (1697–1764) and James Gillray (1756–1815), Marie Laurencin (1885–1956) and Giorgio De Chirico (1888–1978). The collection of foreign drawings includes works by Andrea del Sarto (1486–1530), Hans von Marees (1837–1887), Constant Permeke (1886–1952) and many other artists.

The postcard collection contains over 100 000 units and about 5 000 sets of postcards issued in Latvia and abroad. The collection, which covers postcard publishing history from the last quarter of the 19th century to the present day, is a remarkable visual and iconographic material. The authors of the postcards include many well-known artists and photographers.