The Embassy of Latvia, in an elegant, eccentric and eclectic Art Nouveau mansion, opens an architectural photo exhibit on Sept. 20.
The exhibit compares two "spectacular manifestations of Art Nouveau or Jugendstil in American and European history of art and architecture," the embassy explains. The two magnificent Art Nouveau residences, both built in 1903, are:
- The former house and studio of artist-activist-society hostess Alice Pike Barney. It's now The Latvian Embassy.
- The house of architect Konstantins Peksens, now home to the Riga Art Nouveau Museum in Latvia's capital.
In early 1900s Washington, "this eccentric and eclectic house was a nexus of cultural life...under the auspices of artist, patron, and social activist Alice Pike Barney," says the "American Institute of Architects (AIA) Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C." by G. Martin Moeller Jr. (Johns Hopkins University Press).
Barney once complained, "What is capital life after all? Small talk and lots to eat, an infinite series of teas and dinners. Art? There is none."
She tried to remedy this paucity by hosting many cultural events and raising money for them at her Alice Pike Barney Studio House, and also by painting, composing as well as playing music, and writing plays, the AIA guide notes.
- Renowned Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova commissioned Barney to compose a ballet for the dancer to perform during her 1915 U.S. tour.
- One of Barney's plays was attended by the great actress Sarah Bernhardt, who arrived in a litter carried by four liveried footmen.
Also, Barney provided "substantial input" on her studio house's design to its architect Waddy B. Wood, the book adds.
The exhibit, at the Embassy's "Art Space" building next door to her former home will be open on Fridays and Saturdays, from Sept. 20 to Saturday, Oct. 19.
In photos of the Riga house of Peksens, a major Latvian architect of the Art Nouveau style, note the extravagant, ornate spiraling staircase.
Riga's city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which says, "It is generally recognized that Riga has the finest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe."
Due greatly to this, Riga has been named the 2014 European Capital of Culture.
For more info: "Riga and Washington D.C. Comparisons Jugendstil" (Art Nouveau). Embassy of Latvia's "Art Space", 2304 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., next door to the Embassy in the Alice Pike Barney Studio House, 2306 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., 202- 328-2840. Exhibit is open on Fridays and Saturdays, from Sept. 20 to Saturday, Oct. 19.