Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Johann Köler: Estonia's first professional painter

I woke up this morning to discover wonderful news in my inbox. sent me a message advising that I am related to Estonian painter Johann Köler.  He is my third cousin four times removed. Following the connection online I find we are both descended from the Jorik family, on my grandfather's mother side. This is a wonderful news for me especially as my sister and uncle are both painters today.

On this day in 1826, Estonian painter Johann Köler was born. A leader of the Estonian national awakening, Köler is considered to be the first professional painter of Estonia. Köler was born March 8, 1826 in Lubjassaare farmstead in Ivaski, Vijandi County to a peasant family. Although the family had little money, Köler managed to attend school and eventually study painting at the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts. Best known for his portrait paintings, Köler also worked as an art teacher for the Grand Duchess Maria Aleksandrovna, the daughter of Alexander II of Russia. During this time, a period in history that would be known as the Estonian Age of Awakening, Estonians began to see themselves as a nation that deserved the right to govern themselves. Köler used his connections with the imperial court to promote the cause of the Estonian people with intellectual leaders. 

One of his works - Lorelei Cursed by Monks (1887).
(My niece is called Loreley)

Portrait of Dr. Philipp Karell, Emperor's Physician (1886)
(Also a relative of mine)

Johann Köler was buried at Suure-Jaani Cemetery, Viljandi.

More information about Johann Köler can be found here: Johann Köhler / Köler & Works