Today, a group of visiting Latvian officials were at Central Library to open a display highlighting the wealth of Art Nouveau buildings, artefacts and design in the Latvian capital. Riga’s mayor George Armitstead (1847-1912), whose family had strong Dundee connections, oversaw his city’s important phase of modernisation and expansion in the early twentieth century. This left Riga with a rich artistic heritage which made it a centre of the Art Nouveau movement. This exhibition has already been shown internationally in Vienna, Bratislava, Moscow, Minsk, SuZhou, Vilnius, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. Dundee is now the first location in the United Kingdom to host it.
The Dundee connection arises particularly through the Armitstead family. Baron Armitstead was a very prominent Victorian citizen and benefactor of the city of Dundee and the Armitstead Trust continues his work and generosity to this day. The rest of his Armitstead family was firmly based in Riga where their father George Armitstead had arrived in 1812 to work as a merchant. He had 4 sons, of whom the ‘Dundee’ George Armitstead was one: he came to Britain in the 1840s and settled in Dundee as a flax merchant. The other three became important businessmen in Riga and one of them had another George Armitstead as a son. This third George Armitstead proved to be a particularly influential mayor of Riga and it was while he presided over the city between 1901-12 that it was modernised and greatly expanded, with many new buildings designed in the latest style, Art Nouveau.
David Robb of the Armistead Lecture Committee said - “This prestigious exhibition reminds us, thanks both to its content and its presence here today, how Dundee has long had lively connections with Europe and the wider world. It underlines, also, Dundee’s strong associations with culture, art and design.”
The display, on loan from Riga’s Art Nouveau Centre, is free to visit and runs until Thursday 28 February at Dundee Central Library, Wellgate Centre, Dundee.