Gustav Mootse was born on 27 July 1885, in Kastre-Võnnu, Tartu County. In 1904, against his parents’ wishes, Mootse enrolled in the Art School of Stieglitz, in St Petersburg, where he studied for five years. After graduating from art school, he continued his art studies at the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts, under the famous Russian engraver Professor Vasyli Maté, learning xylography. The future artist spent a total of 14 years of his youth in St Petersburg. Before moving to Viljandi, Mootse lived in Tartu and Rakvere, studied at the Academy of Graphic Arts and Book Design, in Leipzig, and travelled to Italy in 1928. Mootse’s productive creative period lasted for 50 years, during which he also worked as an educator for 25 years, contributing to local education. He published a number of specialist books on drawing, sculpting, perspective, colour and aesthetics. From the late 1920s onwards, Mootse’s oeuvre consisted mainly of book illustrations, totalling some 250, and watercolours in soft colours. His beautiful landscape motifs were inspired by the town of Viljandi and its castle ruins, Põltsamaa, and many other scenic spots. Mootse’s watercolours have been described as somewhat monotone and not particularly colourful, but there is a character and sincerity of mood behind the ethereal and external simplicity. His works have been regarded as examples of the Heimatkunst (“Homeland Art”) in watercolour of the time (Loodus, Rein. 1981. 56). He illustrated both Estonian and Russian books and magazines, and August Maramaa's book Maret and Jüri, published in 1934, was illustrated with 100 contour drawings by Gustav Mootse.

The small-format oil painting was painted on Pikk Street, a year after the artist moved to Viljandi. The painting features the high wooden fence typical of the old town of the time and buildings that have since been lost to the past (Vallikivi, 2020).

In the last years of his life, Mootse worked as a researcher at the Viljandi Museum. Friendly and always helpful, but at the same time very modest, he remained an observer both in life and in art.

Gustav Mootse died in Viljandi on 16 November 1957.

(Tee Kommunismile, 21 November 1957)

Three paintings – two at the castle ruins and one at the end of Pikk Street.

Gustav Mootse (1885-1957):
Viljandi motif 1929. Oil, cardboard. 34×24 cm.
The Museum of Viljandi

Gustav Mootse (1885-1957)
Viljandi castle ruins 1929. Watercolor, paper. 36×51.5 cm.
The Museum of Viljandi

Gustav Mootse (1885-1957):
Gate of the Viljandi castle ruins, 1929. Watercolor, paper. 35×51.5 cm.
The Museum of Viljandi

KEYWORDS - prolific creator of bookplates or ex libris, long-time art teacher.