The University of Tartu Main Building in Art

22 April–6 December 2019

Alexander Stromberg. The University of Tartu Main Building. Coloured woodcut, 1930. Collections of the University of Tartu Library

This year marks the centenary of Estonia’s national university. To celebrate this, the University of Tartu Art Museum hosts an exhibition that focuses on one of the symbols of the university and education in Estonia - the University of Tartu main building.

Of all the buildings in Tartu, the University’s main building is certainly one that is most frequently depicted in art. It can be seen in city views, genre paintings as well as a national symbol on other works of art. The art museum, located right in the heart of the main building, is the most appropriate site to demonstrate how this building has been depicted in various times.

The exhibition will showcase paintings, etchings and drawings dating from the early 19th century to modern times, thereby providing a unique overview of Baltic German and Estonian art with a focus on a single building. Not a single time period has been left out when making the selection, and works in various styles have been placed side by side. This way, the story of the University’s main building also reflects Estonia’s culture and history.

Exhibition team

Curators: Kristiina Tiideberg and Ingrid Sahk

Designer: Peeter Laurits

Language editor: Sirje Toomla

Translation into English: Mari-Liis Belials and Kristin Lillemäe

Exhibition supervisor: Tanel Nõmmik

The works of art on display originate from the Estonian History Museum, Art Museum of Estonia, Estonian National Museum, the National Archive, Tartu Art Museum, Tartu City Museum, University of Tartu Museum, University of Tartu Library, and private collections.

Crime and Punishment: University Lock-up

The attic of the Main Building of the University, from 19 April 2018

In the attic of the University of Tartu main building is a small, mysterious room that bears witness to the time when the university had its own separate legal system. In the 19th Century, minor offences committed by university employees and students were in the jurisdiction of the university’s court. For the more serious ones, student offenders could be punished by having to spend time at the lock-up in the attic of the main building.

In 2018 the University of Tartu Art Museum supplemented its lock-up cell with a new exhibition that tells stories of the misdeeds of the 19th Century students. The exhibition explains the main reasons why students were punished in the last decades of the 19th Century, and how severe the punishments may have been. The visitors will also see what kind of messages the students in lock-up left behind in the form of writings and drawings on the walls.

Only one of the historic lock-ups has survived, the rest were destroyed in the main building fire of 1965. Access to the surviving lock-up and the attic of the main building is available with a museum ticket from the University of Tartu Art Museum.