Vija Celmins - Untitled, 1999 (detail)

Vija Celmins

Latvia 1938

Sculpture, Photorealism, Drawing

Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins
October 3, 2016
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Considered to be one of the most significant Latvian-American artists to date, Vija Celmins is a visual artist best known for her photo-realistic paintings and drawings of natural environments. Due to her long-held fascination with phenomena such as the ocean, spider webs, star fields, clouded sky and rocks, Vija dedicated both her life and career to depicting such wonders in an unconventional way. This New York City-based painter became renowned in artistic circles mostly due to her ability to create drawings with such fine detail that they seem to be the actual old-school photographies themselves instead just being elaborate copies. In that regard, no one is able to come even close and rival the talented hand Celmins displayed over the years.

Los Angeles held many exhibitions in 2016, displaying Vija's paintings terms, web use and prints
Vija Celmins – Desert, 1975

A Long Path to the American Dream

Vija Celmins was born on the 25th of October in the year of 1938, in the city of Riga, Latvia’s capital. During the years that eventually proved to be an introduction to the bloodiest conflict in human history, Celmins fled to Germany in her parents’ hands. Not aware of the extreme radicality nazi government was about to install, the young girl and her family were forced to survive the refugee-despising regime. They lived in a United Nations refugee camp in Esslingen am Neckar, Baden-Württemberg, staying there until the end of World War II. During the year of 1948, the Church World Service relocated the family to the United States, at first in New York City, then in Indianapolis. Through this rather unfortunate turn of events, ten-year-old Celmins found herself in a foreign country without knowing more than a few words of English[1]. Forced to face such isolation early on in her life, Vija turned to drawing as a mean of escape from reality. Pushed by her professors down the road of painting, she eventually started attending classes at the prestigious John Herron School of Art in Indianapolis where she blossomed as aa painter. It was during her college days that Celmins started to explore the works of the Italian monotone still-life painter Giorgio Morandi – this pushed her down the road of controlled abstraction. After she earned her BFA in 1962, Vija moved to Venice, Los Angeles, where she lived for the next twenty years, spending most of her time painting or sculpting.

Modern search for art is easier then ever as every museum has online night support
Vija Celmins – Sky, 1975

The Development of Her Art

Operating in California during the 1960s, Vija Celmins’ early work was starting to shape itself into a fantastic photorealistic painting practice. At first, she recreated commonplace objects such as TVs, lamps, pencils and erasers, but eventually started painting monochrome reproductions of photographs. Vija mostly focused on war themes in this period of her career, depicting images of conflict such as depictions of handguns and warplanes. During the late 1960s through the 1970s, Celmins completely abandoned traditional painting in order to dedicate herself to graphite pencil, creating highly detailed photorealistic drawings based on photographs of natural elements. Vija started presenting scenes of the moon’s surface, sky, ocean, the insides of shells and closeups of rocks[2]. The incentive guide which Giorgio Morandi provided her was more than obvious as he is widely considered to be the uncrowned king of the pale gray still life. Suddenly, a visit to the New York museum was highlighted by Vija’s desert surface works. As the 1970s were passing by, Celmins also started sculpting a lot more than in earlier periods of her life. She produced numerous series of bronze cast and acrylic painted stones. By 1981, she abandoned the pencil completely and returned to painting, as well as producing a large number of prints.

Although her life was marked by numerous medium switches and various field of work, the definite highlight of Vija Celmins’ work are the photorealistic drawings of natural environments

Every modern museum must have a night support in order to help with the search
Vija Celmins – Ocean, 1975

Vija Celmins’ Career as a Whole

Now that she was active for over sixty years, observing Celmins’ career as a whole is a new awe-inspiring challenge. She was active in so many fields and mediums, produced countless pieces of art and was a crucial member of artistic circles for decades – for those reasons, analyzing Vija’s career is an almost insurmountable feat. Interestingly, the only consistent aspect of her work was the medium in which she was never active – photography. Never before her was a person who spent so much time exploring and investigating photos without actually utilizing them as Celmins did during her life. And in all probability, there never will be again.

This artist is represented by

Vija Celmins lives in New York City, United States.


  1. Sirmans, F., White, M., Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster, 1964–1966, Houston: The Menil Collection, June 1, 2010
  2. Anonymous, Vija Celmins: Earliest Influences, Early Works, Interview, Art21, Sep. 16, 2003

Featured image: Vija Celmins – Untitled, 1999 (detail). 30 × 21 3/4 in. 76.2 × 55.2 cm. Photo courtesy Kavi Gupta Gallery
Other images via
All images used for illustrative purposes only

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Frequent Long WalksHannah Barry Gallery, LondonGroup
2016Duchamp to PopNorton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, CAGroup
2016New AcquisitionsZane Bennett Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, NMGroup
2015Vija CelminsWiener Secession, ViennaSolo
2015SpacedEdward Thorp Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2015Childish ThingsSkarstedt, London, LondonGroup
2014Chapter 1: Listening to Silence and WhispersYokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama Triennale, JapanGroup
2014POP: Pop Art MythsMuseo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, SpainGroup
2014Vija CelminsThe Latvian National Art Museum, Riga, LatviaSolo
2013The Distaff SideThe Granery, Sharon, CTGroup
2013The Pop Object: The Still Life Tradition in Pop ArtAcquavella Galleries, New YorkGroup
2013Out of the OrdinaryHirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.Group
2012Drawings from Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s: The Marmor CollectionIris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, Stanford, CAGroup
2012Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty YearsThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New YorkGroup
2012Explorateurs: Œuvres du Centre national des arts plastiquesMusée de l’abbaye de Sainte-Croix, Les Sables d’Olonne, FranceGroup
2012Intimate Immensity: The Susan and Larry Marx CollectionHammer Museum, Los AngelesGroup
2012Printin’The Museum of Modern Art, NYGroup
2012LifelikeWalker Art Center, Minneapolis, MNGroup
2012Artist Rooms: Vija CelminsTate Britain, LondonSolo
2011Print by Print: Series from Dürer to LichtensteinBaltimore Museum of Art, MDGroup
2011Once Emerging, Now Emerging: Livin’ L.A.Cirrus Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2011Pacific Standard Time: Under the Big Black SunLos Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, CAGroup
2011Wander, Labyrinthine VariationsCentre Pompidou-Metz, FranceGroup
2011Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in LA Painting And Sculpture 1945-1970Getty Museum, Los AngelesGroup
2011Pacific Standard Time: State of Mind: New California Art, circa 1970Berkeley Museum of Art, CAGroup
2011Globalissimo601 Artspace, New YorkGroup
2011First-Hand Evidence: Vija Celmins, Robert Gober, Brice Marden, Bruce Nauman, Gemini G.E.L.Joni Moisant Weyl, New YorkGroup
2011Vija Celmins: Prints and Works on PaperSenior and Shopmaker Gallery, New YorkSolo
2011Wüste Meer und Sterne (Desert, Sea, and Stars)Ludwig Museum, CologneSolo
2010Galaxy & CosmosJason McCoy Inc., New YorkGroup
2010Water, Jane VoorheesZimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJGroup
2010Painting and Sculpture: Foundation for Contemporary Arts Benefit ExhibitionLehmann Maupin, New YorkGroup
2010The Grenfell Press: Thirty Years of CollaborationKnoedler Project Space, New YorkGroup
2010Another Green WorldCarriage Trade Gallery, New YorkGroup
2010Vija Celmins: New Paintings, Objects, and PrintsMcKee Gallery, New YorkSolo
2009Starry Messenger: Galileo’s Vision in 21st Century ArtLouisiana Art & Science Museum, Baton Rouge, LAGroup
2009Artists and the Natural WorldMcKee Gallery, New YorkGroup
2009Mark Wallinger curates The Russian LinesmanThe Hayward Gallery LondonGroup
2009Artist RoomsScottish National Gallery of Modern Art, EdinburghGroup
2008Artist’s Choice: Vik Muniz, RebusMuseum of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
2008Time and Place: Los Angeles 1957-1968Moderna Museet, Stockholm, SewdenGroup
2008Print Lovers at 30: Celebrating Three Decades of GivingThe Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MOGroup
2008Sand: Memory, Meaning, and MetaphorParrish Art Museum, Southampton, NYGroup
2008Here’s The Thing: The Single Object Still LifeKatonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NYGroup
2008Attention to DetailFlag Art Foundation, New YorkGroup
2007Under the Starry SkyMuseum Franz Gertsch, Burgdorf, SwitzerlandGroup
2007The Painting of Modern LifeHayward Gallery, LondonGroup
2007The Third MindPalais de Tokyo, ParisGroup
2007Early SignsMcKee Gallery, New YorkGroup
2006A Trace of A Trace of A TracePerry Rubenstein Gallery, New YorkGroup
2006Celmins, Gibbs + MartinTimothy Taylor Gallery, LondonGroup
2006Step Into LiquidMuseum of Contemporary Art, Denver, COGroup
2006Against the Grain: Contemporary Art from the Edward R. Broida CollectionThe Museum of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
2006Selections from the Collection of Edward R. BroidaNational Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.Group
2006Vija Celmins: A Drawing RetrospectiveCentre Pompidou, ParisSolo
2005Contemporary Voices, works from the UBS Art CollectionMuseum of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
2004The Not-So-Still LifeSan Jose Museum of Art,CAGroup
2004Art by MacArthur FellowsCarl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati, OHGroup
2004From Here to EternityIngleby Gallery, Edinburgh, ScotlandGroup
2004Off The Wall, Works from the JP Morgan Chase CollectionBruce Museum, Greenwich, CTGroup
2004Summer CampPatricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica, CAGroup
2004Living DustNorwich Gallery, Norwich School of Art and Design, Norfolk, UKGroup
2004Contemporary MastersAlan Koppel Gallery, Chicago, ILGroup
2004A Very Liquid HeavenTang Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NYGroup
2003Making an Impression: Printmaking at the Herron School of ArtHerron Gallery, Indianapolis, INGroup
2003New Prints, Berthot, Celmins, PuryearMcKee Gallery, New YorkGroup
2003For the Record: Drawing Contemporary LifeVancouver Art Gallery, CanadaGroup
2003Hyperrealismes USA 1965-75Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg, FranceGroup
2003Painting. From Rauschenberg to Murakami, 1964-2003Venice Biennale, Museo Correr, ItalyGroup
2003Pencil: Drawings from the CollectionThe Museum of Modern Art, QueensGroup
2003The Paradise, Vija CelminsThe Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin, IrelandSolo
2003Vija Celmins PrintsSusan Sheehan Gallery, New YorkSolo
2003Celmins PrintsHerron School of Art, Indianapolis, INSolo
2002Women Artists: Their Work and Influence 1950's – 70'sGallery Paule Anglim, San FranciscoGroup
2002Time to Consider, The Arts Respond to 9.11Deutsche Bank Lobby Gallery, New YorkGroup
2002Painting: a passionate response, Sixteen American artistsThe Painting Center, New YorkGroup
2002Whitney Biennial 2002Whitney Museum of American Art, New YorkGroup
2002From the ObservatoryPaula Cooper Gallery, New YorkGroup
2002Insecta MagnificaWave Hill Glyndor Gallery, Bronx, New YorkGroup
2002Annal BenefitArt Resources Transfer, New YorkGroup
2002TempoThe Museum of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
2002Biella Print TriennialMuseo del Territorio Biellese, ItalyGroup
2002Group Print ExhibitionRichard Levy Gallery, Albuquerque, NMGroup
2002110 Years: The Permanent Collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort WorthModern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TexasGroup
2002Vija Celmins: Works from The Edward R. Broida CollectionMuseum of Fine Arts Houston, TXSolo
2002The Prints of Vija CelminsThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New YorkSolo
2001Centenary ExhibitionThe Whitechapel Art Gallery Centenary, LondonGroup
2001Les années Pop: Cinéma et politique: 1956-1970Musée National d’art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, ParisGroup
2001Collaborations with Parkett: 1984 to NowThe Museum of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
2001What Is a Print?The Museum of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
2001Kindly Lent Their Owner, The Private Collection of Steve MartinBellagio Gallery of Fine Art, Las Vegas, NVGroup
2001At SeaTate Liverpool, EnglandGroup
2001The Inward Eye, Transcendence in Contemporary ArtContemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TXGroup
2001Vija Celmins DrawingsMuseum fur Gegenwartskunst, Basel, SwitzerlandSolo
2001Vija Celmins, New PaintingsMcKee Gallery, New YorkSolo
2000The Sea & the SkyBeaver College Art Gallery, Glenside, PAGroup
2000LostIkon Gallery, Birmingham, UKGroup
2000NEW worksMcKee Gallery, New YorkGroup
2000Conceptual RealismRosenwald-Wolf Gallery, The University of the Arts, PhiladelphiaGroup
2000Prints and MultiplesSenior & Shopmaker Gallery, New YorkGroup
2000Vija Celmins PrintsCirrus Gallery, Los AngelesSolo
1999PowderAspen Art Museum, COGroup
1999Flashes: Contemporary Trends, The Cartier CollectionThe Exhibition Center of the Centro Cultural de Belem, PortugalGroup
1999Examining Pictures: Exhibiting PaintingsWhitechapel Art Gallery, LondonGroup
1999La realitat i el desigLa Fundació Joan Miro, BarcelonaGroup
1999Cosmos: From Romanticism to the Avant-gardeThe Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, MontrealGroup
1999Regarding Beauty: A View of the Late Twentieth CenturyHirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, WashingtonGroup
1998The Edward R. Broida CollectionOrlando Museum of Art, FLGroup
1998Terra IncognitaNeues Museum Weserburg, Bremen, GermanyGroup
1998Photo Image: Printmaking 60s to 90sMuseum of Fine Arts, Boston, MAGroup
1998Speed: Visions of an Accelerated AgeWhitechapel Art Gallery, LondonGroup
1998Sea ChangeThe Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NYGroup
1997Scene of the CrimeThe Armand Hammer Museum, UCLA, Los AngelesGroup
1997Views from Abroad: European Perspectives on American Art 2Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, GermanyGroup
1997Whitney Biennial 1997Whitney Museum of American Art, New YorkGroup
1997Heaven: Public View, Private ViewP.S. 1, New YorkGroup
1997Spiders and WebsBarbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, MAGroup
1996Group ExhibitionDaniel Weinberg Gallery, San FranciscoGroup
1996About PhotographyTokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, JapanGroup
1996Views From Abroad: European Perspectives on American Art 2Whitney Museum of American Art, New YorkGroup
1996Night Sky Paintings & Drawings 1994-1996McKee Gallery, New YorkSolo
1995About Place: Recent Art of the AmericasArt Institute of Chicago, ILGroup
1995Contemporary Drawing: Exploring the TerritoryAspen Art Museum, Colorado.Group
1995American Art Today: Night PaintingsThe Art Museum, Florida International University,MiamiGroup
1995American Academy Invitational Exhibition of Painting and SculptureAmerican Academy of Arts and Letters, New YorkGroup
1995Vija CelminsFondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, ParisSolo
1994Contemporary Master Prints, FletcherPriest Gallery, Worcester, MAGroup
1994Love in the Ruins: Art and the Inspiration of L.A.Long Beach Museum of Art, CAGroup
1994The World of TomorrowThomas Solomon’s Garage, Los AngelesGroup
1994Facts and Figures: Selections from the Lannan Foundation CollectionLannan Foundation, Los Angeles.Group
1994Vija Celmins – Prints, 1970-1992Cirrus Gallery, Los AngelesSolo
1993Les EnvironsPamela Auchincloss Gallery, New YorkGroup
1993About NatureCleveland Center for Contemporary Art, OHGroup
1993AzurFondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, ParisGroup
1993Landscape, Myth vs. RealityBarbara Mathes Gallery, New YorkGroup
1993On PaperAsher Faure Gallery, Los AngelesGroup
1993Vija Celmins – Printed MatterUniversity Gallery, Fine Arts Center, University of Massachusetts, AmherstSolo
1992Selections from the Broida CollectionPalm Beach Community College Museum of Art, FLGroup
199244th Annual Academy – Institute Purchase ExhibitionAmerican Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New YorkGroup
1992Elemental NatureMidtown Payson Gallery, New YorkGroup
1992Vija Celmins RetrospectiveInstitute of Contemporary Art, PhiladelphiaSolo
1992Vija Celmins, New PaintingsMcKee Gallery, New YorkSolo
1991The Times, The Chronicle, and The ObserverKent Fine Art, New YorkGroup
1991The Contemporary Drawing: Existence Passage and the DreamRose Art Museum, Brandeis University, MAGroup
1991A BestiaryPaula Cooper, New YorkGroup
1991Women ArtistsMiramar Gallery, Sarasota, FLGroup
1991For 25 Years: Gemini G.E.L.The Museum of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
1990The Persistence of VisionTibor de Nagy Gallery, New YorkGroup
1990HomeAsher-Faure Gallery, West Hollywood, CAGroup
1990Vija Celmins: Drawings and PrintsP*ence Gallery, Santa Monica, CASolo
1989Making Their Mark: Women Artists Move into the MainstreamCincinnati Art Museum, OHGroup
1989L.A. Pop in the SixtiesNewport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CAGroup
1989Boundaries: A Traditional of Drawing at Herron School of ArtHerron School of Art Gallery, Indiana University, IndianapolisGroup
1989MultiplesMarc Richards Gallery, Los AngelesGroup
1989Contemporary Prints And Drawings from the Mellon Bank CollectionAllegheny College, Meadville, PAGroup
1988Welcome Back: Works by Contemporary Artists from IndianaHerron Gallery, Indianapolis Center for Contemporary Art, INGroup
1988Of Another NatureLoughelton Gallery, New YorkGroup
1988Vija Celmins, New PaintingsDavid McKee Gallery, New YorkSolo
1987Collaborative American Printmaking from Whistler to the PresentJoe and Emily Lowe Art Gallery, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NYGroup
1987A Graphic Muse: Prints by Contemporary American WomenMount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley, MAGroup
1986UntitledPasadena Collects, Pasadena Art MuseumGroup
1986Public and Private: American Prints TodayBrooklyn Museum of Art, NYGroup
1985Focus on Realism: Selections from the Collection of Glenn C. JanssBoise Gallery of Art, IdahoGroup
1984American Women Artists-Part 1: 20th Century PioneersSidney Janis Gallery, New YorkGroup
1984Automobile and CultureMuseum of Contemporary Art, Los AngelesGroup
1984LandscapesMatthews Hamilton Gallery, PhiladelphiaGroup
1983Drawings by PaintersLong Beach Museum of Art, CAGroup
1983The American Artist as Printmaker: 23rd National Print ExhibitionBrooklyn Museum, NYGroup
1983American Still life 1945-1983Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TXGroup
1983Hassam & Speicher Fund Purchase ExhibitionAmerican Academy and Institute of Arts & Letters, New YorkGroup
1983Drawings and Painted BronzesDavid McKee Gallery, New YorkSolo
1981Contemporary American RealismPennsylvania Academy of Art, PhiladelphiaGroup
1981The Image of the House in Contemporary Works on PaperHayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MAGroup
1981The Contemporary American LandscapeHirschl and Adler Contemporary Art, New YorkGroup
1980Vija Celmins: A Survey ExhibitionNewport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CASolo
1979The Decade in Review: Selection of the 1970'sWhitney Museum of American Art, New YorkGroup
1978Vija CelminsSecurity Pacific National Bank, Los AngelesSolo
1977American Artists: A New DecadeThe Detroit Institute of Arts, MIGroup
1977Painting and Sculpture in California: The Modern EraSan Francisco Museum of Modern ArtGroup
197730 Years of American PrintmakingThe Brooklyn Museum, NYGroup
1976America 1976Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.Group
1975A Drawing ShowNewport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CAGroup
1975Recent DrawingsThe Huntsville Museum of Art, ALGroup
1975UntitledGallery of Art, Jackonsville, FLGroup
1975Vija CelminsBroxton Gallery, Los AngelesSolo
1975Vija CelminsFelicity Samuel Gallery, London, EnglandSolo
1974Seventy First American ExhibitionArt Institute of Chicago, ILGroup
1973American Drawings 1963-1973Whitney Museum of American Art, New YorkGroup
1973Vija CelminsRiko Mizuno Gallery, Los AngelesSolo
1973Vija CelminsWhitney Museum of American Art, New YorkSolo
1972California PrintsThe Museum of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
1972A Survey of West Coast Art from the Permanent Collection and Loan CollectionsPasadena Art Museum, CAGroup
1972Eighteenth National Print ExhibitionBrooklyn Museum, NYGroup
1971Continuing SurrealismLa Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, CAGroup
197124 Young Los Angeles ArtistsLos Angeles County Museum of ArtGroup
1970Annual of Contemporary American SculptureWhitney Museum of American Art, New YorkGroup
1970PaperworksThe Museum of Modern Art, Art Lending Service, New YorkGroup
1969Contemporary American DrawingsModern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TXGroup
1969Vija CelminsRiko Mizuno Gallery, Los AngelesSolo
1966Vija CelminsDavid Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, CASolo