Martin Koppas 1908 – 1996
The first one to mention Martin Koppas` name to me, was composer N.Rimski – Korsakov`s housemuseum employee V. Vassilyeva, who brought carpentry by one of the man from her village to the art department of Pskov museum in 1994. He was the oldest inhabitant in the village of Zapolje and as Vassilyeva said, rather original. His work “The arrival of the son” amazed the employees of Pskov museum not only by its unconditional belonging to naïve art, but also by its special nationalism. Unfortunately the acquaintance I made with Martin Koppas in his little house by the village did not last long – only two meetings and some correspondence, thanks to which I managed to get to know an extraordinary person.
Martin Koppas was born in the village of Valeryanova, district of St. Petersburg, Russia in 1908. After finishing a rural school and the Estonian department of a vocational school, he studied at different higher institutes in Leningrad. He did not manage to graduate any of the institutes though, because it was the 30`s and the beginning of the Second World War. That was mainly the reason, why he would mock himself: “Since I was 18, I have been interested in all kinds of theories and pure knowledge, I will always be a student by education but a rogue elephant by my attitude towards everyday life.”
Later on, Koppas worked as a digger, a roadmaster and a chief engineer of roads in Pskov. During the war he was a roadmaster in the army.
He spent the second half of his life in the village of Zapolje with his faithful partner Klaudia Nikolajevna, who was a teacher. There he began to carve wooden sculptures at the end of the 60`s. He did it not to spend his leisure time, but because his yearning for Estonia, with which he had not been in contact for years, had become very dire. No wonder that most of his wooden sculptures were inspired by the works of Estonian literary classics, like A.H.Tammsaare, J. Liiv and O.Luts, national epic “Kalevipoeg” and different folk stories. He also got inspiration from Bazarov, Puškin and Sadko.
The lack of special art education did not affect his natural talent. The flexible peculiarities of his works are a sign of his natural sense of form and composition, as well as his belonging to the art, that is called naivism, primitivism and the art of a pure heart, the last definition being maybe the most suitable.
At the end of January 1996, the first individual exhibition of Martin Koppas was opened in Pskov museum. Unfortunately he passed away soon after that.
Luckily his works live on on the homepage of the interactive museum of naivism, the department of naïve art in Pskov museum and on his next exhibitions.
Natalja Ivanovna Saltan
Art scholar of Pskov museum