KOPMANIS, Augusts Arnolds
Born in 1910 at Riga, Latvia, he did small wood carvings, drawings and oil paintings as a boy of sixteen. His interest in art grew and he visited many galleries and attended exhibitions and in 1930 began wood carving classes which he attended for the next two years. In 1933 he worked as an assistant to the Latvian sculptor, K. Zemdega. He then studied at the Academy of Fine Arts at Riga, 1938-44, when he became particularly interested in the work of French sculptors Maillol and Bourdelle and he tried to express himself in the unity of concepts from both of these famous artists. Later he was most impressed with the work of Carl Milles a Swedish sculptor. He began with idealized realistic figures and moved towards stylization and finally semi abstract presentations.
Kopmanis came to Canada from England in 1951 and settled in Toronto. He was elected member of the Colour and Form Artists' Society in 1952 (Vice-Pres. 1959, 1960). By 1957 he was a Canadian citizen. In this year he had received Honourable Mention in the Winnipeg Show for his sculptured 'Torso'. He was elected a member of the Sculptors' Society of Canada in 1958 and the next year he held his first one man show at the Upstairs Gallery, Toronto, of seventeen pieces of sculpture, noted by Colin Sabiston of the Globe & Mail as follows, "He works in stone of all types, wood, modelled casts, hammered copper - any medium appropriate to his purpose. In all media his pieces are superbly conceived and finished, and each intelligibly conveys its message, whether derived from Norse or other mythologies, presents a single figure or group executed in a single piece, has a humorous purpose, or is designed primarily for decorative qualities . . . . Pieces derived from Norse mythology are from both the Sagas of the Gods and those of the Kings. They are strikingly effective.
A simplified, modern type Torso, carved in wood, is very different, but equally expressive. His small 'In A Hurry' is an abstract figure suggesting headlong flight, clean, lean, dynamic. 'Surprised Bathers' shows children trying to hide in the folds of their mother's skirts. 'Fisherman' (purchased anonymously for the International Institute), is a small portrait like figure requiring no title . . . . There are other items of varied appeal, but the only real disappointment in the exhibition is the limited number of pieces."
In 1961 he held another solo exhibit at the Upstairs Gallery;6 at Huntsville in 1964 at the Copper Lantern; in Montreal, Winnipeg, St. Catharines and Hamilton, and elsewhere. Among his other honours he received, Life Fellow, International Institute of Arts & Letters (Swiss Inc.) (1960); Government of Canada honourable mention for his new design of the 1964 Commemorative Dollar (1963). He has done many monuments, tombstones and decorative sculpture for buildings also portraits, statues and medals. His work has been exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy, Sculptors' Society of Canada, and the Ontario Society of Artists and in many other exhibitions throughout Canada. He lives in Toronto with his wife and family in his combined studio and residence.