Gunars Berzins

Gunars Berzins

Caricaturist (1927-1999).  Gunars Berzins was born on June 4, 1927 in Daugavpils in the family of the colonel of the Latvian Army Edgars Berzins and his wife Anna. Already in the childhood the boy liked to draw, and his drawings appeared like a shot. His first critics were yard keepers who erased illustrations on fences and houses’ walls with coal. The family moved to Riga, where Gunnar completed Riga Primary School Nr.47 in 1942 and entered Riga State Technical College Mechanical Department. Already at that time in parallel with his studies the great hobby of Gunars was drawing of caricatures, to which he dedicated his every free moment.

The oldest Berzins, in the summer of 1943, became the commander of the 15th Artillery Division of the Latvian Legion, and believed that during the unquiet time it would be safer for his son to be near his father.  And the sixteen year old Gunars Berzins in 1944 voluntarily joined the Latvian Legion. Together with the part of his troop he got to Germany, where on May 2, 1945 he was captured by the Red Army. From May 1945 to August 1946 he was imprisoned in a prisoner of war camp, at the beginning in Germany, and later – in Poland and the USSR. Being imprisoned G. Berzins continued to draw caricatures depicting life of a prisoner of war. In the collections of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia are kept more than 180 caricatures of G. Berzins during the imprisonment. In memory of the artist’s creative activity period the Museum of the Occupation in 2008 organized the exhibition “The unknown Gunars Berzins. The Latvian soldier in the Soviet imprisonment” (“Nezināmais Gunārs Bērziņš. Latviešu karavīrs padomju gūstā”).

After the war, returning from the imprisonment, in 1947 Gunars began to work in the State Puppet Theatre as a decorator. He was not satisfied with the rigid working time, because he couldn’t devote himself to his vocation – caricature, and Gunars left the theater. From 1948 to 1985 G. Berzins worked as a decorator in SSR NE Repair and Architecture Administration in Salaspils. During this time he began to offer his caricatures for press, gradually becoming known. The drawings of Gunars gladly accepted and published. An important turning point in the creative work of Gunars Berzins was the work of the newspaper “The Soviet Youth” (“Padomju Jaunatne”) in the humor and satire appendix “The spicy besom” (“Asā slota”) (1948-1974) and in the magazine “Thistle” (“Dadzis“) (1957-1996).

The range of the artist works was wide, it was both individual caricature works on domestic things, as well as drawing cycles and views of mass on different representatives of social layers. His favorite characters of caricatures were a black cat and wild boar, so among his friends the artist was often called the Big Cat Markiz. The works are characterized by an unpretentious, simple ink drawing, using also its colouring with watercolor. The artist in caricatures could see and aptly reveal negative aspects of life, creating purposeful and compositionally expanded solutions of a domestic subject. His joyful and hearty caricatures made several Latvian generations laugh during many decades.

In 1974 the artist moved to Tukums, simultaneously working in Riga.

In 1983 G. Berzins became a member of the Artists’ Union. The caricaturist illustrated a number of English and German grammar books, books of Valdis Artavs, “The misunderstood diligence” (“Pārprasto centību”) by A. Markons and “Micumacu” by P. Eters, as well as created more than 100 bookmarks. After the artist’s death in 2002 the book “Gunars Berzins. The Knight of the Black Cat” (“Gunārs Bērziņš. Melnā kaķa bruņinieks”) was published which provides a comprehensive insight into the artist’s creative process.

Gunars Berzins died on June 30, 1999, buried in the cemetery Velki in Tukums.

Connection with Daugavpils:
He was born in Daugavpils.