The Temple of Muses

The turbulent and tragic history of the 20th century was also reflected in the life and appearance of Kadriorg Palace. The February Revolution of 1917 overthrew the monarchy in Russia, and the palace, left without an owner, was soon occupied by the Council of Tallinn workers and soldiers. When the palace was given to the city of Tallinn a year later, nothing much remained of the former interior of the tsars’ residence; the main hall had been used to chop wood, so its parquet floor was covered with marks left by axes.

The young Republic of Estonia was faced with the question of what to do with the empty palace, which was solved in 1921 by donating the palace to the Estonian Museum in Tallinn. The first works of art had already moved to Kadriorg before that, as the seaside wing of the palace had been occupied by the first Estonian sculptor, August Weizenberg, since 1919. At first, the museum mostly contained items of ethnographic value and the art collections had yet to be put together.

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The palace was reopened as a real art museum after thorough renovation in 1927. The expositions included older European art and works by Baltic German artists, gathered from state institutions and manor houses, as well as our national pride – artworks by the Estonian artists Johann Köler, August Weizenberg, Paul and Kristjan Raud, and Ants Laikmaa, as well as works by more contemporary artists, such as Konrad Mägi, Peet Aren and Nikolai Triik. Although people were very happy to have their first professional and high-quality art museum, Kadriorg Palace was considered unsuitable for a museum and there were hopes that a new building would be constructed.

During the first decade of the Republic, Kadriorg became a centre for educated people and artists, many of whom established their studios here, or visited the area to be part of the harmonious coexistence of nature and culture.