Founded in the early 2008, the Purvītis Prize was launched to amass regular and systematic information about the latest visual arts events in Latvia, promote development of new projects and original ideas, acknowledge the best achievements in Latvian professional visual arts and popularise the success of Latvian artists both in Latvia and abroad.
The Prize is awarded biennially to an artist or a group of artists representing Latvia with an outstanding work, which is deemed to be deeply connected to the developments of the era and forming a bridge between contemporary life, spiritual ideals and intrinsic values. The author rated highest by a panel of experts and a special international jury is selected as the winner. The Prize is the most prestigious and the most substantial art award in Latvia, comprising 28 500 EUR pre-tax. The project is supported by the SIA Alfor company.
The prize was named after Vilhelms Purvītis (1872–1945), the grand master of Latvian painting, who was a prominent artist and art educator and won acclaim both at home and internationally.
In the context of Latvian art history as well as in the consciousness of wider circles of the society, the name of Vilhelms Purvītis has become a symbol of national identity.
The co-founder of the national school of art and pioneer of the national landscape painting, Vilhelms Purvītis was one of the all-time most influential figures in Latvian cultural and art life: the head of the Riga Art School; director of the Riga Museum of Art and founder of the collection of Latvian art; the founder and rector of the Latvian Academy of Art and the long-time head of the Landscape Workshop at the academy, as well as the Commissioner General of all the representative Latvian art exhibitions abroad during the Interbellum period.
The authority, educational work and artistic style of the prominent landscapist and Fellow of the St Petersburg Academy of Art has left an impact on several generations of Latvian artists. A wise and farsighted culture politician, Vilhelms Purvītis was an active supporter of the young artists of the time and discovered a number of talented painters who later played important roles on the Latvian art scene.