January 01, 2011

Aleksander Tarvis, Piiret ja Töll / Piret and Toll

pictures courtesy of Audrios Domarkas
(website dviraciokelias)

The two structures presented in this post have been created by by Aleksander Tarvis (1915-1999) in cooperation with people from the area around. 

Life and works

Tarvis was born and lived in the small community of Tagaranna on the northern coast of the Isle of Saaremaa, Estonia.

A seaman by profession, mainly sailing the Baltic on trips to Finland, Tarvis had a great love for the sea and sailor's life, which he gave expression by making more than a hundred paintings of both seagoing ships and the sea in all kind of circumstances.

He began painting after his retirement. His work has been shown in a number of expositions and some of his paintings have been reproduced on picture postcards.

His creative activity has earned him a reputation as an artist in the realm of Estonian folk art.

The two structures depicted in this post originally were windmills. Along the (windy) northern coast of Saaremaa where Tarvis lived, there happened to be a number of these windmills, mainly active, I presume, in producing flour. 

When this mills became obsolete (because of industrially fabricated flour being cheaper?), at the end of the 1970s two of these structures, situated along the coastal road in the community of Ninase, close to Tagaranna, got another look.

This was a project commissioned by Mark Soosar, a filmmaker who at that time worked for Estonian television. He needed some distinctive characters as a background for a film about Sunday painters. With Aleksander Tarvis as leading artist and assisted by people living around, the mills were reconstructed into a Man Mill and a Woman Mill.

The man and the woman are a couple, named Piiret and Töll, who are mythological personalities in Estonian tradition. Both were giants, Töll was a friendly person, a king who was a farmer too. Piret was his wife. The two were always ready to help and protect the people of Saaremaa

Actual situation.

The two structures became a must see for tourists and they are advertised in travel guides and on touristic websites, however mostly without any reference to Aleksander Tarvis as the one who created them.

My first version of this post ended with the sad note, that I had seen a report saying that the Woman Mill had suffered from a fire. Meanwhile I have learned  there was an accident indeed, but the damage has been repaired, and Piret and Töll still exist  as a couple. 

Aleksander Tarvis
Piret and 

along the coastal road
Ninas, Saaremaa, Estonia
can be seen from the road


  1. Hi Henk,

    I love these and I really hope it's not true about the woman mill having burnt down!
    Also, I wanted to wish you an extremely happy and fulfilling 2011. I have enjoyed reading this blog immensely this past year, and I am so pleased that you are taking the time to compile this great resource for everyone who loves outsider art. I know I have learned about so many great things I would not have known about otherwise. Thank you very much!

  2. Hi Jodi,
    Thank you very much for your best wishes for 2011. Best wishes for you too. I am so glad you like what I am doing in this weblog. I myself occasionaly am quite surprised coming along some interesting outsider environment I did not know about. All the best.