Uģis Mežavilks was born on August 14, 1929, in the Svitene parish of the Bauska district. His father, Kristaps Mežavilks, was the mayor of the parish, and his mother, Alīda Eleonora (née Jaunzeme), had been sent to work at the local school after graduating from the teachers’ institute. After Kristaps’s untimely death, in 1932, Alīda, who had been born and raised in Riga, found it too difficult to maintain the homestead, and the family was forced to sell their home, “Mežavilki,” and move to a new house, “Purmsāti,” in the Liepaja district, where Alīda Eleonora found work at the local post office.
Both of Uģis’s parents were artistically gifted: Kristaps wrote poems, and Alīda, in her youth, had dreamt of becoming a professional pianist. As a child, Uģis showed an interest in drawing. This was perhaps the influence of Alīda’s brother Bruno Jaunzems, who, as an architecture student, spent several summers at Mežavilki, where he painted watercolors of nature scenes.
The Second World War brought left-leaning Alīda and her children to Russia. Uģis attended a trade school in Ivanov intended for Latvian refugee children, where he won acclaim as the artist of the school’s wall newspaper. A family legend holds that Uģis once wrote a letter to Vilis Lācis, the leader of the Soviet Latvian government, to request the opportunity to study at an art school. Lācis honored his request, and Mežavilks began his artistic training at Moscow’s V.I. Surikov High School for Art, which he attended from 1943 to 1950. At the school, students received in-depth instruction in drawing, painting, and composition, alongside their regular academic studies. Later, from 1950 to 1956, Mežavilks studied at the Painting Department of the Latvian Academy of Art.
Though Mežavilks had the opportunity to remain at the Latvian Academy of Art as a drawing instructor, the promising young artist chose a different path. After graduating from the academy, he began working at the humor and satire magazine Dadzis, where, for many years, he was the deputy to the magazine’s chief artist, Egons Rusmanis. Among their duties were not only the drawing of caricatures but also the development of the magazine’s visual image, collaboration with writers, and the preparation of the mock-up for printing. Mežavilks worked for Dadzis until the magazine was dissolved, in 1995.
In addition to his work at Dadzis, Mežavilks also illustrated books; he had a particularly fruitful partnership with humorist Andrejs Skailis. But the artist’s greatest love was for painting. He painted many works en plein air, particularly along the coast of Vidzeme and in the area around Piebalga.
Uģis Mežavilks’s estate includes more than thirty traditional large-format figural compositions, portraits, and landscapes, painted with oil on canvas. During the artist’s lifetime, many of his smaller nature studies found a place in various private collections.
Mežavilks participated in his first exhibit in 1957, and became a member of the Latvian Artists Union in 1959.