Lithuania Sculpture and Painting

Lithuania Painting

Sculpture. – Sculpture in Lithuania only manifests itself in the Renaissance. The works, which have a mostly religious character and consist of statues, busts and sepulchral monuments, are mainly due to Italian masters. As for painting, so for sculpture only the national awakening has allowed the emergence of national sculptors. Among the first to be noted: Petras Rimša and Juozas Zikaras. The Rimša, from his first symbolic and realistic compositions such as The Plowman and The Lithuanian School, has risen to new and courageous affirmations in which a lively expressionism joins the richness and variety of the largely national decorative motifs. He also deals with the difficult art of the coin. The Zikaras, on the other hand, has remained faithful to its realistic symbolism (for example, in the Salvateci group !) Which, however, is somewhat suffocated by the memories of the Petrograd academy. Most interesting are his portraits of living Lithuanian personalities.

Painting. – The art of painting has found very difficult conditions in Lithuania. The first manifestations of it are scarce and not very relevant. Hardly any trace of Byzantine painting remains, although it must have had a period of prosperity in Lithuania. The Grand Duke Jagiellon, later King of Poland, protected the Lithuanian painter Jokubas Zaltis who for his commission executed several works of a religious nature and many portraits, but of these works which, according to the testimony of contemporaries, bore an evident Russian-Byzantine imprint., nothing remains, since the only surviving painting, a Madonna that was still preserved in 1843, was destroyed following the fire of the church of Sokolius. Nor is there any trace of the many frescoes that decorated the Orthodox churches, or of the icons kept by the Grand Dukes in their homes. For Lithuania culture and traditions, please check

The era of the Gothic and the Renaissance did not leave any noteworthy pictorial work in Lithuania. The first pictorial examples of any importance date back to the Baroque era. Thus in the church of Pažaislais in Kaunas there are frescoes by the Italian Del Bene, who also decorated the palace of the Sapieha princes in Vilna.

The first signs of a revival of Lithuanian painting appeared after the 1905 revolution and its fruits were seen in the Vilna exhibition in 1907. The works exhibited in this first exhibition of Lithuanian painters testify that the country is beginning to rise from the terrible crisis which for a long time kept the class of the people divided from that of the nobles and intellectuals. Briefly, the works exhibited at the Vilna exhibition could be characterized as manifestations of a romantic nationalism. The artists are inspired by the beauties of their native country, relive past sufferings and try to guess a better future. MK Čiurlionis stands out among all of them, who first established himself as a musician and revealed a marked tendency towards symbolism in his paintings.

The contemporaries of Čiurlionis, A. Varnas, P. Kalpokas, A. Žmuidzinavičius, I. Šileika are more realistic in their works and are devoted almost exclusively to landscape or portrait. Above all, the portraits of A. Varnas are interesting for the penetration and psychological study they reveal. The younger ones like J. Vienožinskis and A. Galdikas better reflect the more modern painting trends.

Rustic and folk art. – Folk art in Lithuania opens the surest way to get to know the spirit and creative force of the nation.

The people, abandoned to themselves and without a guide, took refuge by instinctive aspiration towards beauty, in the sweet amazement of their countryside and in the melancholy and collected meekness of their family life, recalling the suggestions of simple and primitive legends; he silently set about decorating his rustic dwellings, his furniture, his work tools with purely traditional motifs; in the courtyards of the solitary sodybe, on the banks of rivers and streets he erected his fantastically decorated and carved wooden crosses, built his votive chapels, in whose niches a crowd of crudely carved statuettes by humble and devoted carpenters was pressed.

Lithuanian wooden crosses deviate from the usual molds of the European Catholic tradition. Indeed, the Lithuanian archaeologists would like to have them derive in their structure from subsequent modifications to which the primitive stone stele or the tree trunk was subjected with which the ancient Borussi (a tribe of Lithuanians) adorned the tombs even before the penetration of Christianity. On the other hand, in the structure of those crosses there is no lack of evident Gothic and Baroque influences: a very agile and slender type of cross, with minute and delicate ornamentation, denotes in the Lithuanians an unconscious attempt to imitate the Gothic style; another more massive type, with exuberant and mostly sculptural ornamentation, recalls the Baroque style. But similar stylistic affinities do not stifle the character and

The typical Lithuanian house, built of wood, although it has lost some of its ancient beauty, nevertheless still has many original elements, such as the large front cornices, often perforated, which form an extension of the roof, the small portico facing the main entrance of the house, the so-called kletis or granary where the Lithuanian farmer puts his crops and where he transports his bed during the summer.

Lithuanian folk statuary is less original and less ancient than crosses; there is a greater influence of foreign culture.

As the Lithuanian expresses herself in the wood carvings, so the Lithuanian woman, equally faithful to traditions, in fabrics and embroideries: belts, aprons, tablecloths, blankets, carpets, ties, etc. For the design these works are more uniform than the wood sculptures but surpass these for the delicate research in the harmony of colors and for the superior refinement of the execution.

It is noteworthy that Lithuanian folk art has never been altered by commercialism, thus also defending itself from foreign influence. (See tables LXIII-LXVI).

Lithuania Painting