I See Your Beauty. From Čiurlionis to Kairiūkštis – Lithuanian Art of the First Half of the 20th Century

Visit The National Museum in Szczecin at Wały Chrobrego on Friday, September 4th at 6.00 P.M. to attend the opening of an exhibition entitled "I See Your Beauty. From Čiurlionis to Kairiūkštis – Lithuanian Art of the First Half of the 20th Century". The exhibition will be available from Spetember 4th to November 29th 2020. 

On July 19th 2020, at the last stage of the exhibition preparation, its co-curator, longstanding Director of M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art in Kaunas, Osvaldas Daugelis passed away. All those who have been taking part in work on the exhibiting and publishing project would like to dedicate the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue to his memory.

 

The exhibition of Lithuanian art of the first half of the 20th century arranged by The National Museum in Szczecin in cooperation with M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art in Kaunas is Poland's first general presentation of artistic phenomena in Lithuanian art of the verge of the 19th and 20th centuries and of the first decades after 1900; in art that was intensely developing at that time, along with the Polish Modernity and early Avant-Garde.

Using the space of early-Modernist building of The National Museum in Szczecin, the curators have decided to present nearly 100 works of art carefully selected among the Kaunas collection. The paintings were created by such artists as Petras Kalpokas, Antanas Žmuidzinavičius, Antanas Samuolis, Adomas Galdikas and Antanas Gudaitis or Victras Vizgirda. The exhibition includes also a representation of the output of the most famous Lithuanian artist of the verge of the 19th and 20th centuries, considered Lithuanian national artistic prophet, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis.

During his short life, Čiurlionis, a representative of Middle-European Symbolism, recognised as a forerunner of abstraction and Surrealism, in search for synthesis of painting and music – which was typical of fin de siècle – created his individual language and style of artistic expression. Referring to old Lithuanian fairy tales and stories, he tried to present archetypical sense of Lithuanians' relation with nature in landscape painting “poems” composed similarly to pieces of music. He composed around 400 pieces of music and 300 paintings, numerous prints, drawings and wrote both poetry and narrative-poem prose.

The works of two generations of Lithuanian creators present at the exhibition show the process of shaping Lithuanian national art, which seems particularly interesting in the context of restitution of independence and proclamation of Act of Independence of Lithuania on February 16th 1918.  There is also an interesting and important aspect of the possibility of observing numerous stylistic and formal coincidences with art of Western Europe, mainly of France and Germany, and – what may be obvious if one considers ages of vicinity and close relations – with Polish art. These frequent European relations could be clearly seen in recent (2018) epic exhibition of Symbolism of the Baltic Countries held by Musee D’Orsay in Paris. 

In the context of Pomerania and old collections of Szczecin, it is worth to notice that the exhibition includes works of art by Pranas Domšaitis (Franz Domscheit) – an interesting expressionist painter exhibiting initially with Max Liebermann, Edvard Munch, Käthe Kollwitz and Lovis Corinth. After the Nazis rose to power, the works by Domšaitis were considered degenerate art and confiscated or removed from museum collections, also in Szczecin (Museum der Stadt Stettin). After his exhibitions in 1920s and early 1930s in, among others, Berlin, Hamburg, Kaliningrad, Lübeck and Szczecin, Pranas Domšaitis left to Austria in 1938 and to Cape Town in 1949. 

Apart from characteristics of national Lithuanian school, numerous dissimilarities but also similarities to Polish art, the exhibition presents various biographic plots related to Poland, frequent for example as far as both artists, whose names appear in the title of the exhibition, are concerned. One may mention Čiurlionis's Warsaw studies at the workshops of Ferdynand Ruszczyc and Kazimierz Stabrowski, his numerous Polish friendships, and, as regards Vytautas Kairiūkštis, first Exhibition of New Art carried out in Vilnius by him and  Władysław Strzemiński and the artist’s connections with Blok and Praesens groups.

The Szczecin exhibition concept involves the idea of a kind of lexicon of Lithuanian art  including 24 artists of two generations active in the first half of the 20th century. It is a valuable opportunity to see how little we actually know in Poland about the art of our neighbours. It also makes it possible to verify common belief of its post-Romantic character.   

 

 

Artists: Mikalojus Konstantinas ČIURLIONIS (1875–1911), Pranas DOMŠAITIS (1880 – 1965), Vladas DRĖMA (1910–1995), Vladas EIDUKEVIČIUS (1891–1941), Adomas GALDIKAS (1893–1969), Antanas GUDAITIS (1904–1989), Vytautas KAIRIŪKŠTIS (1890–1961), Petras KALPOKAS (1880–1945), Leonardas KAZOKAS (1905–1981), Elena KAŽDAILEVIČIŪTĖ (1899–?), Matas MENČINSKAS (1896–1942), Irena PACEVIČIŪTĖ (1918–2002), Petras RIMŠA (1881–1961), Antanas SAMUOLIS (1899–1942), Adomas SMETONA (1901–1942), Jonas ŠILEIKA (1883–1960), Kazys ŠIMONIS (1887–1978), Stasys UŠINSKAS (1905–1974), Adolfas VALEŠKA (1903–1994), Adomas VARNAS (1879–1979), Justinas VIENOŽINSKIS (1886–1960), Viktoras VIZGIRDA (1904–1993), Juozas ZIKARAS (1881–1944), Antanas ŽMUIDZINAVIČIUS (1876–1966). 

 

 

The exhibition entitled "I See Your Beauty. From Čiurlionis to Kairiūkštis – Lithuanian Art of the First Half of the 20th Century" arranged in cooperation with Nacionalinis M.K. Čiurlionio dailės muziejus in Kaunas is a stage of Baltic Program, important for the Szczecin museum and for the culture of Pomerania, reminding that the coast of the Baltic Sea has been the area of intense cultural, economical and political contacts, which have been continued in the present, in the United Europe. The point of the program within one of the scientific and exhibiting priorities of The National Museum in Szczecin ("Between Classicism and Modernity. Culture and Art of Europe of the 19th to Middle 20th Century") is cooperation with art museums of the Baltic Sea region and carrying out common events: both presentation of Polish art around 1900 in the Baltic area museums and exhibitions of art of all the Baltic countries at The National Museum in Szczecin. In Szczecin, the following have been shown so far: Latvian art in cooperation with Latvijas Nacionālais mākslas muzejs in Riga ("Flying with Our Own Wings. Art of Early 20th Century in Latvia, 2004–2005"), Estonian art in cooperation with Eesti Kunstimuuseum KUMU in Tallinn ("Adapting Modernity. Classics of Estonian Art in the First Half of the 20th Century, 2010–2011"). "Art of Happy People. Painting on Bornholm in the 19th and 20th Centuries" has been arranged in cooperation with Bornholms Kunstmuseum on Bornholm (2018–2019).  

                                                                                                                                                                                  By Dariusz Kacprzak, PhD

 

I See Your Beauty. From Čiurlionis to Kairiūkštis – Lithuanian Art of the First Half of the 20th Century

The National Museum in Szczecin, ul. Wały Chrobrego 3

exhibition available: September 4th – November 29th 2020
exhibition opening: September 4th 2020, 6.00 P.M.

 

curators: Osvaldas Daugelis, Dariusz Kacprzak, PhD
curatorial cooperation: Genovaitė Vertelkaitė-Bartulienė

 

organizers: The National Museum in Szczecin (Muzeum Narodowe w Szczecinie), M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art in Kaunas (Nacionalinis M.K. Čiurlionio dailės muziejus)

honorary patronage: Eduardas Borisovas, The Ambassador of The Republic of Lithuania in The Republic of Poland, Olgierd Geblewicz, Marshal of West-Pomeranian Voivodeship