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Genovaite Kazokas’ Lithuanian Artists in Australia 1950-1990 is the source of the following extracts on Lithuanian art.
Lithuanian art has been described as being predominantly anti-hedonistic and pantheistic with strong links to mythology.
The anti-hedonistic tendency influences the Lithuanian artist’s choice of
subject matter, quality of composition and colour scale, so that that lively or bacchanalian scenes or the nude do not feature prominently.
Lithuanian art/artists reveal a stronger pre-Christian ethos than artists of
other European countries where there are longer histories of Christianisation
and urbanisation. Lithuanian art had its roots in an agricultural country that
was the last in Europe to shed paganism. The preoccupation appears to be
with the interpretation of myth, the mystery of life and death, nature and human suffering.
Themes in Lithuanian art are often related to genesis and change; the movements of the sun, the planets and the stars.
In their pantheistic beliefs, the Balts regarded earth, trees, rivers and fire as holy entities in which gods, souls and spirits found their dwelling. It was believe that after death a man’s spirit passed over to a tree, bird or stone, river or lake so that the whole of nature was totally animate and to be venerated at all times. Water and fire were regarded as pristine entities.
The culture of the old Baltic period – before 3,500BC, was matriarchal. The most revered gods were Mother Earth (Zemyna), Mother Sun, (Saule), and Fortune (Laima).
Respect for the earth was still strong among rural people well into the 20th century.
Oaths and important contracts among land dwellers were sealed by kissing the earth.
Cultural customs prevail to this day. In secular life, respect for the mother and all women originating in the matriarchal period prevail.
In the Lithuanian statute of 1529, the penalty for the murder of a woman was twice as severe as or the murder of a man. Women in independent Lithuania (1918 to 1940) had equal rights to access to education, opportunities to work, pay, inheritance and voting.
The 16th century saw the publication of the first book in the Lithuanian language in which Lithuanian graphic art was introduced. Until theb16th century Lithuanian fine art items were only found in the courts of nobles and in churches.
With the founding of the University of Vilnius in 1579 a systematic development in Lithuanian art grew from architecture, drawing and engraving to the introduction in 1797 of a Faculty of Painting.
Irena with parents