Influence of Paris schools on Lithuanian art (Part I) 0

Marius Vyšniauskas, 2015-10-29
F. Duban. "National Art School", 1837. D'Orsay Museum, Paris, France

In brief: The famous Lithuanian public figure Pranciškus Ksaveras Mykolas Bogušas (1746–1820) wrote in his "Travel journal" about the art criteria, "The French taste ... is characterized by gentleness, moderation, and elegance and a type of art that is difficult to find elsewhere." The series of articles will review the influence of Paris art schools on Lithuanian artists.

At that time the capital of France had various art schools, private studios, among which, the most famous was the National Art School (L’École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, established in 1648). When J. Oleškevičius started studying there (his name is mentioned in the list of students in 1803, October the 3rd) the school was already known as one of the most influential art and architecture institutions of the 19th century Europe that stored the largest publicly accessible art collection in the country. Thus, it is only natural, that everyone wanted to study there.

More detailed information about the painter's studies does not exist (in 1810 he is already in St. Petersburg), thus, we are left to rely on the E. Rastaveckas' suggestion that the Lithuanian was learning painting secrets at the prestigious studio of J. L. David, which after receiving a royal administrative authorization was opened in Louvre. Although J. Oleškevičius left almost no notes, it is known that he disliked landscapes the most and regarded them as the lowest pictorial phenomenon. This is astonishing because in the 19th century this epithet was usually reserved to the genre of portrait, to which the Lithuanian devoted most of his life.

The biography of Kanutas Ruseckas (1800–1860) provides us with more generous facts. He spent almost a year in Paris (from 1821 September 21st to 1822 September 9th). From the 8th of March in 1822 he started studying at the same art school. He boasted to his son about the nature of studies and their significance to his work in the letter of 1847: "And about my studies ... I had learned the most in Paris. All other schools were only the followers of it. We would meet at the professor's studio at 8 am. Ee would draw a live model for about three hours and the ones who could paint already were told to start painting in oil directly from nature ... After that, each of us would draw gypsum copies or learn how to draw by a pencil from engravings, choosing only individual shapes.”

Ever since 1860–1870 Paris has become a major center for the art metamorphosis. This is where impressionism was formed, a synthetic style of Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) that was changed by les nabis and then fauvism until finally everything was overshadowed by cubism of Pablo Picasso (1881–1973).

Most probably the thought of perfecting themselves in Paris was suggested to young men by their teachers. For example, K. Ruseckas was teaching painting at the Nobility Institute in Vilnius.

One of the first members of the "Polish Artists' Association in France" was Vilnius sculptor Boleslovas Balzukevičius (1879–1935), who settled abroad in 1902 and studied at the French Art School with the sculptor Antonin Mercié (1845–1916). The last painter of the second wave of artists in France - Boleslovas Buika appeared in Paris together with B. Balzukevičius. Sources mention that the artist was participating willingly in Vilnius Fine Art Association's exhibitions to which he was sending his works created abroad.

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