Milda Gasiūnaitė, 2012-06-14

In brief: The artist Zigmas Petravičius was born on 16 June, 1862 in Ganyprova Village (District of Kelmė). His 150th Anniversary is celebrated this year. Z. Petravičius went to Warsaw Art School, later studied at Petersburg Art Academy and the prestigious Julian Academy in Paris. The painter was an active participant of group exhibitions in Lithuania and abroad, organised solo exhibitions.

Early work of Z. Petravičius was related to the Russian Realism. While studying at Petersburg Art Academy he got familiar with the painting of the Wanderers movement (Peredvizhniki).

Peredvizhniki were a group of Russian realist artists who in protest at academic restrictions formed an artists' cooperative; it evolved into the Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions in 1870. The cooperative consisted of about a hundred of painters. Images of Russian history, daily-round, nature and portraits dominated in their work. Z. Petravičius is considered the first Lithuanian artist who started to participate in exhibitions of the Wanderers. The painter showed his landscapes, still-lifes and genre compositions (‘Hunter’ 1937; ‘Homestead’ 1938) in the movement’s joint shows.

In 1905 Z. Petravičius exhibited anti-military painting ‘March of Death’, later confiscated by the Tsar authorities. In order to avoid an arrest, the artist left for Palestine and later Egypt, where he spent six years. At that time he painted landscapes of those lands mostly. After returning to Petersburg, Z. Petravičius created figurative compositions and landscapes (‘Horses and Harrow’ 1910), portraits (‘Shepherdess’ 1912) with dominating greyish and green colour tones. After World War I, Z. Petravičius lived in Lithuania constantly and died in Kaunas in 1955.

Z. Petravičius was a representative of Realism and academism but, as many other contemporaries, he also followed new art trends of his time – Impressionism and Naturalism.

The influence of Realism in Z. Petravičius’s work is illustrated by his early panting ‘Shepherdess’ (1912). A naturalist and expressive portrait image of a common village girl is conveyed in a landscape background. A pyramid composition used in the painting lets one talk about the influence of academism. The posture of the girl speaks about calmness and relaxation. Attention is drawn to a detailed face of the model, highlighted by a narrow fragment of landscape and low horizon line. Lyrical mood is created by the colouring of grey tints.

In Z. Petravičius’s ‘Baltic Sea’ (1939) Realism is combined with the tendencies of Impressionism. Dunes, plants and water with dominating cloudy sky are depicted in the painting. Tiny brushstrokes, bright colouring and variety of colours and tints create the impression of a warm summer day and vibrating landscape. Yet the artist stayed close to his major – realist – background. The landscape is characteristic of a thorough study of Lithuanian nature.

‘Peasant Yard’ (1946) represents a pure realist tendency. The artist painted his favourite image of Lithuanian village on a bright day. The composition consists of household buildings, lying cows and trees. A free painting technique organises the elements of the painting and creates lucid harmony of colouring.

Despite the influence of other stylistic trends, Z. Petravičius was a consequent follower of the late nineteenth-century Russian academic art traditions. His creative heritage consists of more than thousand works: landscapes, portraits, domestic and historical compositions. His most valuable works show images of Lithuanian nature and village (‘Rest of Herd’ 1929; ‘The Virvytė River’ 1929). Z. Petravičius’s paintings are preserved in museums of Vilnius, Kaunas, Moscow and private collections.






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