Artist – rebel 0

Marius Vyšniauskas, 2013-08-15

In brief: The Lithuanian artist Vincentas Leopoldas Slendzinskis (Wincenty Leopold Sleńdziński, 1837–1909 in Polish) is known rather well among art historians; still, there are not many publications dedicated to his life and work in historiography. Those several messages were mostly written in the Soviet years and repeat themselves, they are sometimes misleading or do not refer to concrete sources. This is determined by the lack of material about biography of the artist and by the creative heritage scattered in various countries and collections. There is no one article that would describe the life of the artist thoroughly.

However, there is no doubt that people who visited the Lithuanian Museum of Art (further LMA) noticed the expressive painting “Grandmother Threading a Needle” (1860). This work became inseparable from every text mentioning the artist. Not many people know that this person also restored works, wrote poetry, loved to philosophise and even participated in the uprising of 1863–1864, for what he was banished from his homeland for many years. Therefore, as the anniversary of the uprising of 1863 is marked in 2013, the author considers it important to speak about this artist marking that he was one of many artists who participated in the bloody conflict of the middle of the 19th century.

V.Slendzinskis “Grandmother Threading a Needle”, 1860, LMA

V.Slendzinskis was born on January 1, 1837 in Skrebinai (Jonava district). His parents were the artist Aleksandras Slendzinskis (1803–1878) and Karolina Korgaudaitė (Korgowdów in Polish) (1812–1883). The artist spent his childhood in Vilnius, in the house of his grandfather from the father’s side. He received first lessons of painting from the former students of J. Rustemas – his father Aleksandras and another famous representative of realistic painting who lectured at Vilnius Noblemen’s Institute Kanutas Ruseckas (1800–1860).

Lessons of painting in Vilnius were not sufficient, and W. Sleńdziński and his colleague Mykolas Elvyras Andriolis left for Moscow in 1856 (or 1855 according to other sources), School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. V. Slendzinskis was loved by lecturers and course mates. One may speculate that the creative career could have been really successful if not for the uprising of 1863.

Exceptional friends surrounded the artist in the city of his studies, and they encouraged him to get involved into the uprising of 1863–1864. He entered a secret movement that kept close relations with Vilnius. After returning to Lithuania he was arrested near Biržai. His friend B. Kolyška was sentenced to death, J.Čarnovskis was sent to servitude for 12 years, F. Baričevskis and V. Slendzinskis were deported to Niznij Novgorod district under strict supervision of the police.

V. Slendzinskis spent 20 years in exile – in Kniaginin (Niznij Novgorod district), in Charkov, Sumos (Ukraine). Historians are inclined to believe that the life of the artist was dull in exile but in fact the notebooks of his sketches presently stored in Bialystok Slendzinskiai Gallery reveal that the internal world of the artist was controversial. He discloses as a thinker, poet and satirist in the sketches.

In 1867 V. Slendzinskis was allowed to move to Kharkov. While going through notes of the artist, one may notice that the artist painted the biggest number of works in exile – about 20 in the first year of exile, about 18 in the second year, 10 in the third year, 9 in the fourth year. In the same year St. Petersburg Academy of Arts announced V. Slendzinskis the painter of the third degree.

The artist created portraits in Kharkov that brought him money. In 1872 he received the permit to leave for western areas and moved to his brother Aleksandras in Krakow. The artist later left Krakow for Dresden, where he settled along with the historian Juozapas Ignotas Kraševskis (1812–1887), who valued Lithuanian art highly.

V. Slendzinskis returned to Lithuania, Vilnius only in 1883. It may be stated that the passion of the artist for Vilnius landscapes revealed here. Surroundings of Paplauja, Antakalnis, Markučiai, Užupis have been immortalised in his paintings. The artist sometimes used fantasy but usually his compositions were precise as photographs, as it is typical for a realist.

The artist died on August 6 (19) of 1909. He is buried in Bernardinai Cemetery beside his father and grandparents.

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