Artist Pranas DomÐaitis (1880–1965)
Autoportret. Artist Pranas Domðaitis (Franz
“Ich bin doch
immer unterwegs” (“I am always on the way”) – these words spoken in German
by Pranas Domðaitis on his deathbed are constantly repeated by most of the
authors who write about this son of Lithuania. These last word
of the artist may be used to characterize his creative path, marked by
an intensive search for perfect expression, the only path that gave a
tangible result – a spiritual and material legacy attesting to this man’s
existence on earth. Domðaitis was an artist brought up by the cultures of
two peoples living next to each other – the Germans and the Lithuanians.
(Franz Domscheit) was well known in Germany after World War I and in South
Africa after World War II. But it has been only in recent decades that
the Lithuanian public learned more about him, when the bulk of his
creative output came under the guardianship of the Lithuanian Foundation
childhood maturing in the blend of neighboring cultures, is a classic
artist of the borderlands. He absorbed international influences, yet he
maintained a strong national identity. In one letter Domðaitis spoke about
his ancestry: “But Lithuanian blood does not decieve, just as my paintings
are truly Lithuanian.”
Until the age of
27 Domðaitis lived in his birthplace where he began his creative activity
as a self-taught artist while he helped his father tend the family farm.
intercession of famous German artist Max Liebermann, Domðaitis was
accepted to the Königsberg Art Academy (1907). At the beginning of his
creative path, Domðaitis was influenced by German artists. Domðaitis
experienced a very strong impact from his visit to Edward Munch in
Norway. Domðaitis was similarly affected by the French expressionist
Georges Rouault, especially in religious themes.
exhibition in the Gallery Ferdinand Möller in 1919 attracted critical
attention and his works began to be added to various collections in
Königsberg, Stettin and Lübeck, and the National Gallery in Berlin
acquired an “Adoration”.
he participated in group exhibitions in Germany (Berlin, Essen, Hamburg,
Königsberg, Breslau, Stettin, Münich), Austria, Switzerland, Romania and
and social conditions changed in Germany, the time of creative enthusiasm
and stability came to an end. In 1937 there began throughout Germany the
confiscation of art works that did not conform to the values of the
official ideology. The final accent was an exhibition opened in Münich in
the summer of 1937 under the name Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art).
Domðaitis shared with Nolde, Kirchner, Müller, Dix and others, the most
important artists of the day, the miseries and honor of having his work in
the exhibition of “Degenerate Art” in 1937 in Münich.
It was thereafter
impossible for Domðaitis to exhibit further in Germany, and began 1938 he
sometimes lived at Vorarlberg, Austria and signed his picture from that
time onward with his Lithuanian name - Pranas Domðaitis. In 1946 he
participated in a refugee exhibition in Bregenz, the first time his work
was represented as Lithuanian.
In 1949 his wife
was appointed senior lecturer in singing at the University of Cape Town in
South Africa, a country, he had dreamed of as a child. New landscape, new
color, made Domðaitis final South Africa period a time of renewal and
confirmation as his art grew simpler and even stronger in design. His
painting took on a melancholy stillness and transcendental premonitions.
His landscapes, common human figures are filled with deep symbolism. Especially
important is the deeply experienced archetypes of his work – the
journey and the themes of travelling – expressed realistically as well
as expressions of Biblical studies.
breakthrough in the artist’s creative powers amazed South African art
critics, who were being invited each year to several personal exhibitions
of Domðaitis’ paintings. In 1964 Domðaitis received, for his achievements
in the field of artistic creation, one of the most prestigious South
African awards – the Artists of Fame and Promise Award.
Domðaitis died in
Cape Town in 1965 at the age of 85, and in 1966 the National Gallery in
Cape Town held a memorial exhibition of over two hundred of his works
which later was shown in other museums in South Africa.
It is fortunate
that the harvest of Domðaitis long creative growth, which matured in
foreign lands, in large part has returned to the area of Lithuanian art.
In 1989, when
Lithuania began his journey to independence, the Lithuanian Foundation
transferred the first of Domðaitis works to Lithuania. In the course of
several years the Foundation donated a collection of 528 of artist’s works
to the Lithuanian Art Museum.
On July 26, 2001
Pranas Domðaitis Gallery was opened in Klaipėda. It is home to the
greater part of the collection as well as to the Pranas Domðaitis Culture
Center, whose goals are to collect, study and disseminate information
about the artist’s life and work.
collection held at the Lithuanian Art Museum (Domðaitis Gallery is the
branch of Lithuanian Art Museum) is the largest in the world, it is not
the only one.
paintings by Domðaitis at the –
M.K.Čiurlionis National Museum of Art (Kaunas, Lithuania);
Foundation, Lemont, IL, USA;
Prussian Land Museum, Lüneburg, Germany;
German Museum-Gallery, Regensburg, Germany;
Gallery, Berlin, Germany;
Gallery of Zimbabwe, Republic of Zimbabwe;
Africa Republic – South Africa National Gallery, Pretoria Art Museum,
Johannesburg Art Gallery, Durban Art gallery and many others…
Domðaitis’ works are held in private collections in Southern Africa,
Canada, Australia, the United States, Turkey.
Unknown is the
fate of those pictures which the museums and galleries of Lübeck, Münich,
Hamburg, Stettin, Breslau, Hannover, Königsberg acquired before World War
Prepared by L. Bialopetravičienė.
Pranas Domðaitis. Vilnius, 2001.