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Artist Pranas DomÐaitis (1880–1965)

 

 

Autoportret. Artist Pranas Domðaitis (Franz Domsheit). 1930

“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.


Artist Pranas Domðaitis (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 /USA/.

Domðaitis, from 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.

Trough the 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.

His first 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”.

During 1921-1937  he participated in group exhibitions in Germany (Berlin, Essen, Hamburg, Königsberg, Breslau, Stettin, Münich), Austria, Switzerland, Romania and Turkey.

When political 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.

This late 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 the
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. ( e-mail:  kpgdomsaitis[at]takas.lt )

Although the 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.

There are paintings by Domðaitis at the –
M.K.Čiurlionis National Museum of Art (Kaunas, Lithuania);

·        Lithuanian Foundation, Lemont, IL, USA;

·        East Prussian Land Museum, Lüneburg, Germany;

·        East German Museum-Gallery, Regensburg, Germany;

·        National Gallery, Berlin, Germany;

·        National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Republic of Zimbabwe;

·        South Africa Republic – South Africa National Gallery, Pretoria Art Museum, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Durban Art gallery and many others…

Many of Domðaitis’ works are held in private collections in Southern Africa,

Germany, Austria, 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 II.

 

Prepared by L. Bialopetravičienė.
Pranas Domðaitis. Vilnius, 2001.

 

CHRONOLOGY

 

1880 Born on September 15 in Lithuania Minor in village  Kropynos / Cropiens, Gaevo, Kaliningrad district). Farmed till age 27.
1905 Refused admission to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Königsberg.
1906 M.Lieberman  recognises Domsaitis’ talent.
1907 On strenght of this, granted bursary by Academy at Königsberg.
1907 –1910 Studied in the Art Academy of Konigsberg. Studied under Detmann.
1910-1913 Painted under  L.Corinth in Berlin. Furthered studies in Paris,  Florence, London,  Amsterdam. Painted portraits in St. Petersburg.
1914 Visited E. Munch in Norway.
1914-1918 War period spent in Berlin and East Prussia.  Participated in the Berlin  Secession Group Exhibitions.
1919 First known one-man exhibition in Gallery Möller, Berlin, and then in Breslau.
1920 Accepted Lithuanian  citizenship.
1921- 1937 Participated  in group exhibitions in Berlin, Königsberg, Hamburg. Exhibited in Germany,  Austria, Romania, Turkey.
1928 Married well-known singer Adelheid Armhold. Accompanied wife on tours.
1937 Works included in Nazi restriction on artistic activity. Paintings shown in “Degenerate Art” exhibition in Münich.
1938 Began to sign work “Pranas Domsaitis”.
1940-1943 Berlin.
1943-1949 Lived in Austria, Sulz Röthis. Took part with Lithuanian artists in International Refugee  Art    Exhibitions in Vorarlberg, Innsbruck and Bregenz.
1949 Wife offered lectureship at College of Music, University  of Cape Town. Settled in South Africa Republic.
1950-1958 Visited Karoo, Free State, Transvaal and Transkei. Exhibited in South Africa, Rhodesia, USA and Canada.
1963 Participated in Sao Paulo Bienal.
1964 Won the “Artists of Fame and Promise” award in South Africa.
1965 Died on Nowember 14  in Cape Town.
1966 Commemorative Exhibition at the South African National Gallery, Cape Town.  Exhibition later traveled the country.
1970 Exhibition in Bielefeld Kunsthale, Germany.
1976 First monographic studie  written by Elsa Verloren van Themaat / Klump.
1978  Exhibition in the University of Hawaii Art Gallery, Honolulu.
1980 Lithuanian Foundation (USA) purchased Collection of Domðaitis’ paintings by widow.
1982 Exhibition in Čiurlionis’ Gallery, Chicago.
1989-2001 Lithuanian Foundation sent  Domðaitis’ paintings to Lithuanian Art Museum.
1992 First Exhibition in Lithuania, Lithuanian Art museum and then in Klaipeda Picture Gallery.
2001 On  Julay 26  Pranas Domðaitis Gallery is open in Klaipėda.
 
 
 
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