An artist trapped by politics: Lithuania 1939–1944

  • Giedrė Jankevičiūtė
Keywords: authoship, art criticism, censorship, unification, World War II


Based on the painting compositions created by the artist Stasys Ušinskas and his followers, the article demonstrates that the German Reich’s normative aesthetics started impacting Lithuanian art as early as in the second half of the 1930s. The aim is to determine the ways it spread and the reasons of its popularity. This issue has not been a subject of an in-depth study in the national historiography yet. The attempts by Lithuanian artists to conform to the needs of the Nazi civil government in 1941–1944 were related to the situation of the late 1930s when the state patronage helped to implant the aesthetics and iconography of neotraditionalism. It is revealed that the search for the examples of neotraditionalism did not focus solely on France, Soviet Union and, in part, Italy (these influences have been researched quite thoroughly) but also on Germany. The changes in the art of Lithuania were also connected to the shifting markers of criticism that were determined by the need for the consolidation of society which emerged as the political situation became complicated both inside the country and at an international level. The analysis of art criticism has revealed that the modernist criteria of originality and creativity were questioned. The discussions were particularly fierce regarding the use of deformation-causing examples of primitive art. It is concluded that modernism’s critique, which both in Lithuania and in Germany was primarily directed against expressionism, incited the changes in Lithuanian art. The spread of neotraditionalism resulted in the increased similarity between individual styles, which even caused difficulties of attribution of the art works created during late 1930s and early 1940s.
Visual Art