art 2003/1

Antanas Samuolis (1899–1942). Priemiestis.
1931, drobė, aliejus, 44,5 x 37,5
Lietuvos dailės muziejaus rinkinys

Antanas Samuolis (1899–1942). Saulėgrąžos.
1933, drobė, aliejus, 60 x 75
Edmundo Armoškos kolekcija

Away from Samuolis

by Jolita Mulevičiūtė

This early spring a private Vilnius gallery “Maldis” featured an exhibition dedicated to the charismatic Lithuanian painter of the last century, a key member of the local Ars group (1930s), Antanas Samuolis. The exhibition featured the painter’s best-known works from the National M.K. Čiurlionis Museum and the Lithuanian Art Museum. In addition, on display were twenty-six canvases in the style, manner and iconography of Samuolis from the Edmundas Ramoška’s collection. These latter canvases, which had never been showcased before, were doomed to become a bone of contention for local artists and art critics. Several cultural publications ran angry articles by artists and art critics challenging the attribution of these alleged works by Samuolis. There was also harsh criticism in regard of the idea of the cooperation between state run museums and private galleries.
The author of the article leaves aside the issue of alleged forgery (the findings of the Pranas Gudynas Cultural Values Conservation and Restoration Center is still due) and focuses instead on what she calls social problems revealed by the exhibition and its reverberations. According to her, the two famous painters who published the most vociferous article claiming that the show should be closed and the Culture Ministry should take measures took anti-civic and anti-liberal position. The attitude of the painters, the author argues, was molded by the epoch of the “quiet Modernism” and the militant Soviet times (the thing of the past). Their distrust against private capital is biased and precludes any critical dialogue. They identify author’s originality and authenticity with the very essence of art, ignoring the fact that we live in the times of multiplication and interpretation. They failed to accept the exhibition as a cultural provocation (such was its original intent), and dismissed it as a sacrilegious act. Right away, the author blames the very same artists for failing to protest against a century’s mystification, the project to rebuild the Ruler’s Palace in Vilnius. Thus, she concludes, such an attitude is also inconsistent and pseudo-historical.
Another target of the author is an article by a young art critic who admits being disappointed by the very oeuvre of Samuolis, while she was used to the virtual images of the painter. The problem is, the author concludes, not the fact that the art critic is unable to step beyond the stereotypes of art history, but showing-off an anti-historical attitude.