art 2004/2

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Liudas Truikys. Peizažas ties Santaka. 5-asis dešimtmetis, popierius, akvarelė, 45x65


Liudas Truikys. Projektas Kartografija. 5-asis dešimtmetis, popierius, tušas, 20x30

The Forgotten Aspects of Liudas Truikys’ Oeuvre  

by Vida Mažrimienė

The contribution of Liudas Truikys to Lithuanian scenography is so significant that any attempt to identify other aspects of his creative work might seem inadequate. Yet the Truikys Memorial Museum in Kaunas holds over 340 of his watercolours, oil paintings and illustrated book covers. Another part of such work is divided among a number of other Lithuanian museums. The less known facets of the artist’s work were introduced to the public in the 1989 exhibition in the Kaunas Picture Gallery. Different aspects of  Truikys’ legacy in representational arts were discussed by the art historians Paulius Galaunė, Ingrida Korsakaitė, Juozas Galkus and other, yet this part of his work is still awaiting a more comprehensive study.
Liudas Truikys took his painting classes in Kaunas Art School (1924-29) with Adomas Varnas and Justinas Vienožinskis. However, his most powerful and lasting influence was Mstislav Dobuzhinski. Another formative factor was his personal interest in Aztec, Mayan, Oriental, Medieval and Gothic Art. He started his career as theatre scenographer and costume artist to receive immediate critical acclaim. In 1931, he joined the Society of Independent Artists. In the forties, Truikys was active as a painter mostly producing landscapes and rural scenes. He shares the recurrent motifs of his watercolours – river dams and bridges, fields with haystacks – with such influential painters of the period in Lithuania as Algirdas Petrulis and Vytautas Mackevičius. His colour scheme and a delicate vibrating brushstroke are rather impressionistic, yet ‘tighter’ composition and strong drawing bring him closer to the ARS group and Expressionism. In 1944, Vilnius Art Museum showed his work, mostly his paintings and watercolours, and critics drew parallels to the famous painters, but also noted that Truikys as a painter had not yet discovered his own idiom. His subject was mostly virgin natural scenery, populated with miniature figures, with only fragmentary allusions of the genre. He devised unusual painting techniques such as watercolour mixed with gouache and tempera, and applied some principles, traditionally devised for watercolour, to oil painting. By marrying the Lithuanian, Western and Oriental aesthetic sensibilities, he emerged with a non-traditional, mostly in terms of colour and technique, visual expression. A certain fragmentation of individual elements of expression may be attributed to his ‘theatrical mindset’. His predilection to ornamental graphic elements in his stage sets never had any stronger impact on his painting.   
Liudas Truikys was also active as an illustrator of books, magazines, and textbooks. He contributed caricatures to several humour magazines of the period such as Spaktyva (1924-34). In 1931, he worked on illustrating the Sakalėlis textbook by S. Matjošaitis-Esmaitis. Limited by the didactic nature of this textbook, the artist got more creative in producing the vignettes for the Writings, vol. 3 by Antanas Smetona. Criticized for his eclectic style, he went back to book illustrating late in the 1960s, only to face dictatorial requirements to mimic reality. The period did not appreciate artistic self-expression or ethnic qualities, such attempts by the artists were denounced as ‘formalism.’  Liudas Truikys tried to find a way around the requirements by the establishment. Of his bolder projects are his design and illustration of the books by the Uzbek and Georgian authors: he married the ornamental elements of Muslim world with the aesthetics of Secession and scrupulously selected fonts to match the text. His illustrations of The Enchanted Monks (1950) by Antanas Vienuolis were severely criticized by the establishment and rejected as ‘formalistic and mystical’.
Liudas Truikys has also contributed to the development of graphic design, producing in the 1930s a number of potent posters. His poster style reflected both the influence of Russian Constructivists and the emerging local style.

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