Petronėlė Gerlikienė's painting Spring, created in 1977, portrays the silhouettes of stately trees rising against the background of a blue sky. The treetops end in a symbolic crescent-shaped stork's nest, in which a pair of these birds, revered and protected in Lithuania for centuries, nestles comfortably.
In the right corner of the painting we see a stork raising its child to the sky, while a woman does the same with her child on the left... In this way, the simple structure of the painting takes on a feeling of rhythm, shape and scale.
Gerlikienė's paintings also feature a considerable amount of rich village humor. Here, for example, she paints an owl quietly sandwiched between the tree trunks. It symbolizes the forces of evil vanquished by good and the stork – a bearer of good fortune.
What else is unique in this work? The artist has succeeded in portraying, in a remarkably exact and efficient way, the changes of the seasons, the eternal transformations in nature and their connection to human life, as well as the joyful mood of spring.
When we look at this bold work, painted in a childlike style, it is not difficult to understand that Petronėlė Gerlikienė is a self-trained artist. Upon closer examination of the art history of the 20th and 21st centuries we would see that the paths of professional and self-trained artists have been inextricably intertwined. At the start of the 20th century, many modernist artists were already learning from and searching the art of primitive peoples and children's paintings for sources of a more liberated creativity, unconstrained by rules, as well as the power and beauty of a naive and primitive fluidity.
One of the most renowned Western European primitivists, Henri Rousseau, was a customs official who painted in his free time. Lithuanian naive artists often became interested in art inspired by other family members who had become professional artists. That is also how Petronėlė Gerlikienė found her way to art. Inspired by her painter son, Pranciškus Gerlikas, she first began weaving colorful carpets, and soon after turned to painting.