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Petronėlė Gerlikienė's 1976 painting War I is an integral part of her own biography. After leaving her native Žemaitija (Samogitia) after the war to live with her artist son in the capital, her life was similar to that of many other representatives of Lithuanian naive art, such as Monika Bičiūnienė or Jadvyga Nalivaikienė. These women were inspired to create art by their loved ones, and painting became a means to forget painful wartime experiences and losses and adjust to a new life in the city.

Let's take a closer look at this painting. It portrays three figures pausing around a pilgrim's cane, a well-known symbol of the traveler. From where does the travel motif arise?

This painting can be considered autobiographical, since the war cost the artist her loved ones, a peaceful life, and her material well-being. Later, she also lost her home. When Soviet deportations began in Lithuania, Gerlikienė and her young son were forced to hide. We can thus surmise that the three figures portrayed in the painting are in fact the artist herself, her husband, and her son. The piece speaks of a life doomed to be spent wandering, and a loss of family happiness.

"I had a dream before the war, and I heard a clear voice: 'You will have to bear three pains in your life,' and then I saw suspended above me three blood-covered pains," said Petronėlė.

If you noticed the three red lights over the pilgrim's cane, then you know now that these are the agonies of the artist's dreams that followed her on her difficult road in life.

As the name of the painting suggests, there are more parts to the War. In War II, Petronėlė Gerlikienė painted an expressive multi-figured scene portraying the poverty of a large family. In War III she depicts an even more dramatic event — a woman, driven insane by the horrors of war, preparing to kill her own children.

Details

  • Title: War I
  • Creator: Petronėlė Gerlikienė
  • Date: 1976
  • Physical Location: Lithuania
  • Physical Dimensions: 87 x 58 cm
  • Medium: tempera, oil on cardboard

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