Bright in the Dark

Discover the beauty of 18th-19th century portraits in the collection of Lithuanian Art Fund

Marshall of Grodno Powiat Krzysztof Jundziłł (mid-18th century) by Unknown authorLithuanian Art Fund

Lithuanian Art Fund holds an exlusive collection of portraits dated from  mid-18th century to early 20th century. This exhibition reflects only a part of the best portraits made by such famous Lithuanian painters as Tadas Lukosevicius, Napoleonas Ylakavičius, Kazimierz Alchimowicz, Konstanty Gorski (Górski) and many others.

Karol Stalisław Radziwiłł (18th century) by Unknown authorLithuanian Art Fund

The origins of Lithuanian art date back to the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania lasted from the 13th century to 1795. At its greatest extent, in the 15th century, it was the largest state in Europe. Apart from the historical importance, these portraits are of immeasurable artistic value and are truly unique.

Detail from the Portrait of Karol Stalisław Radziwiłł, member of the famous and powerful Radziwiłł family originating from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Portrait of Mykolas Dešertas, Centurion of Navahrudak (1792) by Unknown authorLithuanian Art Fund

Michał Deszert (1730–1792) was a Polish-Lithuanian nobleman of French descent, and the Grand Pantler of Navahrudak. Having married the daughter of the Grand Pantler of Smolensk and the Deputy Pantler of Zhytomyr, he farmed her dowry estate at Szumlanszczyzna (now in Ukraine), and managed the neighbouring lands of the Poniatowski family.

This portrait of Michał Deszert was painted during a period of growth of the national spirit, in the wake of the Constitution of 3 May 1791, and shortly before the uprising of 1794. It is a typical likeness of a late 18th-century local nobleman, whose position is shown by his dress, his coat of arms, and an inscription (possibly added later). The Enlightenment spirit is reflected in the artist’s attempt to give the person a natural posture, by officialdom giving way to simplicity.

Portrait of Emilia Baniewicz (1849) by Felix Antoni Smuglewicz and SmuglewiczLithuanian Art Fund

Early 19th century

Brushwork in early 19th century perfectly reflects the facial features of the people in the paintings and the details of their garmets. During this period, black was used a sign for a restless national history and became even fashionable at the end of the 19th century. However black spiritual background also best reflects pure brightness in people's souls.

Portrait of Aleksandra Vojejkova (1821) by Józef OleszkiewiczLithuanian Art Fund

According to the labels on the back of the painting, here we see Aleksandra Voyeykova (1795–1829), the wife of the Russian poet, translator, critic, publisher and journalist Aleksandr Voyeykov (1779–1839). She is depicted leaning gracefully on a table, wearing an elegant and dark but modest dress, and the serious expression on her rather sad face shows no sign of levity. Her distant look seems to reflect her thoughts, deep in the world of poetry and the imagination.

Portrait of a woman (1815) by Józef PeszkaLithuanian Art Fund

Portrait of a woman by Józef Peszka (1767-1831) is more chamber-like and without decorative character. However, the portait could be characterized by its realistic features.

Here a girl with an open glance is directly looking at us. One may feel a slight mood of sadness and modesty spreading our from the elegant portret.

Portrait of Emilija Pliaterytė (1830) by Tadas LukoševičiusLithuanian Art Fund

This portrait shows a girl of a noble descent. She is wearing a fashionable, expensive but rather modest white dress with no adornments. Such woman’s outfit and hairstyle accurately reflects the 19th century. The type of the dress shown in the portrait (straight-cut at the waist with a wide yet flat neckline that visually enhances the shoulders, and puffed sleeves) became popular in first half of that century.

The hairstyle of the girl portrayed also belongs to a rather specific period – that of around 1830: the hair is done up in a braid-wrapped high bun with tightly spun, not-quite-shoulder-length locks framing the face.

Portrait of Jeronimas Stroinovskis, Bishop of Vilnius (early 19th century) by Unknown authorLithuanian Art Fund

Portrait of Jeronimas Stroinovskis, Bishop of Vilnius (1752-1815) is based on a subtle blend of black and red.

A slight smile plays across his face, however he is looking sideways from the viewer. Therefore, a dreamy and sad state made be perceived.

Portrait of Count Karol Czapski (1835) by Andrzej Jozef HintzLithuanian Art Fund

The portraits of Count Czapski’s family were painted in 1835 in Vilnius by Andreas Hintz (or Hintze), an artist of Prussian descent. Here you see a portrait of Count Karol Janusz Czapski, the head of the family, who died in 1836.

Portrait of Countess Maria Czapska (1835) by Andrzej Jozef HintzLithuanian Art Fund

Portrait of Countess Maria Czapska.

Pastel portraits were very fashionable in the 18th century, during the time of the Enlightenment and the Rococo style. The popularity of pastel is associated with French art. This popular technique spread in the mid-18th century from the centre of Europe to the peripheries, where it competed with oil painting, and was exceedingly popular until photography emerged in the middle of the 19th century.

Portrait of Duchess Fabiana Obuchowicz-Czapska (1835) by Jozef Hintz AndrzejLithuanian Art Fund

The portrait of Countess Fabiana Czapska reflects rough surfaces and soft textures that are very suitable for drawing idealised images of people, reflecting objects and the forms of nature faithfully.

Portrait of a man (1841) by Tadeusz ŁukaszewiczLithuanian Art Fund

This portrait of a man shows Tadeusz Łukaszewicz great skill. It is hard to say whether the sitter was one of his patrons, or whether it was commissioned. It is an intimate image, typical of the style of portrait painting in which most attention is paid to the individuality of the sitter instead of showing his social position.

The man depicted was obviously educated and well-off: his clothes are elegant and his posture is relaxed, but he gazes out at the viewer with a concentrated and attentive look.

Portrait of Emilia Baniewicz (1849) by Felix Antoni Smuglewicz and SmuglewiczLithuanian Art Fund

This portrait is interesting not only because it is a rare example of early portraiture by Feliks Antoni Smuglewicz, but it also provides some information about the artist’s life. It was painted in Biržai in the autumn of 1849. A surviving mid-19th century painting of the ruins of Biržai Castle by Feliks Antoni Smuglewicz suggests that the artist was close to Benedykt Jan Tyszkiewicz, the owner of Biržai.

Felix Antoni Smuglewicz painted a portrait of the landowner Emilia Baniewicz on a visit home to Biržai from St Petersburg (he studied at the St Petersburg Academy of Art from 1847 to 1852). Information about the time and the place of the painting of the portrait, as well as the date of the death of the woman depicted (29 September 1855), and where she was buried (the Catholic cemetery in Biržai), is indicated in an inscription on the back of the picture. Such precision in Lithuanian art is very rare.

The portrait shows a gentle and simply dressed woman, well wrapped-up in a shawl. Her open, direct look and her modest pose reveal her dignity and calm.

Portrait of Mme. Leńska (1853) by Karol RypińskiLithuanian Art Fund

Mid-19th century

Humility (portrait of Maria Elena Julia Mickevičiūtė) (first half of the 19th century) by Tadeusz GoreckiLithuanian Art Fund

The portrait, conditionally titled Humbleness after the image of the woman shown in it, portrays a young woman dressed in the black attire of mourning, with a prayer-book in one hand. The plain cross adorning her chest highlights the theme of devotion to the will of the Lord and of faith further still. Quite possibly, this image was a part of a much larger composition that was cropped later (there are two figures of elderly men that can be glimpsed in the shadows on both sides of the woman).

Portrait of a woman (1852) by Napoleon IllakowiczLithuanian Art Fund

The Portrait of a woman, which was painted in Paris, is a valuable example of Napoleonas Ylakavičius’ mature period and reflects his typical manner of painting. The portrait shows an unknown woman, who was probably someone close to the artist, and displays a typical mid 19th century mixture of academic and realistic manner as well as traces of the Biedermeier style, which can be seen in the informal mood and the depiction of a simple, cosy home environment.

Portrait of a sitting man with a cane (1852) by Edward Bonifacy PawłowiczLithuanian Art Fund

Edward Bonifacy Pawłowicz (1825–1909) modelled the sitter, the details of his suit and the back of the red chair meticulously and with superb technique, while the face is rendered with almost photographic precision.

In this portrait sitting in an armchair and leaning on a cane with both hands, the sitter seems to express concentration and attention, which is directed at someone in front of him and invisible to us. There is nothing official or showy about the portrait, as would be typical of society portraits. It has a warm and domestic tone, and in its intimacy it recalls Biedermeier aesthetics.

Portrait of Mme. Leńska (1853) by Karol RypińskiLithuanian Art Fund

Portrait of Mme. Leńska by the painter Karol Rypiński (1809–1892) reveals her dignity and calm. Madam looks respectable but in some dreamy and sad state. A slight tender intimacy may be perceived from her pose. The artist rendered realistically and thoroughly her composed face, arranged black hair and gorgeous garments.

Dressed-up peasant woman (1885) by Wincenty SleńdzińskiLithuanian Art Fund

Second half of the 19th century

During the late 19th century the popular idea of liberation among ethnic Lithuanians changed from restoration of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to an establishment of an independent state.

Girl (1872) by Michał Elwiro AndriolliLithuanian Art Fund

This image of a girl by Michał Elwiro Andriolli is remarkable not just for the clearly pictured personal features, but also for qualities that are typical of the romantic representation of the ideal of the child.

Portrait of a young aristocrat (late 19th century) by Boleslaw RusieckiLithuanian Art Fund

Portrait of a girl is probably from the late period of the artist’s oeuvre, the end of the 19th century. A small intimate portrait represents a girl in a white dress looking straight at the viewer.

The portrait gains some softness and gentleness because of the faded out contours in the lower part of the canvas where the figure seem to immerse in a white cloud (a similar principle of incompleteness and sketchiness is also seen in some other small size portraits by Bolesław Rusiecki).

Within the context of Lithuanian art history, this picture is interesting and valuable as a rare example of a portrait of a child. For a long time, portraits of children were left on the margins of portrait painting and began to spread in Europe in the 19th century, mostly in the second half of the century.

Zingara (1879) by Kazimierz AlchimowiczLithuanian Art Fund

In the early 19th century, starting with Jan Rustem and his pupils, Lithuanian art developed a tendency towards exotic but not necessarily remote places. Artists sought to depict colourful scenes in the life of the Jews or the Roma who lived in small towns in Lithuania, and to capture their dress and the different types.

This small portrait study is painted in a sure and free hand. Not only has the artist succeeded in rendering with tactile realism what kind of young woman she is, and showing her colourful attire, the scarf over her head and her exotic neckpiece, but has also captured her mood and penetrated her character, and the freedom and defiance of her bearing.

Dressed-up peasant woman (1885) by Wincenty SleńdzińskiLithuanian Art Fund

Dressed-up peasant woman by Wincenty Leopold Sleńdziński (1837–1909), the son of the painter Aleksander Sleńdziński conveys elegance and unfathomable femininity. The portret reflects a warm and domestic tone with some colorful patterns from provincial life.

Portrait of a girl (1885) by Kazimierz AlchimowiczLithuanian Art Fund

Portrait of a girl, painted in 1885, shows Kazimierz Alchimowicz (1840–1916) talent for portraiture. This large portrait was most likely painted in Warsaw, and the sitter was probably a member of the educated nobility. It is a rather unusual portrait, as she looks serious and composed.

Black was in fashion as a sign of mourning after the 1863 uprising, and remained popular for a very long time, becoming even more fashionable at the end of the 19th century. But the obscure background and the dark attire in this portrait serve mainly to bring out the bright elements in the painting: the girl’s face, and the book of drawings which reflects her artistic nature.

Self-portrait (1896) by Konstanty Gorski (Górski)Lithuanian Art Fund

The self-portrait of Konstanty Górski (1868–1934) from 1896 shows a man dressed in a fashionable light suit, elegant, refined and cultivated. There is no coat of arms or other details pointing to his social status, but it is clear from the subject’s posture.

The format of the painting and the composition, with the figure cut off at the knees, are characteristics of society portraits, but the relaxed pose, with one hand in a pocket, avoids an official impression, and gives it a certain familiarity and nonchalance. The subject is looking sideways, preserving a distance between the painter and the viewer, and emphasising the unfathomable mood of the artist.

Portrait of Stanislaw Szumski (1862) by Henrikas Dmachauskas / Henry D.SaundersLithuanian Art Fund

Depicted in the portrait is Stanislaw Szumski, an officer of the Napoleon Army, member of the Chief Uprising Committee during the 1831 Uprising in Lithuania, and chief of the Szlachta of the Vilnius district. The portrait created by Henryk Aloizy Dmochowski (1810-1863) with reflections of romanticism and claccism.

Humility (portrait of Maria Elena Julia Mickevičiūtė) (first half of the 19th century) by Tadeusz GoreckiLithuanian Art Fund

While looking at all these portraits one may imagine life or even thoughts of the painted characters. In addition to that, unfathomable sense of national spirit is conveyed by each of the sitters. From peasants to dukes their look and pose evidence the rule of life - black is the main prerequisite to see the bright.

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