Concept and significance of colour in the artistic work of Vladas Drėma (Summary)

Giedrė Jankevičiūtė (PDF)

This paper is a micro-study based on the case study of coloured linocut series Gediminas Hill in Different Seasons (1943) by Vladas Drėma, which reveals the personal circumstances and artistic interests of this artist and art historian in the year when the series was created, i.e. during the Nazi occupation. Lithuanian National Museum of Art alone owns 78 prints of this series but it seems likely that Drėma made twice as many prints, i.e. around 150, modifying the colour combination each time. A series of this size based on the variations of the same motif is a unique case in the history of Lithuanian modern art. The paper looks into possible answers to such questions as: what was Drėma trying to achieve with this series, why did he focus on Gediminas Hill in particular, what made him pay such a special attention to this very simply rendered motif and what encouraged him to devote so much time and effort to almost identical images, which are not very suggestive or impressive each in itself?

After raising and analysing a few hypotheses on potential reasons and motivations for creating the series (such as auto-psychotherapy, or an attempt to earn money by printing hand-made postcards), the author came to the conclusion that the main inspiration to create the series had been Drėma’s interest in colour theory and psycholog y of colour perception that was born in Vytautas Kairiūkštis studio in Vilnius Lithuanian Gymnasium of Vytautas the Great and grew stronger during the war. This hypothesis is based on the study of surviving Drėma`s manuscripts and his collection of books stored at Vilnius Art Academy, as well as on the knowledge of his biographical facts such as his life and work circumstances, daily routines and living conditions of his family.

This study links Drėma`s work created during the World War 2 with constructivist experiments from his early period influenced by Kairiūkštis school; helps to understand the pedagogical fundamentals and landmarks he used while teaching at the State Institute of Art of the Soviet Lithuanian Republic; and allows us to better imagine the life of Vilnius artists during the Nazi occupation. The review of the sources on colour theory accumulated in Drėma`s collection of books adds to the current knowledge on the impact the modernism theory had on the art of Vilnius during the inter-war period and on the sources of information available to artists and intellectuals in the Soviet era, which allowed them to transcend the boundaries of the artistic theory imposed by the Socialist Realism doctrine.

Keywords: art psichology, colour theory, constructivism, Vilnius, World War II