Intimism in Lithuanian Art during the Second World War (summary)

Giedrė Jankevičiūtė (PDF)

The aim of this article is to describe the peculiarities of Lithuanian art during the Second World War, which reflect the realities of the Nazi occupation and the climate of the local civilian population. The interpretation of the artworks is based on iconographic studies and information from written sources, such as critics, letters, diaries and memoirs.

The statements of the article are based on an expanded concept of intimism, which helps to combine examples of wartime art by different authors and styles. These works are characterised by the features of classical intimism: small formats, interior scenes or images of the artist’s relatives and friends, a rich but subtle muted colour palette, a calm atmosphere and the space of the painting certainly separated from the space of the viewer. Examples of wartime art rarely exhibit the sophisticated aestheticism that characterised the work of the Nabis group of intimists. The marks of everyday war and the signs of a poor household usually overshadow the beauty of the painting. Looking at wartime art through the prism of intimism, ordinary, everyday domestic life and its characters took on a unique significance as an object of representation. Paintings that give a sense of banality, revealing its value and beauty, helped artists and their public to cling to life. Intimism during the years of the Second World War is an art that comes from private life and is intended for a private reception. It is linked to the French painting style only by the intimacy of mood and image and the corresponding genre structure: portrait, interior scene, still life and chamber landscape.

The contemporaries did not buy these works. Apparently, they found such paintings too personal and undecorative to fulfil the psychotherapeutic function that was highly appreciated during the war. Today, they have a different meaning. We can appreciate their aesthetic features and look for epoch traces without internal barriers. The poverty and deprivation of the war are also revealed in the material of these works, which now again becomes a curiosity. The colourful paint layer often hides a sheet of uneven plywood, poorly made cardboard, or even the wax paper used to cover the kitchen table. The article concludes that intimate art is the most intriguing and authentic part of the Lithuanian art heritage in the mid-20th century, the most authentically conveying the reality of the war years.

Keywords: interior painting, Nazi occupation, portraiture, French painting