‘Ars’ Exhibition Reception in Vilnius

Laima Laučkaitė (PDF)

The Society of Polish Artists exhibition ‘Sztuka’, held in Vilnius in 1903, can be considered the first exhibition of modern art in the city. The innovative art presented by ‘Sztuka’ in the exhibition was an unexpected challenge for the Vilnius public. Due to the ban on public use of Polish in Lithuania, the name of the Cracow Society of Artists and its exhibition ‘Sztuka’ was translated into Latin as ‘Ars’ and became famous in Vilnius under this name. As the surviving archival data indicate, the tsarist censorship had no political objections to modern art and did not find it anti-Russian or anti-tsarist. Lithuanian and Polish art criticism was absent since the press in Lithuanian and Polish was banned in Vilnius until 1905. However, the Russian language review ‘“Ars” Exhibition’ was published in the liberal daily Северо-западное слово in Vilnius. The author of this review, Lev Antokolsky, was a Jewish painter and a fellow student of Ferdynand Ruszczyc at the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts. The author presented the exhibition enthusiastically, describing it as contemporary and even ultra-innovative. The critic thanked the painter Ruszczyc for organising this small but innovative exhibition. The review of the exhibition ‘Ars’ is characterised by professional criticism.

Keywords: Society ‘Sztuka’, modernist art, ‘Ars’, review, Ferdynand Ruszczyc