MK Čiurlionis at Dulwich Image Gallery: Highlight on a Lithuanian artist-hero

MK Čiurlionis, ‘Angels (Paradise)’ (1909) © MK Čiurlionis courtesy of the Nationwide Museum of Artwork

Between 1903 and 1909, on daily basis for six livid years, the younger Lithuanian composer and painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis acquired up and did nothing however compose music or paint. By the top he had produced 300 artworks and 400 musical compositions.

Burned by his artistic fever, he fell right into a deep despair and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, the place he died of pneumonia on the age of 35. Though comparatively unknown exterior Lithuania, Čiurlionis is taken into account a nationwide hero at house. Now his work are being launched to a UK viewers in his first London present at Dulwich Image Gallery MK Čiurlionis: Between the Worlds.

The MK Čiurlionis Nationwide Artwork Museum of Lithuania has lent greater than 100 works. Situated within the nation’s second metropolis, Kaunas, the museum is a big white modernist constructing the place the artist’s tiny, extremely detailed photographs appeared misplaced after I visited earlier this 12 months. They’re much stronger within the intimate, nearly house surroundings of Dulwich. The partitions have been painted in deep purples and blue-greens particularly for this present and the daring use of shade offers an amazing backdrop to the intense pastels of his work.

Though Čiurlionis’ compositions are carried out by orchestras around the globe, his work hardly ever depart Lithuania, partly due to their fragility. Čiurlionis couldn’t afford oil paints or massive canvases, so most of his photographs are tempera, or pastels on paper or card, which transport the viewer to different worlds: fantasy lands filled with forests, mythological cities, anthropomorphic mountains and an excellent cluster of clouds. of shade

Symbolist painting of the earth in space

MK Čiurlionis, ‘Creation of the World III’, cycle of 13 work (1905-06) © MK Čiurlionis courtesy of the Nationwide Museum of Artwork

The primary room of the exhibition is devoted to a few of these: Čiurlionis’s “Creation of the World” cycle of 13 incomplete photographs. He deliberate to have 100 works, and defined that “it was not our world based on the Bible, however one other unbelievable world”. It’s a fertile world wealthy in rivers, flowers, forests, fish, mushrooms and animals. There’s a bearded man with a crown that seems incessantly in his iconography, however he’s a fairy king slightly than a Christian god. Čiurlionis’ reverence for Lithuania’s pagan previous—he worshiped the pure world earlier than accepting Christianity in 1387—made him a hero to Lithuanian nationalists as his nation struggled to take care of its cultural id beneath Russian imperialism. The legacy of those beliefs nonetheless runs by means of Lithuanian folklore and tradition.

Nonetheless, the type of Čiurlionis’ work is summary. He was a musical prodigy who discovered composition lengthy earlier than selecting up a paintbrush. He imagined “the entire world as an enormous symphony”. Like Van Gogh and Kandinsky, he had synesthesia, a neurological situation that allowed him to see in colours and pictures. Among the works within the second a part of the “Creation” sequence appear to be scores with musical notes that could possibly be long-stemmed flowers or ectoplasmic clouds floating within the air. He additionally painted seven sonata cycles. “Folks discuss Kandinsky as the primary summary artist, however Čiurlionis was first,” says curator Kathleen Soriano. “We all know that Kandinsky knew about his work as a result of he needed him to take part in an exhibition in Munich. Sadly, the invitation got here too late.’

Symbolic painting of the mountain reflected in the water
MK Čiurlionis, ‘Tranquility’ (1904-05) © MK Čiurlionis courtesy of the Nationwide Museum of Artwork

A symbolic painting of a king

MK Čiurlionis, ‘Rex’ (1909) © MK Čiurlionis Nationwide Museum of Artwork

Sepia photo of Lithuanian composer and painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis

MK Čiurlionis in 1908 © Photograph by S Fleury. Courtesy of MK Čiurlionis Nationwide Artwork Museum

Photos of decaying structure and darkish cityscapes are outstanding in Čiurlionis’ work, contrasting together with his sunlit wildflowers and magical winter landscapes. However there may be extra mild than darkness. “He’s usually in comparison with William Blake,” says Soriano, “however whereas Blake was all fireplace and brimstone, Čiurlionis is a pleasure. Not like Van Gogh, he by no means painted when he was depressed.’

After finding out in Warsaw and Leipzig and visiting museums in Munich, Čiurlionis additionally knew about Symbolist artwork that rejected realism in favor of spirituality, creativeness and desires. He was portray in a time of speedy technological and social change. Electrification had simply arrived, faith was doubtful; folks moved from the countryside to the town and the symbolists had been very suspicious of this new urbanization.

Symbolic painting of two kings in a forest, holding a city in their hands

MK Čiurlionis, ‘Fairy Story (Fairy Story of Kings)’ (1909) © MK Čiurlionis by Nationwide Museum of Artwork

The “Fairy Story” triptych, painted in 1907, options Rex, a king-like determine with a crown and a protracted white beard guarding the earth. Within the heart is a large fowl, on high of a unadorned baby taking part in with an enormous dandelion; on the left is a citadel on the hill. It brings to thoughts photographs A Midsummer Evening’s Dream or lord of the rings whereas the unbelievable cityscapes remind me of structure Recreation of Thrones or Fritz Lang’s 1927 movie Metropolis. I predict it will likely be a preferred present with avid gamers, fantasy followers and households alike.

The room can also be vital. Dulwich Image Gallery was based in 1790 by two London artwork sellers who had been commissioned by the King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to assemble a nationwide assortment. However earlier than it was completed, Russia, Prussia and Austria divided the nation, and the photographs remained of their arms. The founders are buried in a mausoleum within the heart of the gallery, the place recordings of Čiurlionis’ symphonies shall be performed during the exhibition. It’s a fantastic piece of historic circularity.

Till March 12,

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