“And the Word became a Sight: visual narratives in Lithuanian wood carvings and linocuts of the 18th – 20th centuries”

M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art

The exhibition presents the 18th – 20th-century wood carvings and linocuts by Lithuanian folk and professional authors from the collections of the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art. All the carvings on display combine a word, a story, a narrative composing an integral whole.

In folk carvings, these are the word of God, religious stories, narratives of the saints, carved and ‘enlivened’ on the planks of branchless trees by known and anonymous folk masters. Usually both sides of a plank were carved by means of blades and chisels. The compositions were printed manually by applying paint on a plank and pressing paper to it with a roller. When printed on a sheet of paper, the image was sometimes coloured with paint. Works of larger dimensions were composed of several fragments printed separately. When going to religious festivities, carvers used to take with them clichés and paint so that they could print more images on the spot in case they ran out of them. Thus, a self-educated Lithuanian engraver has combined the ancient Lithuanian worldview and peasant folklore with canonized Christian representations and deep-rooted European culture.

The exhibition features the only cliché of a folk engraving housed at the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art –‘The Crucified’ by Stepas Kuneika.

Another part of the exhibition comprises visual interpretations of Lithuanian literature and folklore in the 20th-century engravings by professional authors as well as in the creation of R. Krasninkevičius – one of the most talented Lithuanian folk artists. Although these engravings transmit a completely different plot if compared with the 18th–19th-centuries religious folk graphics, stylistically they have often been influenced by the latter. Likewise early religious engravings, these works are compositionally complemented with the inscribed fragments from folklore and literary works.

Illustrations of literary and folklore works by professional Lithuanian graphic artists stand out for the general folk character both from the point of view of the compositional interpretation and manner of engraving, in this concern they are organically related to the illustrated stories.

The specific constitution of images supplements the essential idea and perfectly conveys the spirit and essence of a religious and literary word.