ABOUT THE MUSEUM
M. K. ČIURLIONIS NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ART
Established in 1921, the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art has turned into one of the oldest and largest art museums in Lithuania. It is the best place in Lithuania to become acquainted with the development of Lithuanian and international art history and culture, from ancient times to the present day.
The idea to establish an art museum was inspired by the first exhibitions of Lithuanian art (from 1907) and the activities of the Lithuanian art fellowship in early 20th century. In 1921, the Constitutive Assembly (Seimas) passed the M. K. Čiurlionis gallery act. Following a design by architect V. Dubeneckis, the construction of the temporary M. K. Čiurlionis gallery was begun near the Art School. The anniversary exhibition of M. K. Čiurlionis works was held here in 1925. In 1930, the decision was made to build a new museum (architects V. Dubeneckis, K. Reisonas, K. Kriščiukaitis), to commemorate the 500 year anniversary of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas the Great. The construction works were finished in 1936 and then the temporary M. K. Čiurlionis gallery was reorganized into the Vytautas the Great Museum of Culture. The Museum held the collection from the Čiurlionis Gallery, the Kaunas City Museum and the State Museum. In 1944, the museum took the name of the M. K. Čiurlionis State Museum of Art, becoming the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art in 1997.
The primary mission of themuseum today is to encourage the understanding of the cultural and artistic processes by collecting, protection, studying and introducing the M. K. Čiurlionis collection, together with Lithuanian and worldwide cultural heritage.
The subdivisions of the museum: Mykolas Žilinskas Art Gallery, Kaunas Picture Gallery, Antanas Žmuidzinavičius Memorial Museum and Devil’s museum, Historical Presidential Palace of Lithuania, Museum of Ceramics, Adelė and Paulius Galaunė House, Liudas Truikys and Marijona Rakauskaitė Memorial Museum, Juozas Zikaras Memorial Museum; also Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis Memorial Museum and Vytautas Kazimieras Jonynas Gallery in Druskininkai.
MYKOLAS ŽILINSKAS ART GALLERY
This modern gallery was opened in 1989 (architects E. Miliūnas, K. Kisielius, S. Juškys) and is named after Mykolas Žilinskas (1904–1992).
M. Žilinskas, one the most famous Lithuanian art collectors of 20th century, was born in 1904 in the village of Smalininkai (Marijampolė district). Between 1925 and 1932, M. Žilinskas studied history in Vytautas Magnus University and during World War II he pursued his studies in the universities of Berlin and Paris (Sorbonne). In 1933 he was appointed as head of the Lithuanian Republic State Security Department Press Division and in 1936 he became the Chancellery Director for the Cabinet of Ministers. In 1940 he emigrated and settled in Berlin. M. Žilinskas decided to present his remarkable art collection, which he gathered in the West, to Lithuania. The systematic transportation of the collection started in 1971. After the official formalities, representatives from Ministry of Culture and the Lithuanian Art Museum started paying visits to M. Žilinskas. The collector donated the art collection to the National M. K. Čiurlionis State Museum of Art, which had been established in the city of his youth – Kaunas. When the first exhibits reached Kaunas, the Mykolas Žilinskas collection branch was established in M. K. Čiurlionis Museum. Today it keeps 1,683 presented artworks, the personal library of M. Žilinskas, memorial items and an archive.
KAUNAS PICTURE GALLERY
The gallery was opened in 1979 (architects L. Gedgaudienė, J. Navakas). Its original purpose was to serve as a gallery for the M. Žilinskas Collection which had been presented to Kaunas but soon it became obvious that the entire collection could not fit into this building and plans for a new building were undertaken.
Today, Lithuanian and international exhibitions, modern Lithuanian art and Lithuanian Exile art are displayed in this gallery, together with the George Maciunas (Jurgis Mačiūnas) Fluxus room.
Antanas Žmuidzinavičius Creations and Collections museum
Museum was opened on February 22, 1966 in A. Žmuidzinavičius home, which was designed by the famous architect Vytautas Landsbergis-Žemkalnis.
A. Žmuidzinavičius paintings and various archive materials are displayed in the museum. He was born in Seirijai in 1876, in a peasant family. After graduating from the Veiveriai teachers’ academy (1890–1894) he worked as a primary school teacher in Poland. From 1898 to 1904 he lived in Warsaw where he taught and in the evenings attended a drawing night-school run by J. Zolotariov and studied in the studio of the famous Polish artist V. Gerson. From 1905 to 1906 A. Žmuidzinavičius continued his art studies in Paris - in the Colarossi and Vitti academies.
He arrived in Vilnius in 1906. In 1907, together with P. Rimša, M. K. Čiurlionis and other artists he presented the first Lithuanian art exhibition in Vilnius and founded the Lithuanian Art Society, which he led for many years. During 1908 he continued his painting studies in Munich. The very same year he visited the USA, where he gave lectures on Lithuanian art for Lithuanian emigrants and collected donations for the Lithuanian Art Society and the Lithuanian House. The artist actively participated in various activities of public organizations: he was a Central Department Chairman for National Guard Union from 1930, served on the Vytautas the Great Committee and was a member of the Vytautas the Great Museum commission. From 1926 to 1940 he taught painting in the Kaunas Art School and from 1941 to 1951 in the Kaunas Applied and Decorative Arts Institute.
The most famous collection of A. Žmuidzinavičius is the devil collection. The vast and constantly growing amount of devils was moved from the artist’s studio to a separate extension in 1982.
There are over 3,000 of them now – creations of fine and applied-art, souvenirs and masks.
HISTORICAL PRESIDENTIAL PALACE OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA
The historic Presidency gives an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with the development of modern Lithuanian statehood. The presidential building is the most significant Lithuanian Republic memorial symbol of the 1918–1940 period and the collection shows important aspects of the Republic of Lithuania of that time. Presidential meetings with ministers, foreign emissaries, the military, the clergy and representatives of various organizations took place here. In the audience hall, on the first floor of the building, the foreign diplomats used to hand in their credentials. National laws were drawn up in this palace. The palace also stands as a symbol of the December 17, 1926 overthrow - the parliamentarian crisis and a turn towards authoritarianism. In the presence of the Soviet occupation, the last independent Lithuanian Republic government meeting took place in one of the rooms on the first floor.
The construction of the future Presidential Palace began in the middle of 19th century. The Kaunas governorship office was established here in 1869. On September 1, 1919, the President of the Lithuanian Republic and his staff moved into the building, after Lithuania had declared its independence on February 16, 1919 and Kaunas was named Temporary Capital.
During the period from 1919 to 1940, all three Presidents of the Lithuanian Republic, Antanas Smetona (1919–1920 and 1926–1940), Aleksandras Stulginskis (1922–1926) and Kazys Grinius (June – December, 1926) worked and lived in the Presidential Palace in Kaunas. The last government meeting of the Republic of Lithuania took place here on June 15, 1940.
The purpose of the building changed after the occupation of Lithuania in 1940. The Palace was turned into a Pioneers’ House after World War II and later in 1955 into a Teachers’ House. In 1990, after Lithuanian independence was restored, the building was assigned to Vytautas the Great War Museum.
The four year long restoration of the building was finished in 2003.
The palace was in hands of Chancellery of the Lithuanian Republic Presidency and on July 3, 2005, it was assigned to the National M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art.
On July 5, 2005 the Historical Presidential Palace of Lithuania in Kaunas opened its doors to visitors.
THE CERAMICS MUSEUM
The idea to create a separate ceramics museum arose after a good collection of Lithuanian-produced ceramics had been assembled in the Department of Applied Arts of the National M. K. Čiurlionis Museum, one of its richest departments.
Quarters in the Kaunas City Hall basements were assigned for the museum on July 9, 1975. The museum was opened on January 18, 1978.
The old Kaunas ceramics of the 15th to 19th centuries:
The archaeological ceramics collection is composed of the findings made in the Old Town of Kaunas and its surroundings in from 1968 to 1997: dishes made for different purposes, ornate renaissance and baroque stove tiles, ornamental stove parts and roof tiles of impressive sizes.
ADELĖ AND PAULIUS GALAUNĖS HOUSE
The house belonged to Adelė Nezabitauskaitė-Galaunienė (1895–1962) and Paulius Galaunė (1890–1988) important figures in Lithuanian art and cultural life. It was built in 1932 with their resources and designed by architect A. Funkas (1898–1957). The independence act signatory and diplomat Kazys Bizauskas (1893–1941) lived in this house, together with his family, for seven years. The building was nationalized in 1940 and belonged to different institutions. After P. Galaunė died and Lithuania regained its Independence, the house was given back to its rightful heiresses, his second wife Kazimiera Galaunienė and A. and P. Galaunės daughter Dalia Kaupienė-Augūnienė, who lives in the USA. They gave the house as a gift to M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art in 1992. They did so in order to safeguard the rich cultural heritage of Galaunės - the library, the series of graphics, the ex–libris collection, photos, letters, manuscripts and memorial items - as a separate, indivisible unit, which could be used to further the awareness of Lithuanian culture. The House was opened on December 14, 1996.
P. Galaunė was a pioneer of professional Lithuanian museology, painter, art critic, as well as folk art researcher, bibliophile, and collector. He was appointed director of M. K. Čiurlionis Gallery in 1924, and remained at its head for 25 years. P. Galaunė assured the legacy of M. K. Čiurlionis and the legacy of other painters. He collected folk art and organized exhibitions in Lithuania and abroad.
Adelė Nezabitauskaitė-Galaunienė was opera singer. She came from the well known Nezabitauskai-Zabičiai family and actively contributed to the revival of musical life in Kaunas, the Temporary Capital.
Kazys Bizauskas was Signatory of the February16, 1918 Act, member of the Constituent Parliament (Seimas), and diplomat. After the occupation of Lithuania by the Soviets on July 15, 1940, K. Bizauskas was arrested and executed together with other political prisoners while being taken into exile in Siberia.
LIUDAS TRUIKYS AND MARIJONA RAKAUSKAITĖ MEMORIAL MUSEUM
The building was constructed in the 1940’s (architect E. Frykas). The memorial museum was opened on October 10, 1994, in the studio–flat where the artist Liudas Truikys, together with the opera prima donna Marijona Rakauskaitė, lived and worked from World War II until the end of their lives.
Liudas Truikys (1904–1987) is best known as a scenographer. He studied in Paris and later in Berlin where he honed his scenographic skills. The artist became famous in the interwar period through his work for the National Theatre. L. Truikys also received recognition in the International Exhibition in Paris. In 1937 he received an honorary diploma for the scenography of “Three Talismans”, an opera by A. Raičiūnas. The most well known scenographic projects by L. Truikys were made for the Kaunas Music Theatre and for the Lithuanian Opera and Ballet Theatre from the 1950’s to the1980’s (opera set designs for “Don Carlos”, 1959 and 1981, “La Traviata”, 1966, “Aida”, 1975, “Otello”, 1981–1983 and “Madam Butterfly”, 1986).
L. Truikys also worked with water colours, created frescos and stained glass for several churches, and designed books.
Marijona Rakauskaitė (1892–1975) was born in Chicago (USA), in a Lithuanian emigrant family. She obtained her musical background in the San Francisco Academy, Wisconsin and the Music School of Chicago. In 1915, together with S. Šimkus she staged concerts for Lithuanian communities of the USA. In 1918 she completed studies at the W. Shakespeare Drama Studio in Chicago and in 1923 the singer moved to Kaunas. From 1923 to 1944 she worked with the State Theatre and from 1944to 1948 she was soloist at the Lithuanian Opera and Ballet Theatre. She created approximately 30 roles, namely, Gražina („Gražina“ by J. Karnavičius), Aida, Amelia, Leonora (“Aida”, “A Masked Ball”, “Troubadour” by G. Verdi), Carmen (“Carmen” by G. Bizet), Tosca and Chio Chio San (“Tosca”, “Madame Butterfly” by G. Puccini).
JUOZAS ZIKARAS MEMORIAL MUSEUM
The museum was opened on November 18, 2001 to honour the 120th year anniversary of the birth of the sculptor J. Zikaras. J. Zikaras built this house and lived in it with his family, his wife Anelė Tubelytė-Zikarienė, and their 4 children – Vaidutis Zikaras, Teisutis Zikaras, Vainutis Zikaras and Alytė Zikaraitė. Juozas Zikaras spent his last days in this house and his wife and daughter stayed on. His sons left for USA and Australia during the World War II. In 1959 A. Zikaraitė installed a small, secret museum in her father’s work studio in the basement of the house which is dedicated to the work of J. Zikaras. In her will A. Zikaraitė left the house and works of her father to the M. K. Čiurlionis Museum. After the death of A. Zikaraitė in 1998 and that of her husband in 2000, the house became a memorial museum. The J. Zikaras museum consists of the family residence, the artist’s studio and a grove near the house.
Juozas Zikaras was born on November 18, 1881 in Paliukai, Panevėžys district. He was to become one of the first professional Lithuanian sculptors. From 1904 to1906 he studied in Vilnius at the I. Trutnev Drawing School and in the evenings attended J. Motwill's drawing classes.
In 1907 he started studying at the Society for Encouragement of Fine Arts in St. Petersbug and attended I. Andrioletti’s sculpture classes. In 1910 he entered the faculty of sculpture at the St. Petersburg Art Academy. Here he studied under Professors G. Zaleman and V. Beklemishev. J. Zikaras graduated from the Art Academy in 1916. From 1915 to 1917 he served in the Russian army and in 1918 returned to Lithuania with his family and started teaching in Panevėžys public secondary school. From 1928 he lectured at the Kaunas Art School where he was the head of the sculpture department and from 1940 he lectured at the Kaunas Applied and Decorative Art Institute.
J. Zikaras died on November 10, 1944 in Kaunas and is buried in the Petrašiūnai cemetery.
The main part of the collection consists of J. Zikaras works – approximately 180 works (sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints, memorial items) as well as archives and a library collection.
VYTAUTAS KAZIMIERAS JONYNAS GALLERY (IN DRUSKININKAI)
The gallery was built in 1989 (architect A. Kančas). On November 4, 1993 it opened its doors for visitors. Over one hundred works made from 1931 to 1982 by the exceptionally talented print maker, painter, sculptor, stained glass craftsman Vytautas Kazimieras Jonynas (1907–1997) are shown in the gallery. All the art work kept in the gallery was donation to Lithuania by the artist.
V. K. Jonynas was born in Alytus district on March 16, 1907. He acquired his secondary education in Kudirkos Naumiestis and in Kaunas. From 1923 to 1929 he studied in the Lithuanian Art School in Kaunas. In 1931 he went to Paris to continue his studies specializing in woodcarving and book art and the construction of wooden sculptures and furniture. After a personal exhibition in Paris, he came back to Kaunas in 1935. Here he took part in the activities of the young artists’ group “Ars”, lectured at the Kaunas Art School and later became the principal of the Kaunas Applied and Decorative Art Institute. In 1944 the artist moved to Germany. In 1946 V. K. Jonynas, with the help of his friend R. Schmitlein, founded the Freiburg Art School. In 1951 he moved to the United States of America, where he lectured and set up a stained glass studio. The artist used to spend his summers in the gallery, where he welcomed visitors. V. K. Jonynas died in 1997.
M. K. ČIURLIONIS MEMORIAL MUSEUM (IN DRUSKININKAI)
Adelė and Konstantinas Čiurlionis, together with their first-born Mikalojus Konstantinas, moved to Druskininkai because K. Čiurlionis received work as an organist in the town’s little church.
Through the efforts of M. K. Čiurlionis sisters, Valerija Karužienė and Jadvyga Čiurlionytė, the idea of preserving this homestead was realized and the M. K. Čiurlionis Memorial Museum was opened on June 16, 1963.
The first exhibition was set in the small house near the road. Later a second house also opened its doors for visitors. The authentic interior of the houses was recreated based on the memories of M. K. Čiurlionis’ sisters. The homestead setting was made similar to that of the 19th century homestead.
An adjacent museum building was built in 1975. Here concerts and meetings are organized and visitors are introduced to the biography of M. K. Čiurlionis.