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The iconography of Vilnius from the collections of the Museum of Vilnius Academy of Arts / Painting of Mindaugas Skudutis

Structurally, the exhibition is composed of two parts. In some respects, it is slightly reminiscent of the coat of arms of Vilnius, which depicts the legendary giant Alkis, carrying his wife or (perhaps more convincingly) – St. Christopher with the baby Jesus on his shoulders.

One section of the exhibition is dedicated to the iconography of Vilnius and the works that embody it – all from the collections of the Vilnius Academy of Arts Museum. Naturally, these are all pieces created by former students (many of them went on to become well-known artists) as term projects, graduation projects or as the result of fieldwork. This part of the exhibition has two faces of its own because the selected works depict both fragments of the city and moments from the lives of its citizens.
The exhibition is dedicated to the city of Vilnius which celebrates the 695th anniversary of its first known mention in the annals of history and the 225th anniversary of the Vilnius Academy of Arts. In 1793, the Architecture Department headed by Professor Laurynas Gucevičius was established in the Higher School of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, marking the beginnings of the most important higher school of art in Lithuania. It is no coincidence that the exhibition is hosted at the Vilnius City Hall. In 1941, when Lithuania got Vilnius back, the space was used as an art museum, so an exhibition dedicated to the capital and its residents that show cases many pieces by artists who were to become established figures of the art world seemingly continues this tradition.

The other part of the exhibition is dedicated to the living legend of Lithuanian painting, Mindaugas Skudutis. Skudutis was already painting Vilnius back in his student days (this fragment of his creative work allows us to compare how the artist’s path develops during his studies and beyond) (demonstrated in the ‘academic’ part of the exhibition) and does so to this day. Thus, one space in the Vilnius City Hall is dedicated to the artist’s works that are focused on Vilnius.

As Skudutis himself has said, it was during his studies that he began to paint Vilnius. “When I began my studies at the Institute of Art <...> I thought that academic exercises weren’t going to be enough to turn me into a proper artist, so I drew everywhere: at the institute, in the dorms, in the city. That’s when I fell in love with Vilnius, it was very different to what it is now, it was quite neglected, but that made it only more appealing to the artist’s eye. Back then, the inner courtyards were open to everyone, there were no fences, no bars, you could find yourself a quiet corner and paint, there weren’t many people in the streets, not like now, where you can’t even get past all the wandering passers-by. Because I painted mostly from life (I only use the studio for finishing touches), those images of the city were painted in one breath because circumstances forced you to paint quickly. Those paintings captured both cars and people, sometimes these disappeared in the first layer of paint and something else appeared in their stead.”

Skudutis paintings also mark an important anniversary as the artist celebrates his 70th birthday this October.

Project is funded by the Lithuanian Cultural Council 

dr. Vidas Poškus