Pranas Domšaitis Gallery invites to see the masterpieces of graphic art from the Ukrainian museums

  • 2024-03-18

At 6 pm 22 March Pranas Domšaitis Gallery opens two exhibitions From Dürer to Rembrandt and Will She Rise Again? The public will have a rare opportunity to see masterpieces of graphic art by the famous 17th–18th– centuries artists representing European schools, and by Francisco Goya. These two exhibitions, among them, steel and copperplate engravings, aquatint etchings, show the artwork, which was evacuated from The Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts. 

“Usually, we travel to other towns or countries to see masterpieces of art. This time we can see the exceptional artwork by the 17th–18th centuries European masters without leaving home, in Klaipėda. The exhibitions are accompanied by a special education programme for children and adults”, Skaistė Marčienė, director of Pranas Domšaitis Gallery, introduces the rare event.

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters

Goya, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes in full, the Spanish artist of the late 18th–early 19th centuries, left a legacy loaded with social critique and compelling depictions of political upheavals, which became a strong influence on Eugène Delacroix, Édouard Manet, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso and other European artists. Goya was a painter and printmaker, he also produced cartoons for tapestries; he employed different graphic art techniques. His famous series The Caprices (1796–1798) was produced in an innovative medium of aquatint.

The first plates of the series explore the motif of the mask – an attribute of the 18th-century art usually meant to create a mood of light-hearted playfulness and joyful mystery. Yet the carnival depicted in The Caprices is not a feast, but rather a total falsehood, where vice is triumphant, and evil barely disguised. Disgusting characters from the demonic realm enter stage in the second part of the series. Some of them embody specific vices, others are representations of a general idea of human wickedness. The end of the series is ambiguous, as at dawn the demons turn into human beings.

Goya started selling prints of The Caprices in February 1799, but they were received neither with much interest nor indignation. Only 27 sets were ordered. In 1803, the artist gifted the unsold prints and the copper plates to King Charles IV of Spain. The icon The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters from the series will be featured in the exhibition in Klaipėda. 

Disasters of War

Goya’s series Disasters of War (1810-1820) evokes the horrors of the Spanish War of Independence against the French, which he witnessed first-hand.  The war-condemning series was never publicly displayed during his lifetime. The prints were first published by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando posthumously, 35 years after the artist’s death; by 1937 they saw other five editions.  

A separate part of the series evokes images of the 1811–1812 famine in Spain. The artist experienced it while living in Madrid, then severely hit by starvation. The last prints of the series evoke post-war experiences when King Ferdinand VII overthrew the liberal constitution adopted by the French, dismissed the Parliament and started persecution of free-thinking populace.

Goya’s critique of the Spanish-French War strikes us as a warning and a reminder that any evil, even under a guise of innocence, must be halted, and that war is the worst of all evils.    

Lithuanian cultural attaché in Ukraine art researcher Tomas Ivanauskas describes the exhibition Will She Rise Again? and the prints by Goya from the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts as a powerful experience. “The exhibition speaks volumes in the context of the Russian war on Ukraine. Looking at the works by Goya you are convinced that human cruelty is unlimited in time and form. Weapons change with time, but people do not, remaining inconceivably cruel.”  

From Dürer to Rembrandt

The exhibition From Dürer to Rembrandt has been curated by a team of Ukrainian and Lithuanian museum staff. Besides the artists cited in the title, the public will see the artwork by Lucas van Leyden, Hendrick Goltzius, Aegidius Sadeler and Albrecht Altdorfer, varied in genre and medium. These are woodcuts, steel and copperplate engravings and etchings showing religious, mythological, allegoric compositions, landscapes, portraits and genre scenes. 

The changing fortunes of the collection and the great masters 

These two exhibitions previously held at the Radvila Pallace Museum and Vilnius Picture Gallery of the LNMA were organized thanks to the close and ongoing cooperation between the Lithuanian National Museum of Art and the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts. In putting on these exhibitions the LNMA attempts to bring into focus the value of cultural heritage, a shared property of humanity, encouraging the world to be proactive in protecting the museums in Ukraine from destruction and looting. 

The Khanenko Museum founded in 1919 is the holder of the largest collection of foreign art in Ukraine. The core of the collection was built by the philanthropists and collectors Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko. Over the course of time the composition of the collection underwent significant changes, while the history of the collection is rather dramatic. In the 1920s–1930s, the museum often gave over and received individual artwork and collections, while the staff, insufficient at the time, failed to to document the process. In 1931, the museum received over a thousand of engravings from Vasyl Shchavinskyi (1868–1924), a prominent chemist, art connoisseur, researcher and collector. An expatriate on political grounds, Shchavinskyi was assassinated in the then Leningrad. His collection included the engravings by Lucas van Leyden, a big part the Dutch etchings and the unsurpassed Madonna with the Monkey by Albrecht Dürer. 

In 1933, multiple engravings arrived in Kyiv from Zhytomyr Museum, the collection of which was previously expanded by the nationalized collections of the nobility. The woodcuts by the German artists and the etchings by Rembrandt in the Khanenko Museum presumably are from Zhytomyr’s collections. 

The famous series The Caprices and Disasters of War by Goya, now on display at Pranas Domšaitis Gallery of the LNMA, were acquired by the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts in 1941 from a private individual. The most recent technological scans have verified that these are etchings are printed from the original plates in the late 19th – early 20th centuries.  

The exhibitions stand out through a variety of genres and media. The public will see woodcuts, steel and copperplate engravings and etchings showing religious, mythological, allegoric compositions, landscapes, portraits and genre scenes. 

Educational events to accompany the exhibitions 

Visitors are offered guided tours of the exhibitions and educational programmes to groups of children. The museum educators will introduce them into relief and intaglio printing techniques and will assist in the creation of a printed picture of their own. Visitors will be able to follow the stories of the characters in the series of Goya’s prints or to turn into detectives and to explore the works on display to detail. 

The exhibitions From Dürer to Rembrandt and Will She Rise Again? will be open for public from 22 March through 23 June at Pranas Domšaitis Gallery (Liepų St 33, Klaipėda). 

Organizers: The Lithuanian National Museum of Art, the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts
Project managers: Dr Arūnas Gelūnas, Julija Vaganova
Curators: Anfisa Doroshenko, Olha Honcharenko, Skaistis Mikulionis, Olena Shostak
Exhibition coordinators: Skaistė Marčienė, Aurelija Malinauskaitė
Exhibition architect Jurgis Dagelis
Exhibition designers: Loreta Uzdraitė, Marius Žalneravičius
Exhibition patrons: Minister of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania Simonas Kairys, Department for Culture of Kyiv City State Administration 

Exhibition organized in partnership with: Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Ukraine, Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Poland, Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of Lithuania, Customs of the Republic of Lithuania, Lithuanian Armed Forces, Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union, Lithuanian Police Force, Department of Culture of Kyiv City State Administration, National Police of Ukraine, Jonas Karolis Chodkevičius Charity and Support Foundation

General supporter AAS „BTA Baltic Insurance Company“
Supporters: founder of the Foundation Crown of Dukes Ostrogski, Honour Consul of the Republic of Lithuania in Kuhansk area Robertas Gabulas, AD REM Group,  UAB Heat Transfer Company, Jonas Karolis Chodkevičius Charity and Support Foundation, Chef the Viking

Information provided by: 
LNMA Public Relations Coordinator Emilija Blockutė, el. p. [email protected]  

The Lithuanian National Museum of Art is one of the largest national art museums in Lithuania with the aim of building, safekeeping, researching, conserving, restoring, curating and exhibiting the collections of the arts and cultural artefacts of national significance at its nine divisions in Vilnius, Klaipėda, Palanga, and Juodkrantė.