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Pranas Domsaitis: The Still Life

Pranas Domsaitis was a young man during World War I. He was also an artist who preferred to stay on his parent’s farm rather than doing military service. 1914 – 1918 symbolised a short break in the career of this Lithuanian artist.

The conclusion of the war meant a return to normality for most of Europe. This was true for Domsaitis as well, who was eager to resume his life as a travelling artist. He continued doing what he loved, exhibiting in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Romania and Turkey. His works were well received, by most. As the years rolled by, Europe was facing another decade of oppression. Pranas Domsaitis was flourishing as an artist until his work was disastrously included in a ‘degenerate’ art exhibition in 1937.

Degenerate art was a tactic of the Nazi regime to oppose and silence all creativity. The German majority classified degenerate art as all modern art that was un-German; in other words Jewish or communist by nature. This resulted in artists, like Domsaitis, being sanctioned. This proved to be a crippling blow to Europe’s community of artists. Individuals like this were dismissed from teaching positions, forbidden to exhibit or sell and even prohibited to produce any art.

Creating beauty in the midst of war.

Domsaitis, a Lithuanian citizen by now, thought this would be the best time to start with his “Lithuanian” signature. Preferring peace rather than persecution, he continued painting; only now he reverted  to painting “harmless still lifes”.

This kind of timeline was not uncommon for people in Europe.  Everyone was affected by political agendas which eventually led to much devastation. Art provided some kind of respite for the people of this time. Artists who ‘survived’ this period deserve a special mention for creating beauty when it was difficult to find.