In London & Back to Reminiscence. Part 9

The history of the Kaunas State Theatre also reflects the development of Lithuanian scenic design. Kaunas State theatre had already taken root in Europe in the first decades of the XX century.
The process of the national scenic design was determined by two main factors: the level of the school of art and the peculiarities of the development of theatre. The school of Lithuanian scenic design started to form when the gifted pupils of the Kaunas Art School returned after their studies abroad and the head of the theatre became a talented director of a new type A. Oleka-Žilinskas. In his creative programme covering all spheres of theatrical activity.
The designer became a partner of the director, his co-author. The collaboration with A. Oleka-Žilinskas, M. Chekhov and other directors proved especially fruitful to A. Galdikas, S. Ušinskas, L. Truikys. These painters creatively using the principles of the Lithuanian folk art, combined them with the new experience of the European theatre design, had their own original conception of scenic design.
The latter, artists erudites, as if prepared the soil for diverse activity for artists invited from abroad. M. Dobuzhinsky, and later K. Korovin, N. Gontcharova took part in progress at Kaunas State Theatre development.

“In the Studio

I will mention the present times a little here and why I have just started writing about my collection of paintings. I had bigger plans when I came to London. I thought of doing something more with my collection. But reality was different and my plan failed.

I didn’t know anyone here. Just I knew about the portobello market. I started here, rented the stall, put the paintings and nothing happened. Million people went through my stall with paintings. People just took and put it back on the table. They haven’t asked the price or questions, nothing. The stall cost me 120 pounds for one day. When I tried a different way the next day I took some sketches and I visited a few antiques shops which specialized in paintings. Here they asked the price, I didn’t know the value, just said 100 pounds each. They said try in the auction. So nothing again. The next day I visited one of the famous auction houses in London (I don’t want to use the names of companies or people names) I didn’t book the appointment, just came. They invited me to come into the special room. Later came the expert of Russian art. She took a quick look and took one painting and with my permission left the room. She came back after 15 minutes and said: the paintings are nice and maybe interesting, but the papers, history and provenance are not strong enough. They didn’t know about Kaunas and theatre. To get into auction I need to get a conclusion from one of these art experts trusted by auction. I got the list with names. If not, she recommended trying other auctions. I asked someone who had better English to call the expert after a few days. The price for one hour to view the painting was unbelievable. So I tried another auction house in Chiswick (here are a few auctions so I named the area). Here was different. I took 20 oil paintings. Again a quick look and expert sorted paintings into two parts: 12 in one part and 8 in another. He said: we will do two lots from this. Starting price 100 pounds without limit for each lot. He said again: don’t worry, the price will go up. It will go fast, more than 3000 pounds for one lot. I signed and went home. I came back after auction as they recommended. Here were other people working with items who were sold. The news was, one lot sold for 100 pounds and the other didn’t. I asked an expert what happened, he explained what was very quiet last week. They paid me 76 pounds after one month (following auction rules). I tried two other auction houses with sketches. But it was similar (one lot was sold for a starting price, another lot was not sold and went to another auction, finally lost value and disappeared from view). I learnt this lesson with auctions and didn’t come back. I needed money for a living, found a job. Still tried to sell something in the markets around London. I met one art dealer who offered to take some paintings to the shop in the Alfies antique center. I gave him a few very good paintings which were exhibited in exhibitions, few catalogues with paintings illustrations where he was signed by Z. Varnauskas with confirmation and was dedicated to me. I was surprised again when I visited the store after 6 months.

There were no paintings. The dealer (Robert – here I wrote the name, because there was a real robbery) said don’t remember maybe gone. Where is the money for the paintings – he couldn’t explain too. He didn’t remember because he had a lot of paintings – he said. Worst I knew this man for about two years. I thought I could trust (here different than in Lithuania). I left paintings without any papers. When I went to exit, Robert asked me, maybe I have more paintings. No comments. I learned a second lesson. So I continued online sales, here I still can get some money (but in reality I am not calculating the price I paid, and after sale when I pay auction fees, money transfer fees and shipping, the amount left to me becomes very symbolic). But here I can’t do anything, I still have a huge quantity of sketches and paintings. I left some quantity of paintings, in my opinion more interesting. In my future plans I want to do online exposition. Here should be paintings with full description, history and maybe I will find the right expert who will confirm the identity.


There will not be too many images of paintings in this post. I will do special posts with more images and descriptions for some separate paintings and sketches. Which in my opinion has more attention. It is impossible to do all paintings and sketches. In my records I found more than 16000 items in the last 17 years. And I still have more.

I had a new question when I visited Z. Varnauskas again. He had prepared for me a lecture on the artistic value (not a monetary) of a painting. He had prepared examples of the creative process of the same painting. With great enthusiasm he told me what I need to see in the painting first. How artists lose artistic value in the creative process. In his opinion the best value is the first sketch which was made in nature. It doesn’t matter the size. Important that it was made freely without any tension. Here is a real art – he explains. Look at the colours, strokes – do you feel freedom? Later in the studio, the artist draws a larger sketch from this small sketch, which is already a preparatory work, before the final version, which will be presented on canvas. Already having a commitment, the artist lost artistic value by recreating the painting in the large version. Additional details appear, but here the artist loses his freedom, constraints are felt in the strokes. Finally, the artist experiences a particularly heavy constraint in transferring his idea to the canvas. The artist’s commitment to the upcoming exhibition, in the opinion of visitors or art critics also constraint freedom. Only a few in the world, absolute geniuses were free and did not lose their freedoms. Even geniuses like Picasso felt a creative crisis. He could not create for sale, although even then his paintings cost a lot of money. He didn’t want to sell freedom.

I really enjoyed this lecture and his approach to creation.

I asked when he finished telling – what do you think about J. Cepenas? How do you know? – he replays. Z. Varnauskas always called me by surname, not by name. But he always pronounced Vabuolis not Vabolis. Vabuolis – he said, Cepenas is not the best artist, but he has a good taste for art.

I got what I needed.

Will be continued…

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