LITUANUS
LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
 
Volume 29, No.2 - Summer 1983
Editor of this issue: Thomas Remeikis
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright ę 1983 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Lituanus

THE FANTASTIC ART OF ╚IURLIONIS

STASYS GOđTAUTAS
University of Texas at Dallas

As we are reminded by the Lithuanian-French art historian Jurgis Baltru­aitis in his classical work Le Moyen Age Fantastique and later in RÚveils et Prodiges, fantastic art does not begin with the Middle Ages nor does it end with the Renaissance, but is a continuous part of human creation.* And Jorge Luis Borges echoed a similar idea, in his own sophisticated way, when he spoke on fantastic literature: "We shouldn't talk about fantastic literature because we don't know to what genre the universe belongs; if it is fantastic or real".1

As a human endeavor, all literature and all the arts are part of the fantastic because they appear in place of a reality that has become remote. But in art as well as in literature there are certain works that display such energy in their creation of autonomous worlds that they become more fantastic than others. It is as if the artist had prescinded the laws of logic and of the physical world that surround him, and had, without any "rational" explanation, created his own fanciful world and the anthropo-zoology to populate it.

The Bible, for instance, becomes more and more fantastic the less we believe in it. The same is true of Greek mythology, or any mythology for that matter. Hieronymus Bosch and William Blake both used fantastic elements. So it is in modern art. The phantoms created by Goya, Redon, Ensor, de Chirico or Max Ernst, embody fantastic elements easily recognizable by anyone. Fantastic art is the very opposite of realism, even though it uses reality in order to distort that reality, to camouflage it, to recreate It. Be aware that fantastic art has little if anything to do with decorative art, although it may have influenced such movements as Art Nouveau. Fantastic art appears when the artist intentionally corrupts reality and, as M. K. ╚iurlionis aptly stated, creates another world. Fantastic art, therefore, is a subversion and a parody of a reality that has become meaningless and can no longer sufficiently express the artist's inner thoughts.

Fantastic has become a common term for a particular genre in literature that is neither science fiction nor fairy tale. Maybe the best known writers in this genre with whom ╚iurlionis was familiar are Edgar Allan Poe and Rudyard Kipling. The fantastic, according to theoretician Tzvetan Todorov. (Introduction à la littÚrature fantastique) is the thin line between the strange and the marvelous. Total incredulity and complete faith take us away from the fantastic; only doubt keeps us within the sphere of the fantastic.2

The same literary rules apply to art. Baudelaire was the first in modern times to suggest the transition from poetry into painting and music, and his influence was felt well after his death (in 1867) by the first Symbolists, Art Nouveau, the Vienna Secession, and Munich's Jugendstil. There is little doubt now that all these movements of the fin-de-siècle helped to shape abstract art. By its subjective power of emotion expressed through color, form, composition and so on, the object itself depicted in the canvas has only a very relative importance.

In ╚iurlionis' Creation of the World, painted in thirteen parts, it is very puzzling not to find the sixth day of creation, that is, the creation of man. The artist, in a very rare instance, explains his intentions in a letter to his brother Povilas (who in 1905 was living in Lawrence, Massachusetts):

. . . The last cycle (Let It Be or the Creation of the World) is unfinished; I think I will paint it all my life, depending, of course, on how many new ideas I get. It is the creation of the world, not our world, as in the Bible, but the creation of another, fantastic world. I would like to do a hundred paintings, but I don't know if I will be able to.

(April 4, 1905)3

As we now know, the artist never painted more than the original thirteen.

In the nine paintings of the Deluge or the Flood (1905-6), completed a year earlier than the Creation of the World, ╚iurlionis could not find a place for man. The only reference to the human tragedy is seen in paintings I and VI Ś symbolic, gigantic hands beseeching mercy. In both instances they reach toward the sky in the same gesture, but still the human figure is conspicuously absent. It is also absent in the later cycles, such as the City, all the Sonatas, and so on. This is not to say, however, that ╚iurlionis was an incompetent figure drawer. Looking through the sketches done during his school years, one finds hundreds of such drawings. When reproached by his instructors for not including them in his paintings, he would just shrug his shoulders and say that he preferred to paint in the "plain air". In another letter to his brother in Lawrence (Massachusetts) ╚iurlionis confesses: "I am unsuccessful at drawing" (April 2, 1904).4

Of course, there could be another reason for this absence of man. For the people bordering the Baltic, Man is insignificant before the immense magnificence of nature. This general absence of Man in Northern European art is especially significant in ╚iurlionis' art. While the Mediterranean civilizations glorified the human body and limited nature's importance to the decorative element, the Scandinavians and the Baits displaced Man from the center of the canvas, avoided his face, showing him sometimes from the back, facing together with the artist the grandeur of the universe. The Romantic relish in nature becomes part of that Panto, where Man, both literally and figuratively, stands alone, minuscule, before nature's elements Ś the clouds, mountains, sky, valleys, and mists. It is as if Man were on the brink of some significant mystical experience.

There have been so many attempts to assign ╚iurlionis to one school or to one set of artists, none successful, that I am afraid to add still another wrinkle to the debate. However, using the previously quoted letter that is so illuminating, there is little doubt that ╚iurlionis belongs to the artists, creators of the fantastic landscape, one of the most fascinating phenomena of the nineteenth century. And please note that, when we talk about the fantastic art of ╚iurlionis, we are not attributing him to any particular school, not even the Symbolists, who utilized the fantastic more than did any other school.

As can be seen in the commentaries collected in this volume "Views on ╚iurlionis", many noted artists and writers observed this characteristic in ╚iurlionis. Maxim Gorky spoke of the "fantastic" qualities of the Lithuanian painter, as did Lydie Krestowsky referring to his "visions fantastique". Even the American art critic Peter Selz has remarked on the "fantastique work" of ╚iurlionis and his similarity to Kubin and Redon. The same observation was made by the German art historian Werner Haftmann in his classical work Painting of the Twentieth Century: "╚iurlionis' paintings are ... taken . . . from fantastically imagined 'cosmic' worlds". Alexandre Benois called his paintings "phantosmagoric".5

There is no question that ╚iurlionis was trying to depict a fantastic world in paintings such as the Angel-Prelude (1908-9), whose half-human, half-sphinx figure with its bird-like wings surveys from on high an immense abyss with infinite criss-crossing bridges. Not unlike many of his Symbolist contemporaries, ╚iurlionis loved to represent angels as the symbols of the supernatural, of calmness, beauty and piety, usually depicting them in the act of adoration, leaning toward a wild flower, as in Angels (1906-7) or Paradise (1909), or flying toward the artist, as in his only self-portrait titled The Truth (1905). In all there are at least 15 paintings with angels and only one that portrays the devil. Why this fascination with angels? First of all, the depiction of angels was a strong part of the Northern Romantic tradition, to which ╚iurlionis is related by geography and epoch;6 secondly, to an artist concerned with beauty, angels are the prototype of graciousness, lightness, while serving at the same time as symbols of a fantastic . world. ╚iurlionis did not fancy the horror that was in vogue at that time in literature and art, but, rather, he chose the beautiful as part of his fantastic world.

Let's take, for instance, the ancient theme of the devil. Near Eastern artists long ago needed a representation of evil forces that was somehow both close to and removed from reality. They conceived the Demon as a fallen angel with membranous wings, a repulsive beast that does not exist in reality but is created by the human imagination. ╚iurlionis, as many of his predecessors, painted the fallen angel with bat wings, black, soft and repulsive, and set him in the middle of a fantastic city, a mixture of Babel and the Baroque, where Satan reigns alone, in the darkness of solitude, as can be seen in ╚iurlionis' faceless Demon (1909).

Of all the arts, architecture, by its own design, is the most realistic. Even the fairy-tale castles of the Rhine are functional and not fantastic in nature, having been as places for defense or for pleasure. But then we have examples such as A. Gaudi and Otto Wagner, the latter a designer of the Vienna Secession who could have inspired the cities painted by ╚iurlionis.

╚iurlionis produces dozens of paintings built around imaginary architectural motifs, all fantastic in nature. In the Middle Ages the artist did not paint such motifs, he actually constructed them all over Europe, decorating facades, friezes, arches with the most fantastic sculptures, with gargoyles and imaginary beings. Only later, at the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance did fantastic architecture begin to emerge in the paintings of such artists as Van Eyck, the Master of Flemalle, Grunnewald, and so on.7 How ╚iurlionis became interested in fantastic architecture, especially since no such examples existed in his own homeland, remains a puzzle. Let's take, for instance, his painting Fortress Ś Fairy Tale (1909), or The City-Prelude (1908-9) known as the Knight, or the Sonata of the Pyramids (1908), or the cycle of The City (1908), and others that we mentioned before. ╚iurlionis is creating imaginary cities that are surrounded by mystery, empty like modern skyscrapers on a Sunday morning; or again a mysterious knight rides over a city on a surrealistic horse, in the haze of a half-illuminated city. There are cities that resemble fairy tales, as in the Castle-Fairy-Tale (1909), in which a spiral wall takes us upward, along with the crowd that fills all the avenues that lead to the sky; or the Mayan-type pyramid titled The Altar (1909), one of the most colorful of ╚iurlionis' inventions that faces a gray mysterious sea while a white smoke fills a sky. All this belongs to the domain of the imagination, to new worlds, such as the pyramids of Egypt or Mexico, that ╚iurlionis dreamt of but never saw. His concern with the alien is again illustrated in the painting entitled The World of Mars (1904-5), seen through the frame of an old gothic nave, full of snake-like vegetation that invades the strange garden. Alien, also, was the world of the Symbolists, Art Nouveau and Vienna Secession.

As was noticed earlier, ╚iurlionis rarely fantasized in human or animal figures. His fantasies are limited to the landscape that he so dearly loved and to imaginary cities, angels and demons. If we could summarize ╚iurlionis' pursuit of the fantastic, we could say that he was very much concerned with the mysteries of the forest, with little wild flowers appearing in the middle of a virgin nature. What could be more simple, more realistic, than tree branches frozen in the winter (Winter cycle, 1907-8), or a silhouette of tall trees reflected in the clouds (Summer cycle, 1907-8). In ╚iurlionis' painting all that becomes fantastic, full of unpredictable shapes, as in The Kings-Fairy-Tale (1908-9), where he painted a tiny city on an oak branch that is being held by one of the kings. When asked why he had painted it that way, he answered "because I wanted it that way".8

╚iurlionis in many of his published letters talks about nature and describes his love for it, but it is apparent, as in the case of his contemporary Odilon Redon, that nature is only the point of departure, not the goal. He used nature to emphasize its magic, and therefore it is not a realistic nature but a supernatural one, created by the power of his imagination. Nature that retains its calm even in the midst of human hopes and human ambitions. ╚iurlionis, like the peasant he described in an article for the Second Lithuanian Art Show that he had organized in Vilnius (1908), listens and looks to nature to learn its mysteries and the forces that lie beyond our control:

The peasant listens and looks silently, no one has to point out to him: look, isn't that beautiful! He knows it. He enjoys nature, but in his own way: he creates songs laden with nature's wealth and beauty. He notices, re-tells, and names bits of nature, but does it with a gentleness which shows his affections and how close it all is to his heart ... A peasant is not satisfied with the rhyming song alone, he takes his carving knife and fashions a walking stick. Why? Will it be stronger for his carving? No! Again, he decorates the common spoon with God knows what embellishments. Is it tastier to eat with such a spoon? Who can tell?9

Landscape, mountains, seas, clouds, everything in ╚iurlionis' nature becomes supernatural, fantastic. During his school years in Warsaw he painted a landscape with a huge cloud, like a mountain. But is it a mountain? or a cloud? As in Emil Nolde's "The Mattenhorn Smiles" (1894), popularized through its reproduction on thousands of postcards, the Alpine mountain is metamorphosed into a giant monster, so, too, in this landscape, ╚iurlionis projects a similar image of a biological monster of indefinite characterization. Even earlier he had used a colossal head with rays streaming through its eyes surveying the world. The painting was called The Thought (1904-5), but what was he thinking? What world was he dreaming of? ╚iurlionis left it to us to decide.

Throughout his brief creative career ╚iurlionis was obsessed with clouds. In them he could see marvels, fantastic symbols, as in the Ship (1906), where a small vessel seemingly abandoned on the sea, is reproduced in three gigantic forms in the clouds, clouds over the sky (Spring, I) and on earth (Spring, III). Clouds that create fairy tales and monsters as in Journey of the Prince (1907), where in a triptych everything takes place in the sky, or Fugue (1908) from the diptych Prelude and Fugue, where the horizon is filled with a tiny line of trees and the sky is full of human figures.

In the Andante of the Spring Sonata, again we have a most fantastic landscape with small windmills and parts of larger ones painted in the sky. How small are the ones on earth and how immense those in the sky! The fantastic images are related and they hold together; the natural and supernatural are closely tied and their meaning is not always too clear, since, after all, they are "fantasies",10 as ╚iurlionis calls them. The point of reference is not nature, but the mystery that surrounds the tormented mind of the painter. ╚iurlionis' relish for fantasy is surprising. At times it is an almost child-like, acute interest in the mystery of life. It reminds us of Walt Disney's wonderful approach in his motion-picture "Fantasia" (1940), full of symbolic significance and beauty.

╚iurlionis belongs to the Northern Romantic tradition that produced the surreal landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich and continued well into the twentieth century, not excluding the best of abstract art. Nature is translated into supernature, there is a pantheistic understanding of religion and a metaphysical questioning of God's nature.

╚iurlionis' art embodied the fantastic conception of nature that Symbolism brought to the fore and, perpetuated the Romantic sense of landscape as a metaphor that borders on the religious experience. Such is ╚iurlionis' recurrent theme of the sun. It is as if the sun were something sacred, and as a dualistic divinity that gives life and brings death, it belongs to the pantheistic conception of the world. Such fascination occurs even in his very early period, as in the Creation of the World and the Funeral Symphony (1903). In both cycles the sun is shown in its fullest visible form, sunset or sunrise, and is always the center of the painting. Many of his paintings (Sonata of the Sun, A Vision, Hailing to the Sun, News, The Past, etc.) almost worship the sun very similarly to Van Gogh or Edward Munch. Both, the latter in his mural "The Sun" painted for the University of Oslo (1909K╚11), and ╚iurlionis, in the Andante of the Sonata of the Sun (1907), have the same mythological and formal conception of the heavenly body. The sun constitutes an important parallel between these two disparate artists. Munch's blazing, centralized image of the sun, rising over the horizon, symbol of the creation of light, indeed appears in ╚iurlionis, over and over again. Whether this sun is pagan or Christian is not really relevant. What seems to be common to both artists is their goal in art, to paint a kind of art whose sacredness would make men "take off their hats as though they were in church",11 as expressed by Munch. This worship of the sun is not unique to Munch or ╚iurlionis. It can be traced to Friedrich, Phillip Otto Runge, Van Gogh, Nolde and many others.

The fantastic in his art links ╚iurlionis to Symbolism. In 1903 he himself wrote to his brother Povilas on a postcard of B÷cklin's "Prometheus": "I have already painted one symbolic painting" (September 2, 1903).12 We don't know to which painting he is referring, but it was one of his summer hobbies before he went to the Warsaw Academy.

Symbolism is one of the schools most frequently mentioned in connection with ╚iurlionis. Of course, it was the art movement closest in proximity Ś or was it? Ś to ╚iurlionis' own time; the one that had such an impact on Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, and the Vienna Secession. In 1904 he had an opportunity to see many of the Symbolist painters, such as Redon, Denis, Whistler, Munch, Tolouse Lautrec, Klinger, B÷cklin in Warsaw. By bringing about the fusion of Naturalism, Idealism and Synthetism, Symbolism retreated into a dream world, recondite allusions, that in MallarmÚ's own definition would "paint not the thing itself but the effect that it produces".13 "To paint" meant to write poetry, just as to Debussy it meant to compose music. ╚iurlionis, referring to Berlioz' and R. Strauss' compositions, said, "there is no doubt, they paint beautifully" (February 17, 1902).14 The "synthesis" of the arts, observed by Ivanov in ╚iurlionis, was not an illusion, even though we do not always agree with his elusive way of expressing it.

╚iurlionis, like most Symbolists, remained independent, that is to say, private and obsessed with his own inner world. As in Redon, his dreams and visions were too personal to have any significant impact within the school of his teachers in Warsaw or of his friends in St. Petersburg.

╚iurlionis, for instance, developed a highly chromatic style, as did many Symbolists, but even in his more fantastic paintings he never allowed himself to be carried away by the grotesque, macabre, satanic, or to indulge in the depiction of horror, like some of his most fervent Symbolist friends. One reason for this could be his completely anti-literary approach to painting, that is to say, he was not an illustrator of Poe's oeuvres, as Redon, nor of Wilde's SalomÚ, as Beardsley, nor Balzac's Contes drolatiques, as DorÚ.

Dreams and fantasies invade literature and art everywhere. Poe and E. T. A. Hoffmann, Nodier and Maupassant, Kafka and Borges, Goya and Redon, Ensor and de Chirico belong to the same family that was announcing the discovery of an unknown continent, to paraphrase Romain Rolland. ╚iurlionis also tried to write short fantastic pieces that he never finished. Some of them were just recounts of his dreams, others fully developed short stories that he fabricated and shared with his future wife. The translation and publication of these literary drafts, minor contributions to the "conte fantastique", could very well add to the synthesis of arts another dimension he was striving for.

But contrary to most Symbolist painting, ╚iurlionis' art was too self-contained and purely visual, and, as such, escaped literary interpretation. That might explain his reluctance to speak or write about his own art or that of his contemporaries, which is lamentable. He abhorred requests to explain it, therefore there is not much written that we could quote.

His letters to his family and close friends, especially those written during his studies at the Conservatory in Leipzig and his short trip to Central Europe in the summer of 1906, might help us to clarify his position as a fantastic painter, since in them he mentions Arnold B÷cklin, Max Klinger, Ferdinand Hodler, Franz von Stuck and Giovanni Segantini. All were very important painters of his time, all Germanic or Swiss, and all in some way connected to fantastic art, to Art Nouveau and the Vienna Secession.

Was ╚iurlionis part of Art Nouveau and the art of the early 1900's? Who was not part of it? All of Europe was euphoric with the newly discovered freedom and fantasy, beauty and exuberance; the long search for synthesis by the Symbolists seemed to have paid off, and all the arts were finally working together: music and painting; architecture and sculpture; theater and ballet; furniture and the decorative arts; books and posters. ╚iurlionis, as all major artists of his period, was part of the Art Nouveau movement, be it the Vienna Secession, or Munich's Jugendstil, or the British school represented by Aubrey Beardsley, who was also mentioned by ╚iurlionis. Following their example, he illustrated books and musical scores, painted stage curtains and posters; even the old medieval custom of decorating the first letter of a chapter with fantastic calligraphy was revived by ╚iurlionis as by other Art Nouveau artists. But as in every instance when comparisons are made ╚iurlionis escapes total identification with the movement. His art is devoid of stylized forms, the trademark of Art Nouveau, or the flat color that Gauguin and the Symbolists took from Japanese prints. ╚iurlionis in one instance mentions that in Prague he saw a "Japanese panneaux (September 1, 1906).15 We cannot deny that ╚iurlionis in his search for ornamentation started to integrate here and there some of the features of the new style, particularly following his trip to Munich and Vienna in 1906. However, the whole movement of the Jugenstil relates more to Kandinsky than to ╚iurlionis, and it is through it that we can discover possible parallels among these two artists of the early twentieth century.

The artist most frequently mentioned by ╚iurlionis was the Swiss painter Arnold B÷cklin, the darling of the Jugendstil. What prompted his fascination with the then popular painter of life and death, whose "Isle of the Dead" (1886) was immensely fashionable? Incidentally, one version of this painting was seen by ╚iurlionis in Leipzig's Museum. In 1902, in a letter to his best friend in Warsaw, E. Morawsky, he writes in the final paragraph:

In the local museum there are eight exposition galleries. The first time I walked in, I was surprised: in the main gallery was Murillo and B÷cklin. What lies ahead? But in the other rooms the pictures were not so beautiful. In the last gallery they were atrocious. I remember that in the last gallery I felt sorry and sad that I would not be seeing better paintings. I came back to B÷cklin.16

(May 20, 1902)

And later, in 1906, in another letter, he says: ". . . the fin-de-siècle gave us B÷cklin" (September 6,1906).17 Many of his paintings could be seen in Warsaw in 1904, at the time when ╚iurlionis was an art student there and had started to paint his first fantastic pictures, such as The Night (1904-5), Fortress (1904), and his first Rex (1904-5), all of which show the influence of B÷cklin.

To answer my previous question, perhaps it was B÷cklin's tendency toward the fantastic with the morbid allegorization of a given theme that fascinated ╚iurlionis, even though ╚iurlionis was never crude nor morbid, and his search for themes was less classical than that of B÷cklin, who was a contemporary and close friend of Jacob Burckhardt, the great historian of the Renaissance. Perhaps it was B÷cklin's attempt to illustrate musical scores with fantastic imagery. However, as his close friend Ferdinand Hodler had said, "B÷cklin is a great artist, but somewhat too literary for my taste",18 so, too, ╚iurlionis very soon abandoned the "literate" taste of B÷cklin, though he never stopped admiring him.

In Warsaw, and later in Munich, ╚iurlionis saw the work of Max Klinger, whom he always mentions in connection with B÷cklin. ╚iurlionis calls him "a serious but difficult artist" (Sept. 6, 1906)19 which corresponds to Hodler's remark: "I like Klinger less Ś he always tries to say too much" 20 Klinger was a true precursor of the Jugendstil and one of the most influential figures of Art Nouveau in Germany. He lived and taught in Leipzig where ╚iurlionis spent a year studying music (1901-1902). Kliner's pursuit of total art did not always bear fruit as far as plastic values were concerned, but his fantastic prints, canvasses and murals had to have some impact on ╚iurlionis, even if the latter never painted such pagan nude scenes of Olympic proportion. However, Klinger's striving for synthesis, his love of the fantastic, as in his series of etchings "The Rape", and his essay Painting and Drawing that ╚iurlionis certainly knew, connect him to the Vienna Secession and to the Polish Symbolism (Jozef Nejoffer, Kasimir Pochwalski, Oskar Laske, Rudolf Jettmar and Vlastimil Hoffmann), that he later rejected.

Spiritual, if not formal, was ╚iurlionis' admiration for Ferdinand Hodler, friend of Gustav Klimt, whom ╚iurlionis never mentions. This silence could be significant. Hodler was a poet and fantasy painter. ╚iurlionis might have liked his "Day and Night" (1889), powerful and monumental, full of sleeping figures watched over by a fantastic form symbolizing death. As we recall, ╚iurlionis hardly ever painted any human figures, and except for the titles, so fashionable during the Symbolist period, there is little connection between the monotony and slow pace of Hodler's paintings and the visions and dreams of ╚iurlionis. However, Hodler's belief in the communion of the spirit, his pantheistic languors of the fin-de-siècle, his mystical contemplation and the parallelistic approach with an uneven number of repetitions might have attracted ╚iurlionis as he searched for splendid decorative effects in some of his Sonatas.

Highly refined and influential was Franz von Stuck, whose atelier was attended, at various times, by Jawlensky, Kandinsky and Klee. He was obsessed, as was Klimt, with the ideal of feminine beauty, and painted fantastic symbolic canvasses such as "The Spring" (1896), in which a young girl, crowned with violets and posing against a bright cloudy sky, gazes enigmatically. The allegorical nature of his paintings doomed them to oblivion and only some fantastic pictures survive. ╚iurlionis mentions him twice, qualifying him as a good colorist, but weaker than B÷cklin, whose "The War" he uses as a comparison (from a September 6, 1906 letter).

Having seen his work in Warsaw in 1904, ╚iurlionis was also fascinated with Giovanni Segantini, an Italian painter who spent most of his short life in the Swiss Alps painting in the French Symbolist manner. ╚iurlionis characterized him as an excellent painter, but "too perfect to be a true genius" (Sept. 6,1906).21 Yet he must have liked his world of fantastic allegories, the personifications of virtue and vice, the exaltation of the purity of mountain life against the spiritual and material degradation of the city.

╚iurlionis, as B÷cklin and Hodler, Kling and Segantini, did not develop the fantastic to its utmost possibilities. His early death prevented him from realizing fully where his painting was going. He shifted from the allegory of his early fantasies to symbol, from the story-telling of his "fairy-tales" to a retreat into a dream world. To "paint not the thing itself but the effect that it produces", in the words of MallarmÚ, was his main objective in art.

Even if ╚iurlionis' connection with each individual artist is difficult to prove, his affinities to fantastic art cannot be overlooked. ╚iurlionis' path leads him to the mainstream of the art of his time. This does not imply, however, any particular weakness nor any attempt to imitate anyone. ╚iurlionis was concerned with the obsessions of his time, one of the most fascinating periods of spiritual revival after the bankruptcy of science. Artists, who only a decade before were claiming the death of God, found some answers to their anxieties in the supernatural and the fantastic.

 

* The uniqueness and importance in art history of the Lithuanian painter M. K. ╚iurlionis is now recognized by reknown critics and art historians. However, there remains considerable argument to which school or art tendency ╚iurlionis should be assigned. A number of articles on the painter have been published in Lituanus (see the Cumulative Index, 1954-1978 to Lituanus, published with its December 1978 issue, for particulars), viewing ╚iurlionis as a Symbolist and as a pioneer of the Abstract. This article presents still another perspective on the painter. It is taken from a forthcoming international collection of critical and historical essays on the painter, edited by the author of this essay Ś Dr. Stasys Go­tautas. No effort has been made to reproduce here the various works cited by the author since many of them have appeared in previous issues of this journal. Color reproductions of ╚iurlionis' works are available, though difficult to obtain, in the album Mikalojus Konstantinas ╚iurlionis, published in Vilnius in 1977.
1 Alejandra Pizarnik e Ivonne A. Bordelois, "Entrevista con Jorge Luis Borges", Zona Franca, Caracas, I, 2, septiembre de 1964.
2 Tzvetan Todorov, Introduction a la litterature fantastique, Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1971.
3 M. K. ╚iurlionis, Apie muzikÓ ir dailŠ (On Music and Art), Vilnius, 1960, p. 178.
4 Ibid., p. 171.
5 A compendium of "Views on ╚iurlionis" will appear in the forthcoming collection of essays on the painter.
6 Robert Rosenblum, Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition: Friedrich to Rothko, New York, Harper & Row, 1975.
7 Jurgis Baltru­aitis, Le Moyen Age fantastique, antiquitÚs et exotismes dans l'art gothique, Paris, 1955; RÚveils et prodiges, le gothique fantastique, Paris, 1960.
8 Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, "╚iurlionis in St. Petersburg: 1908-1909", M. K. ╚iurlionis, (ed. P. GalaunŰ), Kaunas, 1938, p. 95.
9 M. K. ╚iurlionis, op. cit., p. 279.
10 Ibid., p. 181.
11 Ingrid Langaard, Edward Munch, Modningsar, Oslo, 1960.
12 M. K. ╚iurlionis, op. cit., p. 168.
13 John Russel, The Meaning of Modern Art: History as Nightmare, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1974, p. 7.
14 M. K. ╚iurlionis, op. cit., p. 93.
15 Ibid., p. 195-
16 Ibid., p. 152.
17 Ibid., p. 196.
18 Hans Ankwicz von Kleehoven, "Ferdinand Hodler und Wien", Neujahrsblatt der Zurcher Kunstgesellschaft, 1950, p. 15.
19 M. K. ╚iurlionis, op. cit., p. 196.
20 Ankwicz von Kleehoven, op. cit., p. 15.
21 ╚iurlionis, op. cit.

83_2_01.jpg

M. K. ╚iurlionis, from a cycle "The City" (1908-9).