Author: Arbitblatas Neemija, 1908 - 1999
Material / technique: oil on canvas.
Dimensions: 67.5x57 cm.
Signature: Arbitblatas. 1930 (in the top-left corner of the painting).
The portrait of Juozas Vaičkus (1930), a theatre director, painted by Blatas marks the period in Blatas’ oeuvre when he used restraint and monochrome colours. Ilona Mažeikienė, a researcher of Blatas’ creative work, wrote: ‘In 1926–1939, although living in Paris, Blatas stayed in touch with Lithuania. Each year he visited his parents. His efforts to open a private art gallery on Independence Square in Kaunas were crowned with success in autumn 1932. This was the first such gallery and both local and foreign artists were exhibited in the gallery.[i] Under these circumstances it does not come as a surprise that Blatas painted the theatre director and the well-known nurturer of theatre culture in Kaunas. The greatest and most valuable achievement of Vaičkus was the establishment of the State Theatre in Kaunas in 1920 together with the pupils and stage director Kastantas Glinskis. The theatre continues to this day. It can be said that the establishment of the State Theatre is the end of one stage in the history of Lithuanian folk (amateur) theatre (Petras Bielskis) and the arrival of the professional theatre.’[ii] The portrait by Blatas captures a psychological image of the theatre director. Contemporaries remember Vaičkus as a proud, always stylish person and an exceptionally talented teacher, who revived the Lithuanian theatre. It is no coincidence that back in 1940 Stasys Šilingas wrote the following about Vaičkus’ contribution to Lithuanian culture: ‘He was a man of broad spirit, standing next to Žemkalnis – Vydūnas – Tadas Daugirdas – Rucevičius – Strazdas along with numerous, already forgotten, unknown theatre “soldiers” who sowed the seeds of their own – Lithuanian – art across Lithuania, and everywhere – in America, Germany, Russia – where there was a Lithuanian.
Reference: Description of the "Meetings" exhibition. - M. K.Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, Kaunas.
Theatrical performances at home and in synagogues sparked the imaginations of future artists from early on in their childhood, and naturally appeared in some of their works. The artist Arbit Blatas was particularly interested in theatre and scenography. His second wife Regina Resnik was a soloist with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. On his occasional visits to Lithuania in the interwar period, the artist painted about 40 portraits of famous people, including his friend Juozas Vaičkus, the founder of the first Lithuanian theatre studio (1916) and the director of the State Theatre (Vilma Gradinskaitė).
Exhibitions: Exhibition of dr. J. Gumbis art collection “Meetings”, 2015 July 3 – September 6, M. K.Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, Kaunas.
Published: "Outcrops of Lithuanian Art 16th–21th Centuries", Vilnius Exhibition of the Fine Arts Collection of Edmundas Armoška, Vilnius: Lithuanian Art Museum, 2008 Kat. No. III, 74, P. 109. History of Lithuanian Art in 20th century 1900-1940, Volume II. Vilnius, TSR Academy of Sciences, Institute of History, 1983. Nr. 75, P. 129; "Collection. Lithuanian Collectors' Association magazine". Vilnius, No. 3, 1996, P. 15.