Created: around 1942.
Material / technique: oil on canvas.
Dimensions: 115x92 cm.
Signature: Varnelis (in the bottom-right corner of the painting).
Varnelis took a keen interest in history and collecting. At the time when the portrait was painted he was the head of the Ecclesiastical Art Museum in Kaunas. In 1943, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna where in 1945 he acquired the diploma of an academic painter. In 1949, he moved to the USA and settled in Chicago. The portrait created by one of the world’s best known optic art (op art) artists conveys the stylistics of new objectivity. The representational genre is combined with a bold creative quest.
Lieutenant General Velykis, builder of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and Minister of Defence in the First and Second cabinets, is portrayed standing at the window through which the view opens to the towers of the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Kaunas. He is depicted without a military uniform.
Velykis taught at the High Officers’ Courses and the Military School. He wrote for publications such as Kariūnas and Lietuvos Žinios, and was the chairman of the Economic Enterprise of Soldiers. In 1939, Velykis established a liqueur production factory and represented the 'Vikers' company in Lithuania.
In 1944, soon after his 60th birthday, he was arrested and imprisoned in Kaunas and then in Vilnius. In 1946, he was deported to Siberia. In 1951, Velykis was sentenced to 25 years in labour camps in Archangelsk Region.
of the "Meetings" exhibition. - M. K.Čiurlionis National Museum
of Art, Kaunas.
Whenever he spoke of his leaving Lithuania, Varnelis used to quote General Mykolas Velykis, co-owner of the thriving liqueur factory „Stumbras“ (which he founded together with Efraim Olicki in 1939). The owner of the factory not only generously paid the young artist for his portrait, assuring that the money would be really useful for him, but also, in a commanding voice, advised him „to leave Lithuania“. The royalties helped Varnelis to settle in Vienna, and the wise words of a retired military man and an experienced businessman were etched in his memory for life. In moments of longing, confusion and grief for his beloved ones left behind in the occupied homeland, Varnelis seemed to hear these words again and again, as the sober voice of a man with a knowledge of politics and a foresight of the future. Unfortunately, Velykis himself did not take advice given by him to Varnelis: on 17 December 1944 he was arrested by the NKVD, imprisoned in a forced labour camp near Karaganda, and one on his return to Lithuania in early 1955 he die din Vilnius on 24 January. The portrait shows him standing with his back to a window overlooking the Nemunas River and a fragment of the Old Town with source, together with the greenish colour palette, create an uncomfortable mood of tension and anxiety, and encourage us to associate this work by Varnelis not only with American Regionalism, which had been of interest to the artist since his youth, but also with the art of German Nueu Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity).
Reference: "Kazys Varnelis", Compiler Daiva Vaišnienė. Text authors Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, Žydrūnas Mirinavičius, Laura Petrauskaitė, Indrė Urbelytė, Kazys Varnelis. Painter Vida Kuraitė, Vilnius, 2022, P. 28.
Exhibitions: Exhibition of the dr. J. Gumbis art collection “Meetings”, 2015 July 3 – September 6, M. K.Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, Kaunas.
Published: "Kaunas-Vilnius 1918-1945”, The Art collection of the law firm Ellex Valiunas. Compilars D. Barcytė, dr. I. Burbaitė. Vilnius, 2021, P. 212; "Kazys Varnelis", Compiler Daiva Vaišnienė. Text authors Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, Žydrūnas Mirinavičius, Laura Petrauskaitė, Indrė Urbelytė, Kazys Varnelis. Painter Vida Kuraitė, Vilnius, 2022, P. 28.