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Type of publication: Straipsnis / Article
Author(s): Jankevičiūtė, Giedrė
Title: Dailė kaip propaganda 1939-1941 metais
Other Title: Art as propaganda from 1939 to 1941
Is part of: Darbai ir dienos, 2009, nr. 52, p. 121-139
Date: 2009
Abstract: This article analyzes various aspects of the Sovietization of Lithuanian art in 1940 and 1941. The author poses three principal questions: (1) How broadly and deeply were Lithuanian creators of fine art involved in the creation of Soviet art?; (2) How successful were they in adopting the iconography and expressive means of socialist realism?; and (3) For what reasons did they collaborate with the occupation regime? The first part of the article deals with the activities of those artists who were favorably disposed to the Soviet regime. It reviews organizational changes in the artists‘ activities and art commissions that encouraged Lithuanian visual artists to absorb principles of socialist realist style and to learn that style‘s iconographic language. Separate attention is paid to the activities of Agitprop and preparations for the representation of Lithuanian art (the so-called Art Decade) in Moscow. It is shown that there was no shortage of people wishing to serve the new master, the Soviet state, which skillfully exploited the artists‘ human weakness: their ever-present need to compete with each other, to stand out, and to be noticed and admired. An analysis of instances of art criticism shows how gradually the question of artistic merit was devalued and instead emphasis was increasingly placed on the significance and value of a creative work‘s content, its ideological effectiveness. The publication in the Lithuanian press of descriptions of the work of recognized Soviet artists, masters of socialist realism, also promoted new criteria in evaluating visual art. The presentation of socialist realism‘s highest achievements helped Lithuanian readers to understand what the Soviet system deemed to be a persuasive art work and how much its creator was valued. In this way Lithuania‘s artists were allowed to see what prospects opened up to them and what eternal glory they could earn. The second part of the article is devoted to the difficulties artists encountered in trying to learn the new language of art. With the help of specific examples it is shown how attempts to adjust one‘s individual style to socialist realism most often ended in too primitive a picture: distorted body proportions, unnatural facial expressions, a pallid and inexpressive coloration, and so on. Lithuania‘s visual artists were prevented from achieving artistic forcefulness not only by an alien or incomprehensible social realist style but also by inadequate acquaintance with socialist reality and an inability to get used to Soviet propaganda clichés. In the third part the article discusses the reasons why Lithuanian artists rather actively participated in creating socialist realist art for the purpose of propagating Soviet ideology. An attempt is made to answer the question of how much their collaboration with the Soviet government was influenced by their political naiveté, or by an artist‘s psychology (his or her efforts to please the client on whom the artist depends for the satisfaction of his wish to become rich or famous), or by opposition to the cultural policy pursued by the government of the formerly independent Republic of Lithuania.
Appears in Collections:Darbai ir dienos / Deeds and Days 2009, nr. 52

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