The Image of Gas Mask in the Lithuanian Visual Culture of the 1930s: The Premonitions of War
Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis
Keywords:gas mask, graphic art, iconography, premonition of war, Lithuania, poster, propaganda
The paper was inspired by the need to acknowledge and identify the signs of war in the Lithuanian art of the 1930s. In order to keep the specificity of art historical research in view, the research is narrowed down to the visual artefacts of various kinds and purposes—from paintings (Justinas Vienožinskis) and graphic prints (Mečislovas Bulaka, Jonas Kuzminskis, and Žibuntas Mikšys) to the mass-produced press illustrations, posters, adverts, and decorations. The paper analyses historiographically lesser known artworks, including the posters by Vytautas Jurkūnas, Boleslovas Motuza and Liudas Vilimas, and the examples of imported art (lithographs by Louis Lozowick as well as foreign photography). The research material leads to the conclusion that Lithuania was preparing for a modern warfare which, similarly to the situation in the neighbouring countries, was widely associated with new types of weapons; tanks, planes, bombs and gas masks were regarded as symbols of the upcoming war. The image of modern warfare was reflected and disseminated not only via political texts of both local and foreign authors, reports from war zones, civil defense instructions, but also by images, primarily mass-printed press illustrations, public posters, event decorations, and advertisements. From a product of mass visual consumption, the motif of a gas mask got transposed onto paintings and graph- ic art where it acquired the status of the sign of modern warfare and acted as a premonition for the war that was about to engulf Lithuania.