Dark Times: Art and Artists of Vilnius in 1939–1941

Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis





art scene, museums, nationalism, occupation, exhibitions, Sovietisation, Vilnius


The aim of this paper is to discuss and reconstruct in general features the reality of the Vilnius artistic community from late autumn 1939 to June 1941. This period of less than two years significantly changed the configuration of the artistic community of the city, the system of institutions shaping the art scene as well as the artistic goals. It also brought forth new names and inspired new images. These changes were above all determined by political circumstances: the war that broke out in Poland on 1 September 1939; the ceding of Vilnius and the Vilnius region to Lithuania; two Soviet occupations: in the autumn of 1939 and June 1940, and the subsequent Nazi occupation a year later. The influence of politics on the art scene and the life of artists has been explored in institutional and other aspects by both Lithuanian and Polish art historians, but the big picture is not yet complete, and the general narrative is still under construction. A further aim of this paper is to highlight some elements that have not received sufficient attention in historiography and that are necessary for the reconstruction of the whole. Some facts of cooperation or its absence among artists of various ethnicities are presented, and the question is raised on the extent to which these different groups were affected by Sovietisation, and what impact this fragmentation had on the city’s art scene. The timeline of the activity of the higher art school and the Art Museum has been detailed.

Author Biography

Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, Vilnius Academy of Arts, Vilnius, Lithuania

Giedrė Jankevičiūtė is a Vilnius-based art historian and curator. She is a leading research fellow at the Art History and Visual Culture Department of the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute, and a professor of art history in Vilnius Academy of Arts. Her current field of research is the art and culture of occupied countries, with particular focus on the mid-20th century Lithuania, and specifically the years 1939–1944 of the World War II. The results of this research have been published in several academic papers and exhibition catalogues, and the research will conclude in the form of a monograph.




How to Cite

Jankevičiūtė, G. (2020). Dark Times: Art and Artists of Vilnius in 1939–1941: Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis. Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis, (98), 326–361. https://doi.org/10.37522/aaav.98.2020.33