Kazys Varnelis

Kazys Varnelis

Kazys Varnelis (born February 25, 1917 in Alsėdžiai) is an abstract painter from Lithuania. He lived and worked in the United States of America for fifty years, between 1949 and 1998. His distinctive painting style demonstrates optical and three-dimensional illusions based on geometric abstractions and minimal forms. His style combines elements of constructivism, minimalism, and op art. His work is sometimes described as a modernist interpretation of Lithuanian folk art and is owned by Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and other museums.cite journal |url= http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/04/29/travel/29next.html |title=After a Dark Era, a City Looks West and Sees a Future |journal=The New York Times |date=April 29, 2007 |first=Clifford J. |last=Levy] [ [http://collections.currier.org/4DACTION/HANDLECGI/CTN2$1052?display=por&theKW=Varnelis+Kazys&SearchType=all&RefineSearch=NewSelection Currier Art Museum] ] Varnelis is also an avid collector of antiques and bibliophile – his collection is now housed in Kazys Varnelis House–Museum in Vilnius.

Early career

Born to a family of self-taught Samogitian cross carvers, Varnelis graduated from Institute of Fine Art in Kaunas in 1941.cite journal |url=http://www.lituanus.org/1972/72_4_03.htm |title=The Unity of Multiplicity in the Paintings of Kazys Varnelis |first= Harold |last=Haydon |journal=Lituanus |issue=18 |volume=4 |date=Winter 1972| issn=0024-5089] He briefly worked as director of the Museum for Ecclesiastical Art before starting post-graduate studies in Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in 1943. Two years later he was awarded degree of academic painter ( _de. Akademischer Maler). Varnelis did not return to the Soviet-occupied Lithuania and emigrated to the United States, where he settled in Chicago. From 1949 to 1963 he worked on ecclesiastical art and church interiors. To make a living, he owned a stained glass studio. He produced stained glass windows, bronze and marble works. In 1963 he switched his focus to private painting and sculpture. Recognition came in late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1968 he was invited to teach at the City Colleges of Chicago as full professor.

Rise to fame

Varnelis presented his works at the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1967, 1969, 1971, 1974 during biennial exhibitions by Chicago artists, winning the Vielehr Award in 1969 and 1974. He held one-man shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1970), Milwaukee Art Museum (1974), Corcoran Gallery of Art (1973).cite encyclopedia | editor=Simas Sužiedėlis | encyclopedia=Encyclopedia Lituanica | title=Varnelis, Kazys | year=1970–1978 | publisher=Juozas Kapočius | volume=IV | location=Boston, Massachusetts | id=LCC | 74-114275 | pages=63–64] In an 1971 article in Canadian art magazine "Artscanada" Dutch art historian Jan van der Marck attributed abstract decorative quality of Varnelis works to the ornaments found on traditional Lithuanian crosses that his father used to make. Van der Marck also attributed structural complexity to the complexities of the Lithuanian language. Varnelis used limited range of colors and relied on technical execution for transitions between the colors.

His early works tended to display unitary designs that could be repeated endlessly. As his works evolved, Varnelis broke away from endless repetitions and square canvas. shaping his paintings according to the subject matter. In late 1970s he experimented with abstract architecture. [lt icon cite journal| journal=Aidai |url=http://aidai.us/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2147&Itemid=201 |title=Kazys Varnelis ir jo kūryba |first=Harold |last=Haydon |date=September 1977 |volume=7 |issn=0002-208X] Later works show elements of deformity borrowed from Surrealism and emphasized realism from Photorealism. [lt icon cite web| url=http://www.lnm.lt/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=36&Itemid=67 | title=Kazio Varnelio rinkinys |publisher=National Museum of Lithuania| date=2006-03-28 |accessdate=2008-09-25] In the 1990s, Varnelis exhibited in Europe: Palace of Art in Budapest (1995), Tampere Art Museum (1996), Museum of Modern Art in Riga (1997), and other.

Return to Lithuania

In 1998 Varnelis returned to Lithuania. With assistance from Ministry of Culture and Vilnius Academy of Art, Kazys Varnelis House–Museum was established in Vilnius. In 2003 it became a branch of the National Museum of Lithuania.lt icon cite web| url=http://www.lnm.lt/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=37&Itemid=90 |title=Apie dailininką Kazį Varnelį |publisher=National Museum of Lithuania |accessdate=2008-09-25] The museum was established in a 15th century building of former Merchants' Guild. The collection includes some 7,000 books and 150 maps, dating from the 16th century. The museum also houses paintings, sculptures, Renaissance furniture, Oriental art, and works by Varnelis. [cite web| url=http:// [http://www.lnm.lt/en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=56&Itemid=89 |title=Kazys Varnelis House-Museum |date=2007-05-14|publisher=National Museum of Lithuania |accessdate=2008-09-25] For merits to Lithuania, Varnelis was awarded the Knight Cross of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas (1998) and the Commander Cross of the Order for Merits to Lithuania (2007). [lt icon cite web| url=http://www.president.lt/veikla/apdovanojimai/db |title=Apdovanotų asmenų duomenų bazė |publisher=President of Lithuania |accessdate=2008-09-25 ]


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