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How the past and the present co-existed
Lithuanian textiles modernized as they mastered new techniques and methods to create imagery. The late 1950s and early 1960s saw two styles coexisting side by side: past traditions and contemporary trends. In this regard, Lithuanian textiles differed little than other forms of art that also found it difficult to define a specific starting point for emerging new styles.
Past traditions in textile art were identified with Eastern weaving techniques and figure scenes from folklore and rural celebrations (weddings, harvests) or labor (potato, flax or rye harvesting), incorporated into several horizontal panels within a larger woven plane, as well as ornamental rugs fashioned in a folk style. The ancient practice of creating decorative compositions made up of several bands, embraced and taught by Kaunas Applied and Decorative Arts Institute instructor Liudas Truikys, was quite popular in the Stalinist era since the design facilitated the presentation of several images from different time periods in one creation. The influence of Lithuanian folk art on such rugs is demonstrated by the stylization of the pattern, the often inconspicuous color palette, and by text inserted into the composition, usually at the bottom of a carpet or used to divide the space into ribbons of landscape.
This compositional principle, permitting several moments of a storyline to be depicted at once, thus avoiding a literary narrative, is illustrated by one of the most beautiful Lithuanian textile works from this period, Vladas Daujotas' 1957 knotted carpet Trys seselės rengė brolelį į karą (Three Sisters Prepared Their Brother For War). A second copy of this carpet is stored at the M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum in Kaunas, since the original was purchased at an exhibition in Moscow as a gift from the Soviet Union to Mao Zedong, then leader of China.
Another example of the post-war Lithuanian textile tradition is the well-known knotted carpet by Juozas Balčikonis entitled Ralio, karvytės (Ralio, Dear Cows), made in 1959, showing young herders watching over their cows. The carpet is asymmetrical in composition and yet constrained, with a detailed and precise pattern decorated with fine ornamentation. The work does not, however, exhibit the monumental force so characteristic of later works by Balčikonis.
As much as the folkloric and lyrical mood of these carpets and their ornamental patterns may delight us, they nevertheless belong to a past tradition, one of meticulous and detailed imagery that demanded considerable labor and materials. Moreover, the media of the day continuously drove home the belief that “what is most important today is to achieve maximum expression with the simplest of measures, demonstrating the beauty and texture of natural materials. The decoration of artworks [comes from] details, planes of color, clear and expressive pattern contours, rhythmically placed and coordinated outlines or ornamental motifs that derive from the material itself or the nature of the technique employed to create the work. Taikomoji-dekoratyvinė dailė: Albumas, sudarytojas Stasys Pinkus, įžangos autoriai Tadas Adomonis ir Stasys Pinkus, Vilnius: Mintis, 1965, p. 5. Not only decorative arts, but also painting, graphic art and sculpture began to see a predominance of large, abstracted planes and simplified patterns.
Post-war explorations came to a natural conclusion with the advent of a transitional period characterized by Eastern-style knotted carpets. In Derliaus nuėmimas (Reaping the Harvest, 1961) by Sofija Vasilenkaitė-Vainilaitienė and Verpėjos (Spinners, 1962) by Ramutė Jasudytė, the thick Eastern knotting characteristic of the post-war period was matched with innovative imagery, figures and other elements to create abstracted, colorful planes.
Mass-produced fabrics – heralds of the modern style
The process of modernization in the Lithuanian textile arts was spurred along by textiles designed and produced for household use, considered less appealing by local artists. Because the modern style was particularly well suited for interior fabrics, simple patterns and designs using stylized shapes appeared first in items mass-produced for furniture fabrics, window dressing, and floor carpeting, rather than in works by individual artists. Industrially produced fabrics were the first heralds of modern textile design and they quickly spread throughout households and the domestic environment, popularizing the new style much faster than any single work produced by an individual artist. The need for decorative domestic fabrics was extremely high and such items were always in short supply. Shoppers would register their names on a waiting list at a store for the chance to purchase any stylish fabric that happened to be "dispensed" to the masses, a term often used to describe the delivery and sale of so-called "deficit" items at retail stores.
Although instructors at the Decorative Textiles Department tried to provide their students with sufficient knowledge necessary for individual creative endeavors, the textile arts training programs devoted ever greater attention to the design of fabrics for mass production. Professional artists were in high demand at such facilities as the "Audėjas" spinning and weaving factory in Vilnius and the nearby Lentvaris Carpet Factory, as well as textile companies operating throughout Lithuania, including Kauno Audiniai, Liteksas, and Lima, among others. Given the conditions prevailing at that time, textile arts graduates often chose decorative interior fabric designs for their thesis projects. The textiles industry recovered thanks to the efforts of skilled textile designers, and Lithuanian industrial fabrics quickly became famous throughout the Soviet Union, often winning awards in international trade shows.
Lithuanian furniture upholstery was characterized by a harmonious composition of modest geometric or figure motifs rhythmically arranged against monochromatic backgrounds, using different textures to emphasize elements of the design. Similar styles dominated the upholstery designs of other socialist countries (Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany) that Lithuanian artists looked to for inspiration. Artists sometimes added a national tone to their creations by adding folksy accents such as spindles, dragonflies, or lady's slippers, or by using elements of techniques commonly used in folk art, such as twill weaves. Young Lithuanian artists intuitively adopted the modern style from their instructors as well as from magazines published in Socialist Bloc countries, since they had few opportunities to visit foreign exhibitions or international industrial product trade shows.
As if designed to contrast with the more neutral decor of furniture upholstery, window curtains were distinguished by larger and more robust floral, geometric, and sometimes figure patterns, accentuated by contrasting colors and expressive styles. For interiors otherwise lacking more expressive accents, curtains were an important artistic element and their patterns often performed the function of modern painting or graphic art. For this reason, artists designing furniture for renovated or newly constructed public interior spaces also created unique curtains to accompany their designs. Window curtains created by J. Balčikonis, V. Daujotas, L. Skodžiūtė-Rusteikienė, Mina Levitan-Babenskienė, M. Rinkevičiūtė-Žilevičienė, and R. Jasudytė are true works of art, with some produced by the designers themselves, thus transforming them into pieces on par with graphic artwork or paintings.
Lithuanians became famous for folk motif window curtains produced at the Panevėžys Linen Factory. The story of the creation of these fabrics was recalled by textile artist Juozas Balčikonis in his memoirs.
Read more: Juozas Balčikonis, Vladas Daujotas.
Panels evenly covered by simple geometric or stylized floral patterns were also a common feature in floor carpeting produced in Lentvaris, where designers sought to distance themselves from the predominating Baroque-style Russian and Byelorussian carpet designs.
What did the artists themselves have to say about carpet design? Stanislava Aldona Gedvilaitė (born 1935), a veteran carpet designer for the Lentvaris factory, remembers:
Mass production was exhausting,' the designer complained. Gedvilaitė worked at the carpet factory for almost thirty years, from 1964 to 1991, creating designs for mass-produced carpets and flooring, and was considered to be among the most prolific creators of designs for the ‘conveyer belt' of mass-produced textiles. She designed approximately 200 sketches later approved for production. ‘Factory work wasn't very satisfying, though, since design was focused on the consumer, not on creativity. The Arts Council in Moscow and the Artists' Union, meanwhile, were quite the opposite—they focused on the creative side. They heaped praise on the creations and approved them, but consumers had little need for original carpet designs,' Gedvilaitė noted, recalling her principal duties at the factory.  Dana Buinickaitė, „Kūrybos laisvė gobelenuose ir akvarelės darbuose“, Klevų alėja, 2013 03 29.
Innovation also finds its way into unique textile works
Modernizing trends began influencing narrative textile compositions, although specialists, inspired by reformist ideas and seeing the growth in industrial production, asserted that “the future, naturally, belongs to mass-produced carpets and we will see more and more of them at exhibitions.” Textile artists, meanwhile, began to openly ask whether “unique textile works are doomed to disappear completely from our lives?” This was a period during which public interior spaces were still off limits to artistic textile pieces and textile designers were being criticized in exhibition reviews for the excessive size of textile works that were considered unsuitable for a typical working person's residence. V. Daujotas, „Tekstilės pasiekimai ir ateities rūpesčiai“, Literatūra ir menas, 1962 03 24. Did the walls of a modern apartment that had been stripped of "artificial" construction details such as cornices, panelling, or half columns even need hanging carpets? Interior design specialists tried to assuage such doubts, maintaining that hanging carpets in residential apartments were a desirable element, acting as colorful and textural accents to the flat plane of a given wall.
The decorative methods experimented with in curtain design were appropriated for the creation of other unique textile compositions, including such pieces as Daujotas' wall panels Žemaičių žaidimai (Samogitian Games, 1961) and Piemenėliai (Shepherds, 1965), both made using a printing technique. In these works, Daujotas was able to break away from regular decorative fabric rhythms, enabling him to incorporate folk art characters more freely. Both of these compositions clearly show elements shared with curtain fabrics.
By the 1960s, textile artists were already experiencing difficulty reconciling the call to create "true art" with their work in industrial production. The following excerpt from the memoirs of Danutė Kvietkevičiūtė (b. 1939), a former student at the Decorative Textiles Department, gives us a look into the educational process of students of that era as well as their view of creating unique art works and their relationship with folk traditions:
Back then, it was extremely difficult to get accepted into the Art Institute […]. True authorities [on art] lectured at the department, and we respected them. The textile workshops across the street, housed in a separate building facing St. Anne's Church and the little square, were our great center of learning. Sometimes we would sit there weaving late into the night. Professor Balčikonis would drop in late in the day, out on a walk with his young son, and he'd find us there, still unraveling thread. We all tried to take it seriously—to learn a true, good foundation. There were women who assisted in teaching us the basics of weaving—fundamentals that were very close to what was being practiced by real villagers.
In the summer, at camps and during field work, we'd gather up fabrics from weavers, walking from one village to another, copying down their patterns, recording old, authentic Lithuanian fabric patterns thread by thread. The old village women still had chests full of fabrics, bedspreads, tablecloths, skirts, towels, blouses and shirts—all sorts of beautiful things kept for funerals, parish feasts and just everyday wear. […] Those fabrics, that landscape, and those small roads we walked down—they were part of our education too. They were the start of our true schooling in Lithuanian artistic textile work. I remember that field work: the five of us, student girls, and Professor Vladas Daujotas.
We experienced it all—all of the essential basics of our Lithuanian weaving. But we still longed for creativity. We studied fabric-making technology and learned about fibers. No one from our class was interested in machine-made art. After graduation, most of us created wall tapestries and displayed them at exhibitions. Lithuanian wall tapestry was only just beginning, but we'd inherited a very good traditional foundation: from Sluckas' sashes and classical tapestry paintings to the ancient folk heritage collected by our museums.
Our spiritual development was very archaic. Religious life and the concept of God had been handed down to us by our parents, encoded into a secret language and entwined with paganism. Later, once we had read Greimas and other academics, we didn't so much discover these things as recognize them. We were part of that world. […] What we did and what we were taught was part of the journey we took with the Lithuanian school of tapestry art. Danutė Kvietkevičiūtė, Memoirs [manuscript], Vilnius Art Academy Department of Textile archives, 1998
New techniques became an important element of modernization. The extremely precise and labour-intensive Eastern knotting technique used to make carpets in the 1960s was replaced with new production methods, including the relatively simple and quick ryijy Ryijy Ryijy is a carpet knotting method characterised by larger and longer knots. Ryijy carpets are woven on vertical looms using thick woollen thread. 5-10 rows are woven using two heddles, after which knots are tied to create a textured surface. Ryijy carpets were woven in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia between 4000 and 3000 BC. In the Middle Ages, the technique was popularised by the Normans, descendants of the Vikings, who used cloaks, blankets and mats made with the ryijy method on their numerous expeditions. The technique became particularly widespread in Finland (where ryijy works dating back to the 9th-11th centuries can still be found), as well as the folk textile works of Norway, Sweden and the Baltic countries (in Estonia, Prussia and the Klaipėda region). Ryijy carpets made by Finnish artists for display at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris led to an international revival of the weaving technique. Before World War II, ryijy weaving was popular in the Klaipėda region, and the technique was taught at weaving courses organised by the Chamber of Agriculture and at the Kaunas Applied Arts Institute that was established to replace the Kaunas School of Art in 1940. Beginning in the 1960s, Ryijy weaving became increasingly popular in Lithuanian professional textile works. weaving process, appliqué AppliquéAppliqué (applicatio in Latin, or something that is added or applied) is the attachment of a piece of fabric (or other material) by sewing it onto the surface of another fabric, piece of leather or other material using one of several sewing methods.

Appliqué can refer to incrustations, where a piece of fabric (leather, etc.) is sewn into a section of a larger, main fabric, or trimmings – a piece of cloth or fabric added or attached to the main work. Appliqués were already in use in ancient Egypt. Over the centuries, the technique has been influenced by various historical artistic trends. The churches and castles of the Middle Ages and later periods were decorated with appliquéd partitions, wall hangings, flags, canopies and wall panels. During the height of the era of knights (in the 11th and 12th centuries), there was a great demand for appliquéd heraldic compositions that affirmed the social status of their bearers, and for textile works specially crafted for tournaments (clothing for both the knight and his horse and fabric to decorate viewing stands and tents).

Two-tone appliquéd heavy woollen drapery, rooted in Eastern traditions that had influenced Sicily, became popular throughout Italy and Europe. Professional artists contributed significantly to the spread of the appliqué technique in the Gothic and, particularly, the Renaissance periods.

The development of the appliqué method in most recent times was propelled by the Arts and Crafts movement that began in England in the 19th century and soon spread throughout Europe, espousing the aesthetics of ‘noble simplicity’, for which the appliqué technique was particularly suitable. Like other decorative art techniques, appliqué was developed by both professional artists and master craftsmen. Folk art creations from many nations feature unique examples of the use of appliqué. 
printing technique Printing techniqueThe printing technique is a method of applying patterns to a given textile. The surface of a fabric is decorated with ornamentation printed using one or more woodblocks, copper plates or other cliché, or by using a special printing machine. This method traces back to prehistoric times and was in use in many areas, including India and the Middle and Far East. The technique was used as a less expensive alternative to embroidery, weaving or fabric painting. Printing became widely used in Europe during the Middle Ages, flourishing in the 17th and 18th centuries in England, Holland and France (home of the famous Jouy printed fabric factory in Versailles, outside Paris, established by Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf). In the 19th century, special machines were introduced to replace manual pattern application., and batik BatikBatik (from the Javanese word batik, meaning ‘painted’ or ‘printed’) is a technique for decorating fabrics using the principle of resisting the application of paint.

Before being dipped in dye, certain portions of a fabric are covered with paint-resistant materials that prevent dyes from being absorbed by the material. Melted wax is most commonly used for this purpose, as well as various botanical or mineral materials. Dipping the fabric into different coloured dyes results in a multi-coloured pattern. Indonesia (in particular the island of Java) is considered the birthplace for batik, a method also found in many cultures of the ancient world, particularly in Asia. Ancient Egyptian weavers would cover fabrics with various different solutions before applying dyes to create colorful patterns. Batik became popular in Europe in the late 19th century. Batik panels have been designed and created in Lithuania since the 1960s.
In the past, most of these techniques were usually employed for the design of clothing and interior decor rather than for works of high art. Batik was used to apply patterns to clothing and accessories, appliqué adorned expansive fabrics (flags, military tents, heraldic drapes), while Scandinavians used a knotted ryijy method that resembled animal skin to produce covering for boat benches and materials to insulate the interiors of their homes.
There arose a growing conviction that laboring at one creation for months at a time could no longer be justified in the face of the increasingly rapid pace of daily life, a factor that may very well have been responsible for the growing use of creative techniques in unique Lithuanian textiles more commonly associated with the production of clothing and domestic items.
The laconic imagery created using the ryijy technique and the wooly texture of its coarse fabric coincided well with the pursuit of innovation. Textile artists first used the specific characteristics of this technique to craft shaggy floor carpets, and later—to develop narrative compositions. The first ryijy carpets displayed a fundamentally new understanding of beauty and a changing artistic thought 1962 associative work Žiema (Winter), depicting young does against a white background, was completely different from the illustrative narrative carpets he had crafted several years before (Ralio, Dear Cows, 1960), in which he managed to incorporate nearly 410,000 knots within one square decimeter!
It became popular to use ryijy carpets to display monumental, posterly propagandist imagery symbolizing peace, youth, struggle, and motherhood—all depicted from a frontal view of static, female figures. Taikos daina (Song of Peace, 1964) by S. Vasilenkaitė-Vainilaitienė, Žiedai Tėvynei (Blossoms for the Homeland, 1965) by Balčikonis, and M. Dūdienė's Daina Tėvynei (Song for the Homeland, 1967) all emerged from the general trends then prevailing in Lithuanian art, inspired by linocut prints, posters, and symbolic imagery portraying the themes of family, motherhood and flourishing growth (in carvings by Sigutė Valiuvienė, Aldona Skirutytė and Birutė Žilytė). It would be difficult to imagine such "official" (albeit artistic) carpets being created at that time in any Western European country, where individual expression predominated and where declarative political statements were left to socially motivated graphic artists. In the Lithuanian textile arts of the 1960s, however, these themes not only corresponded to political realities, they facilitated liberation from post-war literariness and the advance of modernist methods. Moreover, annual applied arts exhibitions were traditionally dedicated to a particular significant anniversary in political life, therefore presenting a work directly related to the commemorated date ensured a greater chance of being noticed.
The batik technique was also an innovation when it arrived in Lithuania at the start of the 1960s. This method of adorning clothes and decorative items, hailing from more exotic countries, was adapted by Balčikonis for monumental textile panels in true innovative fashion. Batik became widely used throughout Lithuania in the 1960s, and was even included in student training programs. The technique encouraged almost limitless expression: artists could freely improvise their work, with only the roughest of estimations of the results the paints would give once they were absorbed by the wax-resistant craquelure. Balčikonis created large format, simplified batik drawings. His most developed compositions—Liaudies šventė (Folk Festival, 1967); Sutartinė (Polyphony, 1968); and Šventė (Festival, 1970)—were characterized by monumental ambition, architectonic compositions, and archaic moods. Balčikonis also mastered the itak technique (more common to Eastern cultures and erroneously attributed to batik) whereby a fabric or yarn is knotted and covered with tied string before being dyed, so that the fabric does not absorb the paint.
Not all Lithuanian textile artists were impressed by the monumentalist batik style. Kazimiera Zimblytė preferred painterly batik works, decorated with motifs resembling children's drawings freely spread across a flat plane. M. Levitan-Babenskienė avoided the crackling patterns commonly seen in batik works and instead covered the expanse of her fabrics in rich tones more reminiscent of painting. Zinaida Dargienė, Liucija Aniūnaitė-Kryževičienė, and S. Vasilenkaitė-Vainilaitienė followed the graphic art trends of the time, using similar styles for their patterns, incorporating ornamental folk motifs then popular in graphic art: stars, suns, and small roses.
Tapestries appear on the scene
It's unclear which direction Lithuanian textiles would have turned if not for the wave of interest in tapestry Tapestry Tapestry (or gobelin, from the name of a family of French dyers, may refer to (1) a fabric of the Gobelins Manufactory (est. 1662, given royal status in 1667), a carpet-painting woven with the weft rep technique. The factory was founded in the Saint Marcel suburb of Paris, in a former inn belonging to the Gobelins family. It remains in operation today. Or it may also refer to (2) a wall carpet woven with a plain weaving / weft rep technique, utlizing either vertical (haute-lisse) or horizontal (basse-lisse) looms.

The technique was already in use in 3000-1000 BC in ancient Egypt, the Middle and Far East, and by Native Americans in modern day Peru. Tapestries proliferated throughout Europe during the Gothic Era. The most famous tapestry-making centers were in France, Flanders and especially the Burgundian Netherlands (in the cities of Arras and Tournai).

Subjects featured in the tapestry work included biblical scenes, images from the lives of the saints, historical and mythological narratives, and scenes from the lives of estate dwellers and knights.

During the Renaissance, European tapestries promoted the principles of fine art: perspective, and the modelling of space and scope.

Baroque tapestries, meanwhile, are known for forceful and dynamic compositions, monumental shapes, striking figure positions and wide edging.

Tapestries of the Rococo period closely mirrored works of fine art.

By the 19th century, tapestry production had declined. While there were some attempts to revive the art of tapestry-making at the start of the 20th century, a real breakthrough occurred in the 1930s, when tapestries began to be made based on designs by famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Rouault, Georges Braque, André Derain, Raoul Dufy, Le Corbusier, Joan Miró, and others, using a simplified production technique with thicker thread, a rougher weave and a limited amount of colors.

In 1961, the International Center for Ancient and Modern Tapestry (Centre Internationale de la Tapisserie Ancienne et Moderne - CITAM) was established in Lausanne, Switzerland. From 1962 to 1997, CITAM hosted international textile biennials in Lausanne that fostered change in the textile world, including the emergence of three-dimensional forms, conceptualism and the use of non-traditional materials. The number of regular international exhibitions of textile works steadily increased, including: biennials of miniature textiles in Szombathely, Hungary (since 1973), textiles triennials in Łódź, Poland (since 1975), textile competitions in Kyoto, Japan (since 1987), and tapestry exhibitions in Beijing, held regularly since 2000. 
 (weft rep weave) technique that reached Lithuanian textile artists in the mid-1960s from Western Europe. It was this technique that helped Lithuanian textile artists to move beyond the level of craftsmen: encouraging growth in professionalism, urging them toward more ambitious pursuits, and fostering a greater interplay between the worlds of textiles and architecture.
The first period of the renaissance of tapestry art began in the early 20th century in France, later spreading to other parts of Europe. Interest in tapestries increased after the Second World War. In 1947, master French weavers established the Association des peintres-cartonniers de tapisserie, which promoted the use of tapestries in architecture and popularized tapestry work around the world.
French artists created designs for tapestries that were then produced by weavers strictly adhering to those designs. This meant that tens of copies of the same tapestry could be made (with some woven later based on surviving designs). Some, but not all, of the tapestries were signed by their designers.
French tapestry exhibitions were organized in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and a few French works were brought for display to Warsaw in 1953. Monumental figure compositions and colorful abstract works exhibited in Poland sparked considerable discussion about the possibilities presented by modern textile art and the relationship between tapestry and contemporary architecture, thereby influencing the further development of Polish textile art.
Change was also fostered by exhibitions of contemporary textile works. French organizers of international textile biennials, first held in 1962 in Lausanne, hoped to promote tapestry-making techniques and to coordinate the work of textile artists operating with such techniques. The interest generated by the biennial exhibitions surpassed the hopes of the organizers. With each exhibition, participants broke with established rules and turned the biennials into an engine of renewal and innovation in the textile arts. A desire for liberation from strict technical confines was evident from the very first exhibition. The works of Polish textile artist Magdalena Abakanowicz (b. 1930), hand woven from thick yarn and twine and completely unlike anything previously seen in classical tapestry work, became an instant sensation. Technical limitations dictated by exhibition organizers were practically pointless: innovative artists refused to adhere to the production rules imposed upon them. Each biennial unveiled something new. Three-dimensional textile works first exhibited at the third Lausanne biennial in 1967 were considered the clearest evidence of fundamental change taking place in new textile art.
Textile artists themselves began both creating and weaving non-traditional works in the 1960s. Up to that point in Western Europe, artists had been responsible only for the design of a given work. The weaving process became a source of inspiration for artists, fostering improvization and more plastic and richer forms of expression. The art of weaving thrived in particular in countries such as Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Hungary, where the folk weaving heritage was actively promoted and where historical textile traditions were appreciated.
Another important change in textiles was the loss of the medium's utilitarian function. For centuries, textiles had been produced for specific purposes (usually for the decoration of residential spaces). Now, textile art distanced itself from its usual function, and works began to be created specifically for art exhibitions. Textile art around the world began to free itself from the diktat of architecture and evolved into an autonomous field of contemporary art, incorporating the modern means of expression. A reciprocal process was also taking place, however. Contemporary architectural forms provided a powerful impetus to the creation of large-scale textile works designed specifically for architectural spaces. Such gigantic three-dimensional works (given the name "abacans") were created by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz. Functional architectural spaces with their enormous glass windows called out for textile creations of their own.
The advent of tapestry in Lithuania was not only a factor of Western trends—it was also the result of the technique's flexibility and the opportunity it afforded to create more complex imagery with varied textures. Lithuanians had their first opportunity to acquaint themselves with Polish textile works (then considered to be at the forefront of their field) in 1966, at a Polish textiles exhibition in Riga, Latvia.
What did the first Lithuanian tapestries look like?
From an international perspective, early Lithuanian textile works appear rather modest, but their creators were fast learners. A promising new, younger generation of textile artists appeared on the Lithuanian art scene in the late 1960s, including: Danutė Kvietkevičiūtė, Medardas Šimelis, Zinaida Kalpokovaitė-Vogėlienė, Regina Sipavičiūtė, and Jūratė Urbienė. Their works, and those of their somewhat more senior colleagues (J. Balčikonis, Marija Švažienė, M. Levitan-Babenskienė and R. Jasudytė) soon formed the core of a body of textile creations displayed at annual exhibitions.
These examples of carpets made using two different techniques—ryijy knotting and tapestry—show the similarities between two artistic methods. It is clear that, as they created tapestries, artists remained true to the personal styles they had established in earlier works.
The treatment of subject matter and form in early Lithuanian tapestries emerged from the batik, appliqué, and ryijy knotted carpets created during this period. Folkloric themes predominated, lending their characters, straightforward compositions, and a poetic and folksy mood to these early works. Examples include: Jasudytė's Draugės (Friends, 1965) and Lietuvaitės (Lithuanian Girls, 1968); Baltakienė's Liaudies žaidimai (Folk Games, 1967); Dalia Aksamitauskaitė-Valatkienė's Žirgelį balnojau (I Saddled My Horse, 1968); Už tėvynę (For the Homeland, 1968) by Laima Tultytė-Janulienė; and Liaudiškas (Folksy, 1970) by Nijolė Ulevičienė.
It is easy to notice the stylistic similarities between these early tapestry works and the graphic art of the 1960s. The awkward proportions given to characters participating in folk rituals, songs, and tales were part of an effort by the artists to imbue their work with the folk primitivism and naive sincerity that was fashionable at that time. Amusing figurative scenes were sometimes transformed into decorative compositions that evenly covered the space of the artwork (as in the tapestries by Zinaida Kalpokovaitė-Vogėlienė, Medardas Šimelis, Anicetas Jonutis, and Vladas Daujotas).
It was during this time that Juozas Balčikonis created some of his most beautiful work, displaying a captivating minimalism in the use of artistic means. His works Pavasario srautas (The Flow of Spring, 1970), Mėnesienos sonata (Moonlight Sonata, 1971), and Gintaro krašto daina (A Song from the Land of Amber, 1971) reaffirmed the lyrical, poetic and musical character of Lithuanian textile art. In A Song from the Land of Amber, much like in his earlier ryijy work Žiedai tėvynei (Blossoms for the Homeland), Balčikonis portrayed three female figures symbolizing the "Baltic Sisters": Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. This time, however, he did so more naturally and indirectly, presenting the theme of friendship among nations (so exalted by Soviet ideologues) using associative imagery, calmly and without ideological pathos.
The emerging individuality of each artist began to crystalize with each new exploration, and early artistic experiments established a unique foundation for the future work of some artists. Danutė Kvietkevičiūtė's tapestry creations Oi ūžia ąžuolėliai (How the Oaks Howl) and Vilniaus milžinai (Vilnius Giants), both completed in 1968, were distinguished for their originality, displaying clear ties with the graphic art of the time, employing angular patterns, elongated figures, and woven with contours reminiscent of engraving.
Ramutė Jasudytė's prosaic motifs from reality, including Karvutės (Cows, 1967) and Laivai (Boats, 1970), are presented in an extraordinarily painterly manner, emphasizing the fragility of their mood. Hers was an unusual choice that was the target of some criticism in the press of the day because of the lack of decorative elements in her pieces.
Marija Švažienė's woven compositions, created on a foundation of spontaneous and emotional style that had evolved from her experience with abstract art, appeared to challenge prevailing stereotypes. The expressive, contrasting and colorful planes in her works seem to have been painted with a brush on canvas. Her courageous creations contrasted with the image of Lithuanian textiles as being predominantly comprised of poetic and ethnographic works. They were similar to Western tapestries in their use of coarse textures and in the wool fibers that billowed across their surfaces.
Švažienė, like Levitan-Babenskienė, was among the most Western of Lithuanian textile artists, most closely approximating the esthetic of fiber art Fiber artFiber art is a term used in contemporary textile art referring to textile creations employing various different means of expression, from smooth fabrics to structured works created from raw textile materials. The term was popularized by textile exhibition curators in the 1960s in an effort to more accurately describe the changing nature of textile art.. Švažienė was also the designer of the first spatial, three-dimensional Lithuanian textile composition entitled Plaštakės (Moths, 1970). Audiences first saw this work and other tapestries by Švažienė at her solo exhibition organized at the Dailė Exhibition Hall (now the Pamėnkalnis Gallery) in 1970.
In their reviews of Švažienė's work, critics referenced the changes taking place in Western European textile art:
The old understanding of wall tapestry is no longer sufficient to describe what is being created today from various different materials, unconstrained by traditional techniques and traditional forms. These are plastic, decorative works that have no connection to walls. The devotees of this form maintain that they have liberated tapestry from centuries of enslavement to the wall. Vladas Daujotas, „M. Švažienės kilimų pasaulyje“, Literatūra ir menas, 1970 10 31.
Read more: Danutė Kvietkevičiūtė.
What about ideology in textiles?
What about political inclinations? To be sure, there were carpets and tapestries created to reflect ideological realities, but these were not the works that determined the overall content of Lithuanian textile art, nor were they the works that were so admired by art critics attending Soviet-wide exhibitions.
The situation was something of a paradox: respected Soviet art critics (Varvara Savitskaya, Ina Ryumina, Tamara Strizhenova, Nataliya Melnikova and others) were enamored by the innovations in textiles then emanating from Western Europe, and they wholly supported the "Baltic textile school" to which they also ascribed woven Lithuanian art. Indeed, the book Современный советский гобелен (Contemporary Soviet Tapestry), published in Moscow in 1979, devotes a considerable amount of attention to works by Lithuanian artists.
Textile artists took advantage of the fact that ideological overseers began to view applied art with a more liberal eye, showing greater tolerance for its simplified and abstract artistic methods. The themes of class struggle or fostering patriotic feeling for the Soviet homeland, among other relevant issues of the day, could be expressed by employing a folk song or declarative yet lyrical imagery of the motherland.
The argument could be made that textile artists were free of ideological pressure during Khrushchev's "thaw" or the early years of the Brezhnev regime. While they avoided topics considered threatening to the Soviet system, they also were not forced to create works of any ideological significance. Many textile artists from this era maintain that whoever so wished was free not to weave "Lenin carpets." These same artists recall that this freedom allowed them to protect their own reputation, since producing openly ideological works would have embarrassed them in front of their colleagues. To be sure, not everyone felt this way, but even artists producing political pieces often turned ideological motifs and symbols (hammers and sickles, five-pointed stars) into ornamental accents. This can be seen in Z. Kalpokovaitė-Vogėlienė's early tapestries Jubiliejinis (Commemorative, 1967) and Taikos sargyboje (Guarding Peace, 1968).
Annually organized applied art exhibitions contributed considerably to the development of Lithuanian textile art. The increasing interest in textiles was evidenced by two exhibitions of tapestries held in Moscow in 1972 and 1974, with the latter collection later touring Latvia (Riga and Jūrmala) and Vilnius, Lithuania. The first exhibition of Lithuanian carpets was held in Vilnius in 1972. In her introduction to the catalog for this exhibit, art critic and ceramic artist Laima Cieškaitė wrote:
The active development of textile art in the past decade in Estonia, Latvia and in neighboring democratic countries, particularly Poland, as well as the international biennials in Lausanne, have surely also influenced the masters of Lithuanian decorative textile art. Venerable Lithuanian national weaving traditions, good professional education rooted in the post-war Lithuanian Art Institute, and a contemporary understanding of the objectives and purpose of textiles—all of this together has resulted in an intensive development of our own textile art. Lietuviškų kilimų paroda: Katalogas, sudarė Marija Švažienė, R. Jonutis, įžanginio straipsnio autorė Laima Cieškaitė, Vilnius: Lietuvos TSR dailės muziejus, 1972, p. 3.
The development of textile art was further encouraged by the ever-increasing number of opportunities to adapt textile works to architectural spaces. This process did not, however, evolve in one day.
The process of modernization in Lithuanian textiles progressed along a steady path, coinciding with the development of this field of art overall, seeing professional growth and the mastery of new areas of activity and new artistic tools. The field was free from conflict between conservative and more progressive generations, and there were no artists seeking to defend obsolete methods of expression. As circumstances became more favorable and as new trends took hold, the same textile artists evolved into promoters of more modern forms. The overall favorable state of Soviet art in the 1950s and 1960s also had a positive impact on the modernization of textile art. Lithuanian textile artists, having adopted the experience of classical Western modernism, freely delved into technical experimentation, even though such works still sometimes emerged with the occasional trace of more conservative traditions.


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Sources and links

Lietuviškų kilimų paroda
Katalogas, sudarė Marija Švažienė, R. Jonutis, įžanginio straipsnio autorė Laima Cieškaitė, Vilnius: Lietuvos TSR dailės muziejus, 1972, p. 3
Taikomoji-dekoratyvinė dailė
Albumas, sudarytojas Stasys Pinkus, įžangos autoriai Tadas Adomonis ir Stasys Pinkus, Vilnius: Mintis, 1965
Danutė Kvietkevičiūtė
Memoirs [manuscript]
Vilnius Art Academy Department of Textile archives, 1998
Dana Buinickaitė
„Kūrybos laisvė gobelenuose ir akvarelės darbuose“
Klevų alėja, 2013 03 29
Vladas Daujotas
„M. Švažienės kilimų pasaulyje“
Literatūra ir menas, 1970 10 31
Vladas Daujotas
„Tekstilės pasiekimai ir ateities rūpesčiai“
Literatūra ir menas, 1962 03 24
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