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Remembering an Exhibition: Arbit Blatas “Return to the Homeland”

February 3, 2012

I’m very passionate about good paintings – I love the way skillful artists, with just a few what might seem careless brush strokes, create something that our eyes transform into objects we recognise. If that wouldn’t be enough looking at their artwork we can see the lighting conditions and every smallest shadow – to me that’s magic!This time I would like to share some fascinating paintings created by Arbit Blatas (real name Neemija Arbitblatas, 1908–1999) – I bet you’ve never heard of this elite creator: painter, sculptor, lithographer and stage designer. I’d love to say that this is a Lithuanian artist who managed to get noticed in Paris, Berlin, Venice and New York, but this wouldn’t be the truth. All I’d be doing is trying to cathegorise as Lithuanian someone who was a true cosmopolite.

A fragment from “Campo Bandiera e Moro” by Arbit Blatas

Arbit Blatas was born in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1908, yet his parents were Litvaks or Lithuanian Jews. He left for Paris at the age of 18, at the age of 21 he became the youngest member of the “School of Paris” and befriended Picasso, Utrillo, Braque, Matisse! In 1934 Arbit Blatas moved to the USA, where he became a highly respected member of the Art community, eventually becoming an American citizen. No wonder I was surprised to find out that he still remembered and valued his country of birth – Lithuania.

Place des Vosges, Paris

According to the chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, S.Alperavicius, who knew the artist personally, Arbit Blatas was a man of the world and also a patriot of Lithuania. “He’s a real Litvak. We met in New York and Vilnius, and always spoke in Lithuanian. He was fortunate not to experience the Holocaust, but through the personal experience of his family and through the experience of the Jewish nation, Arbit Blat reflects the topic of the Holocaust in his works.”

Strasbourg in Winter, France

Although most of his paintings depict Paris or Venice, where he ended up living, he has signed them all as “Blatas”, not forgetting to add the Lithuanian ending “-as” and of course not hiding his origin. I guess I’m still expressing my surprise… as nowadays quite a few Lithuanians would be scared to let people know where they are from and to simply fall under the escalated label – “Eastern European”, not that I blame them. Well, the country is very fortunate that Blatas’ wife Regina has donated to the nation of Lithuania a selection from over 350 works that have recently been returned to the artist’s native soil.

A glimpse at some more Arbit Blatas’ paintings

Arbit Blatas is noted for the incredible diversity of his talent. You can find more information on his official website (please click here), but in a nutshell: he was “known as a superb colorist and draftsman, he was completely the master of his art, whether painting landscapes interiors or still-lifes. His flower pieces are instantly recognizeable for their vibrancy and texture and his skies are his signature whether they are Paris, Venice or New York.

Some of the artist’s sculptures

He painted and sculpted many great figures of the world of art and music and it is always remarked that he found not only the resemblance but the essence of each personality. In the completely different technique of lithography, he also created his own mark and manner.”

I will leave you with a few more paintings, but if you’d like to find out more about the artist, you can always have a look at an article published here, visit his official website or get one of the available books (here’s a link to the one about Venice).

Still-life (Oil on Wood)

The Gesuati and San Giorgio Churches at Night, Venice (Oil on Door Panel)

Giudecca at Night, Venice (Oil on Canvas)

Ponte dei Greci, Venice (Oil on Canvas)

I hope that by sharing these paintings I have given you enough colour to brighted up the boring winter scenery and maybe even inspired you to try and do some painting over the weekend?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. sarah permalink
    February 4, 2012 5:52 pm

    What an interesting post, thanks for writing it. The paintings are very appealing and painterly in style. I hadn’t heard of this artist before.

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