SummaryThe article deals with the growth of the art collections of the Lithuanian national and municipal museums during WWII, a period traditionally seen as particularly unfavourable for cultural activities. During this period, the dynamics of Lithuanian museum art collections were maintained by two main sources. The first was caused by nationalist politics, or, more precisely, one of its priorities to support Lithuanian art by acquiring artworks from contemporaries. The exception to this strategy is the attention given to the multicultural art scene of Vilnius, partly Jewish, but especially Polish art, which led to the purchase of Polish artists’ works for the Vilnius Municipal Museum and the Vytautas the Great Museum of Culture in Kaunas, which had the status of a national art collection. The second important source was the nationalisation of private property during the Soviet occupation of 1940–1941. This process enabled the Lithuanian museums to enrich their collections with valuable objets d’art first of all, but also with paintings, sculptures and graphic prints. Due to the nationalisation of manor property, the collections of provincial museums, primarily Šiauliai Aušra and Samogitian Museum Alka in Telšiai, significantly increased. The wave of emigration of Lithuanian citizens to the West at the end of the Second World War was also a favourable factor in expanding museum collections, as both artists and owners of their works left a number of valuables to museums as depositors. On the other hand, some museum valuables were transported from Vilnius to Poland in 1945–1948 by the wave of the so-called repatriation of former Vilnius residents who had Polish citizenship in 1930s. The article systematises previously published data and provides new information in order to reconstruct the dynamics of the growth of Lithuanian museum art collections caused by radical political changes, which took place in the mid 20th century.
Art History & Criticism – de Gruyter
Published: Dec 1, 2020
Keywords: art; collecting; heritage; Lithuania; nazi; nationalism; nationalisation; occupation; Second World War