A Neglected Artist – Boleslavas Ruseckas

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Boleslavas Ruseckas is an artist whose legacy has been undeservedly neglected. A new exhibition in Vilnius seeks to rectify it, reports LRT.lt.

The name Ruseckas is familiar to many and may first evoke the oft-reproduced images of Lithuanian Girl with Willows (1847) or The Reaper (1844). These are not, in fact, the works of Boleslavas Ruseckas, but of his father. Both art historians and the public are more familiar with Kanutas Ruseckas (Kanuty Rusiecki), who is rightly regarded as one of the key figures in Lithuania’s 19th century art.

However, his son Boleslavas was an artist of equally high achievement. An exhibition at the Vilnius Picture Gallery, Non-Academic, presents his life and works in eight halls.

Until the age of seven, Boleslovas Ruseckas spent his time between his native Rome and the Italian provinces before his family moved to Vilnius. It was here that Ruseckas developed as an artist.

The exhibition presents his childhood through the eyes of his father Kanutas, who painted his son and other family members. “He received his first art lessons at home from his father, and Boleslavas’ earliest works are sketchbooks, in which we find perhaps his very first drawing, an image of a horse, as well as a large number of panoramic views of Vilnius, still lifes, and studies of nature,” says Gabija Kasparavičiūtė-Kaminskienė who curated the exhibition.

The early drawings reveal that the young Ruseckas also studied by copying lithographs by foreign printmakers and paintings by his father. From 1843 to 1850 he studied at the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts, during which time he created lithographs and painted portraits. Later, he travelled around Europe and returned to his native Rome.

“From this period on, there are quite a lot of Boleslavas’ academic works, as well as his student attempts at composition, and there are even notes written by his teachers, which his father also strongly recommended to take into account. Interestingly, Boleslavas graduated from the Petersburg Academy and received the title of Free Artist for his portrait paintings,” says another curator Dalia Tarandaitė.

The largest hall of the exhibition reveals the range of Boleslovas Ruseckas’ work and the themes. One of his largest works, The Ascension of Mary, is here.

“He completed a number of religious works and was somewhat interested in historical and mythological subjects. We can see that he was a good portraitist. One of his favourite models was his wife, Stefanija Karpavičiūtė, who posed many times, and we can see their life in these works, all the way until her early death at the age of 37,” says exhibition curator Joana Vitkutė.

The artist was interested in history, in the past of his country, he collected archaeological fossils and historical items. Over the years, he amassed a collection that bears witness to these interests. One exhibition hall is dedicated to it.

“Ruseckas, unlike many artists, left behind a great deal of artefacts, including sketches, studies for larger format works, and archival documents,” says another exhibition curator Aistė Bimbirytė. “There are also letters, bills, receipts, which give us an idea of what the artist was like when he closed the door of his studio.”

Boleslovas Ruseckas exhibition at the Vilnius Picture Gallery will run until the end of October.