Vytautas Ignas (Ignatavičius)

(1924 - 2009)


Vytautas Ignas (Ignatavicius) was born on May 16, 1924, in Zaciza, Lithuania. His father Jonas was a decorated participant of the fight for Lithuania's independence at the end of World War I. Because of his father's military service, the Ignatavicius family had to relocate a number of times and Vytautas received his primary and secondary education in Liskiava, Lazdijai, Birzai, and Vilnius. He graduated from Vytautas The Great high school in Vilnius in 1941.
Although Vytautas enjoyed drawing from his childhood, he did not think himself talented enough for the fine arts and decided to study architecture. However, a young artist, Jonas Vilutis, after seeing his drawings encouraged him to study art and helped him to prepare successfully for the Vilnius Academy of Art entrance exams. Vytautas began his art studies in 1941. His drawing teachers were Antanas Gudaitis and Liudas Vilimas, and his painting teacher was Justinas Vienozinskis. When the Academy was closed in 1943 by the German occupation forces, Vytautas attended clandestine art studies organized by Adolfas Valeska at the Vilnius Museum of Art, where Adolfas Valeska taught painting, Juozas Mikenas - drawing, Mikalojus Vorobjovas - art history, Levas Karsavinas - cultural history, and Petras Juodelis - art history of Vilnius.
In the summer of 1944 Vytautas moved west. After the end of World War II, he spend some time at a refugee camp in Hanau, Germany. In 1946 Vytautas entered a school of fine and applied arts, Ecole des Arts et Metiers, in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, where he continued his studies of painting under Viktoras Vizgirda and Adolfas Valeska and drawing under Vytautas K. Jonynas and Vytautas Kasiulis, earning a Master's Degree in fine arts in 1948. Not stopping there, he then studied graphic art techniques under Telesforas Valius.
In 1950 Vytautas Ignas emigrated to the United States and moved to Chicago. While working at various jobs during the day, Vytautas learned stained glass techniques from Albinas Elskus in the evenings. In 1952 he relocated to Cleveland, where he worked at stained glass studios. In 1958 he became a citizen of United States and shortened his name to Ignas. In 1959 he married Birute Dargyte-Daukantiene.
In 1962 the Ignas family moved to New York, where Vytautas became a designer at the Jonynas & Shepherd Art Studio. He joined the New York Lithuanian Artists' Association and became a member of The Print Club of Philadelphia. Later, he created stained glass window designs for the Duco Studio. In 1970 he began a two-year term teaching book art, design and graphic art at the Catan-Rose Institute of Art on Long Island.
In 1972 Vytautas changed his life: he abandoned the noise of the big city and moved his family to a quiet, forested parcel of land in Ashford, Connecticut, where they built their present home.
In 1982, Vytautas Ignas received the Lithuanian-American Community Culture Council's annual Prize for Art. In 1985 he retired from his job and devoted himself completely to art and fishing. In 1989 he became an honor member in the Union of Lithuanian Artists.
In 2006 Vytautas Ignas and his wife Birute decided to return to their homeland Lithuania. They settled in Vilnius, where he died on February 18, 2009.


Vytautas Ignas credits Lithuanian folk art as the major influence in his art. He also sought to expand his knowledge of folk art from other parts of the globe by searching for it in museums and libraries.
Vytautas Ignas has unique sense of color and he uses it bravely. All main colors in his painting have an “echo”. When he paints, he presses brush hard till the extent that the surface reminds engraving.
Vytautas Ignas was a highly productive artist. He used a variety of media to create his works of art. Most of his work was produced outside of Lithuania. It includes about 150 lino and wood cuts, 200 paintings (oils, acrylics, and water colours), 100 mixed media creations, 300 drawings, wood mosaics, and stained glass projects. Much of his work was donated to institutions in Lithuania.