Vytautas Kasiulis

(1918 - 1995)


Vytautas Kasiulis was born in Simnas, son of the painter and designer Matas Kasiulis, and his artistic abilities were evident from his earliest years. From 1937 to 1941 he was a student at Kaunas Art School. Then he lectured there until 1944. He took part in group exhibitions and in 1943 he held a personal exhibition at the Vytautas Didysis Museum of Culture, which achieved wide acclaim and favourable reviews. V. K. Jonynas, J. Keliuotis and V. Kairiūkštis have written about the originality of V. Kasiulis’ creative work, the darkish colouring of the canvases and the masterly play of light reminiscent of the works of old masters.
In 1944 the artist left for Austria and Germany to improve his art and he was fated never to return to his homeland. In 1946 in Freiburg he taught art at the Art and Trades School along with some other artists who had left Lithuania. He worked creatively and arranged shows. During his Freiburg period some radical stylistic changes began to appear in his work: lighter and clearer colouring, softer lines of the forms, less emphasis on perspective, more decorativeness and ornamentation.
In 1948 V. Kasiulis arrived in Paris and he gradually adapted to the new artistic environment. In 1949 he had his first exhibition in Paris at the gallery of Raymond Duncan; and a year later, after an exhibition at the gallery of Christian-Gilbert Stiébel, a new era of recognition of his art began for V. Kasiulis. As he was very receptive to new artistic influences, he blended into the Parisian art community as a fully-fledged creator of his own style, and he revealed himself to be a versatile artist, expressing himself in paintings, drawings and book illustrations.


Vytautas Kasiulis was deservedly held by art critics to be one of the most interesting painters of the Parisian school of the second half of the 20th century. The mature artist’s artistic line is characterised by light and playful stylisation of forms, a perfected personal style of painting, suggestive of a film negative, obtained by light brushstrokes, and refinement of bright colours. For his compositions on canvas, pastels and lithographic plates he focused on nearby and familiar Paris street motifs, everyday personalities; and he particularly liked to depict scenes from his artist’s studio and from cafés. The spontaneous and expressive painting style of V. Kasiulis, his firework-like explosions of colours and lines on canvas, made even the most banal scenes into a strange spectacle balancing between reality and fantasy. The artistic Weltgefühl of V. Kasiulis was rather close in many respects to the poetry of another Lithuanian émigré, avant-garde poet Henrikas Radauskas. It is no coincidence that V. Kasiulis illustrated the poet’s book of poems Strėlė danguje – An Arrow in the Sky. Strength of temperament, an ironic and paradoxical view of the world, the ability to convert any real-life object into an art treasure – all this reflects the modern spirit of the artist. Sadness, joy, irony, the grotesque, the fantastic and the real all exist side by side and become the instruments for creating the new world.