Vaclovas Ratas (Rataiskis)

(1910 - 1973)


Vaclovas Rataiskis-Ratas was born on February 25, 1910 in Paseire village, Leipalingis district of Lazdijai county. There his grandfather and then his father owned a water mill, well known at that time. In 1999, a memorial plaque in honour of the artist was attached to the house in which he was born. He was the first of four children. Already at 10 years of age, Vaclovas Ratas showed a considerable talent for drawing. He studied graphic art at the National Art School in Kaunas, graduating in 1935. He also studied art in Germany and Italy.
Soon after graduation, Vaclovas started participating in art exhibitions in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. In 1935 he participated in an exhibition of Lithuanian graphic art in Kosice, Czechoslovakia. At the International Art Exhibition in Paris in 1937, Vaclovas Ratas was awarded the Prix d'Honeur for his woodcut illustrations of „Jurate and Kastytis“, a ballad by the Lithuanian poet Maironis. The same year he participated in an international exhibition of lithography and woodcuts in Chicago.
In 1937 Vaclovas Ratas became the curator of art at M.K. Čiurlionis Gallery of the Cultural Museum of Vytautas the Great in Kaunas. He continued in this capacity until 1944, when he moved with his wife Regina and daughter Ramona to Vienna, Austria. After the war, they relocated to Augsburg, Germany, where Vaclovas Ratas started his own art school. He was also invited to teach at the Internation Arts Academy in Munich.
While residing in Germany, Vaclovas Ratas participated in the International Graphic and Book Exhibition in Belgium and, in 1949, with three other Lithuanian artists, Paulius Augius, Telesforas Valius and Viktoras Petravicius, published two books – “40 Woodcuts“ and „The Twelve Ravens“.
In 1949 Vaclovas Ratas and his family migrated to Perth, Australia, relocating to Sydney in 1954. In Sydney he helped organize the first Australian graphic arts exhibition and the Sydney Printmakers Association. In 1967 he edited the publication “Eleven Lithuanian Artists in Australia“ and in 1970 illustrated the book “The Mountain Devil“ by Agne Luksyte. His new surroundings had a major affect of his art, his style became colourful and joyful.
In 1966, Vaclovas Ratas was diagnosed with leukemia. His daughter Ramona took a leave of absence from touring with the Australian Ballet and took some of his work to America, where she mounted successful solo exhibitions on his behalf in New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. After seven years of declining health Vaclovas Ratas died on January 3, 1973, in Telopea, Sydney, Australia. An artist of diverse talents, including pottery and ceramics, he is principally remembered today as a printmaker, who excelled in traditional techniques and constantly experimented with new materials and methods, helping to shape the visual arts in Australia. His work is represented in Australian and Lithuanian State Art Collections, as well as internationally.


Vaclovas Ratas had three distinct creative periods. The first - his formative years, studies and subsequent success in Lithuania. His second - the period of exile in Germany and the third - of new beginnings in Australia. In the seven years of life until his death, his style became colourful and joyful. He developed a unique monotype technique with his fantasy turning to nature, the sun, sea, birds.
Vaclovas Ratas is remembered as an artist of diverse talents, who excelled in traditional methods, was able to grasp new concepts and who constantly experimented with new techniques. He was one of those artists whose personality was fully and sincerely reflected in his works. In life, he was an extremely elegant man. He appreciated beautiful things, was an unassuming, hard working and disciplined person with a great sense of duty.
During his school days he admired Duerer, later Picasso and Matisse. The attraction to them must have been mainly spiritual. Duerer probably impressed him with his precision, Picasso with the urge to experiment, and Matisse with the joyful approach to art and life. Vaclovas Ratas was not concerned with high philosophies. He was devoted to the beautiful detail, inclined to single out one particular from the broad context.
Vaclovas Ratas' art is devoid of any troubling subject matter. He created a graceful, refined and joyful world, desiring to please and delight.