Exhibition of the M. K. Čiurlionis’ creation in London

Dulwich Picture Gallery to present first major UK exhibition of Lithuania’s greatest artist.

This September 21st, Dulwich Picture Gallery will present M.K. Čiurlionis: Between Worlds, the first major UK exhibition of work by the Lithuanian artist and celebrated composer. Building on its reputation for introducing lesser-known artists to UK audiences, the Gallery will bring together over 100 works by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911), widely credited as Lithuania’s greatest artist. The exhibition will feature paintings created throughout his short but prolific career, with most travelling to the UK for the first time.

Displayed chronologically, M.K. Čiurlionis: Between Worlds will reveal how Čiurlionis used structure and colour to create works that sit between mythology and reality. The exhibition will highlight the breadth of Čiurlionis’ interests, with a focus on humankind’s relationship to the universe, and examine the themes and motifs that aligned his art to European Symbolism. Bringing together Čiurlionis’ most accomplished masterpieces, including Creation of the World (1905/1906), The Zodiac (1906/1907) and Rex (1909), the exhibition will position him as a singular figure in the history of European art whose ethereal, and occasionally fantastical, works were precursors of abstract painting.

Čiurlionis left a profound imprint on Lithuanian culture and is among the country’s most loved and famous historical figures – his paintings are widely reproduced and his music is often performed. He started his career as a pianist and organist, studying music at the Institute of Music in Warsaw from 1894-1899. It was not until 1902 that he took up drawing and painting, enrolling in the Warsaw School of Fine Arts in 1904. For the following six years, painting dominated his output, although he remained an active and well-regarded composer throughout his short life. He lived with a mental health condition from an early age and died from pneumonia while recuperating from depression in a sanatorium at the age of just 35. Despite dying so young, he left a substantial body work: between 1903 and 1909, he produced around four hundred paintings and etchings, four hundred musical compositions, as well as several literary works and poems.

This exhibition will foreground Čiurlionis’ cycles: the groupings of works he created where scenes and narrative evolve over time. Highlights will include Creation of the World (1905/1906), a series of 13 paintings in which Čiurlionis manifests his own visions of the creation story, and Winter (1907), a cycle of eight paintings, which illustrates his move towards abstraction.

At the heart of the exhibition will be three of the seven ‘Sonata’ cycles that Čiurlionis painted, including the three-part Sonata of the Sea (1908). Named AndanteAllegro and Finale, titles in this cycle mirror the distinct parts of a musical sonata, aligned with the corresponding movements of the sea. Through these works, Čiurlionis reveals his unique approach to uniting the principles of music and painting.

Rex (1909), one of Čiurlionis’ late and best-known artworks, will appear towards the end of the exhibition. Here Čiurlionis presents his vision of our complex and intertwined relationship with the earthly and the celestial. The largest work in the exhibition, it combines many of the elements that Čiurlionis returned to in his work: mythology, folklore and mysticism.

Čiurlionis’ musical compositions will be presented in Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Mausoleum, an immersive aural experience that will introduce visitors to Čiurlionis’ first art form, enriching our understanding of his creative world.

Dulwich Picture Gallery founded in 1811, is the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery. It cares for and displays an outstanding collection of Old Master paintings within Sir John Soane’s pioneering architecture. As an independent gallery, which receives no regular public funding, it pursues its founders’ purpose of presenting art ‘for the inspection of the publick’ while engaging as many people as possible, of all ages and backgrounds, through a creative programme. Entering the gallery space visitors discover a surprising and contemplative experience that encourages the discovery of personal connections with historic works of art – a place to Find Yourself in Art. The Gallery has built a reputation for introducing artists to the UK, with past exhibitions including important artists such as Harald Sohlberg, Nikolai Astrup, Winifred Knights and David Milne.

All works will be on loan from the M.K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art in Kaunas, Lithuania, where the majority of Čiurlionis’ artworks are housed.

In partnership with the Lithuanian Embassy in London & the Lithuanian Culture Institute
Official Paint Partner: Mylands
Digital Exhibition Guide: Bloomberg Connects
Supported by The Marchus Trust

Exhibition works: 21 09 2022 – 19 03 2022

Sistema ir dizainas: Jonas Lekevičius