Viktoras Vizgirda (1904-1993)
A painter of mostly landscapes and still lives but also portraits, he was primarily influenced by his teacher Justinas Vienozinskis, a master of the landscape, and by French artists of the post-impressionist school. In his own style, he made color rather than form his main form of expression, creating works in stained glass, ceramics, textiles, pastels, and watercolor, but his preferred media were oils and acrylics on canvas.
Viktoras Vizgirda was born in the village of Dominikoniai, in Lithuania, on January 14, 1904. His father, Jonas Vizgirda, farmed on rented land and was a surveyor by trade. The farm burned down during the First World War in 1914 and the family relocated to Kaunas, where Viktoras began his secondary education. On December 15, 1920, Viktoras started attending drawing classes by Justinas Vienozinskis; these classes became the center of the new Kaunas Art School in 1922, where he continued his studies, majoring in painting. At a school-sponsored exhibit in 1924, Viktoras Vizgirda won a bronze medal for a painting of his own portrait. In 1925 and 1926, his paintings continued to gain him recognition and written commendations. He graduated in May of 1926 as part of the first graduating class of the Kaunas Art School.
In 1926, Vizgirda received a one-year scholarship to study art in Paris from the Lithuanian government, and while in Paris, he attended Académie Lhote, Académie de la Grande Chaumiére, and V. Shukhayev's drawing studio.
He returned to Lithuania and taught drawing classes in secondary schools at Raseiniai, Pagegiai and Kaunas from 1928 to 1940.
In 1930, Vizgirda became a member the Society of Independent Artists, and started to exhibit his works. In 1932, with several artist colleagues, he formed the ARS collective to foster an original Lithuanian style in the spirit of 20th century art. In 1935, he became a member of the commission on fine arts at the Ministry of Culture of the Lithuanian government, and in May of 1936, he was elected for a two-year term as the president of the Lithuanian Artists' Union. In 1937, he was chosen to be among the artists representing Lithuania in exhibits at Riga in Latvia and Tallinn in Estonia.
Upon his appointment as inspector at the Vilnius School of Fine Arts, Vizgirda moved to Vlinius in 1940, becoming the Director of the school in 1941 (then renamed Academy of Fine Arts). The Academy was closed down in 1943 along with all other institutions of higher learning in Lithuania by the Nazis. One year later, he escaped from the advancing war to Austria and then Germany and headed the painting department at the Ecole des Arts et Métiers (School of Applied Arts) at Freiburg/im Breisgau from 1946 to 1949.
In 1950, Vizgirda emigrated to the U.S., settling in Boston, Massachusetts, where he worked at a number of stained glass studios until 1966.
In 1991, Vizgirda suffered a stroke and paralysis. His last painting, started in 1990, was not finished.
Viktoras Vizgirda died on July 10, 1993, in Cape Cod. His remains were cremated, returned to the country of his birth, and buried on October 5, 1993, at the Antakalnis cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania.