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Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis - Gifted Gallery

Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, born 22 September 1875, was a Lithuanian painter, composer and writer. Čiurlionis contributed to symbolism and art nouveau, and was representative of the fin de siècle epoch. He has been considered one of the pioneers of abstract art in Europe. During his short life, he composed about 400 pieces of music and created about 300 paintings, as well as many literary works and poems. The majority of his paintings are housed in the M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania. His works have had a profound influence on modern Lithuanian culture.

Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis was born in Senoji Varėna, a town in southeastern Lithuania that at the time was in the Russian Empire. He was the eldest of nine children, his father was Konstantinas Čiurlionis, and his mother, Adelė née Radmanaitė (Radmann), was descended from a Lutheran family of Bavarian origin. Like many educated Lithuanians of the time, Čiurlionis' family spoke Polish, and he began learning Lithuanian only after meeting his fiancée in 1907. In 1878, his family moved to Druskininkai where his father went on to be the town organist.

Čiurlionis was a musical prodigy: he could play by ear at age three and could sight-read music freely by age seven. Three years out of primary school, he went to study at the musical school of Polish Prince Michał Ogiński in Plungė, where he learned to play several instruments, in particular the flute, from 1889 to 1893.

Supported by Prince Ogiński's 'scholarship' Čiurlionis studied piano and composition at Warsaw Conservatory from 1894 to 1899. For his graduation, in 1899, he wrote a cantatafor mixed chorus and symphonic orchestra titled De Profundis, with the guidance of the composer Zygmunt Noskowski. Later he attended composition lectures at the Leipzig Conservatory from 1901 to 1902.

He returned to Warsaw in 1902 and studied drawing at the Warsaw School of Fine Arts from 1904 to 1906, and became a friend with Polish composer and painter Eugeniusz Morawski-Dąbrowa. His main teacher in Warsaw was symbolist painter Kazimierz Stabrowski, who was also the founder of the first lodges of the Theosophical Society in Poland and passed to Čiurlionis an interest in Theosophy and other esoteric subjects. After the 1905 Russian Revolution, which resulted in the loosening of cultural restrictions on the Empire's minorities, he began to identify himself as a Lithuanian.

He was one of the initiators and a participant in the First Exhibition of Lithuanian Art in 1907 at Vileišis Palace, Vilnius. Soon after this event, the Lithuanian Art Society was founded, and Čiurlionis was one of its 19 founding members.

Čiurlionis felt that he was a synesthete; that is, he perceived colours and music simultaneously. Many of his paintings bear the names of musical pieces: sonatas, fugues, and preludes. The precise number of Čiurlionis musical compositions is not known – a substantial part of his manuscripts did not survive, including those that perished in the fire during the war. What survives today are sketches, rough drafts, and fragments of his musical ideas.

The nature of the archive determined the fact that Čiurlionis' works were finally published only a hundred years after the composer's death. Today, the archive amounts to almost 400 compositions, the major part of which are works for piano, but also significant opuses for symphony orchestra (symphonic poems In the Forest and The Sea, overture, cantata for choir and orchestra), string quartet, works for various choirs (original compositions and Lithuanian folk song arrangements), as well as works for organ.

In 1907, he became acquainted with Sofija Kymantaitė, an art critic. Through this association Čiurlionis learned to speak better Lithuanian. Early in 1909, he married Kymantaitė. At the end of that year, he traveled to St. Petersburg, where he exhibited some of his paintings.

On Christmas Eve 1909, Čiurlionis fell into a profound depression and at the beginning of 1910 was hospitalised in a psychiatric hospital "Czerwony Dwór" (Red Manor) in Marki, Poland, northeast of Warsaw. While a patient there, he died of pneumonia in 1911 at 35 years of age. He was buried at the Rasos Cemetery in Vilnius. He never saw his daughter Danutė.

In 1911, the first posthumous exhibition of Čiurlionis's art was held in Vilnius and Kaunas. During the same year, an exhibition of his art was held in Moscow, and in 1912 his works were exhibited in St. Petersburg. In 1944, the main art museum in Kaunas was renamed M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum and still hosts the majority of Čiurlionis paintings. In 1957, the Lithuanian community in Chicago opened the Čiurlionis Art Gallery, hosting collections of his works. In 1963, the Čiurlionis Memorial Museum was opened in Druskininkai, in the house where Čiurlionis and his family lived. This museum holds biographical documents as well as photographs and reproductions of the artist's works. The National M. K. Čiurlionis School of Art in Vilnius was named after him in 1965.



Reading Recommendations & Content Considerations

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Gytis Vaitkünas Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis



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