MIKALOJUS KONSTANTINAS ČIURLIONIS (1875 - 1911)
A distinguished figure in the arts in Lithuania, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis was born on 22 September 1875 in the small southern Lithuanian town of Varena. Two years later his family moved to Druskininkai, where he spent his childhood and adolescence. A few years later another artist, the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, to be strongly influenced by Čiurlionis, was born in the same city. The latter studied piano and composition at the Warsaw Music Institute, followed by a period of tuition in composition at the Leipzig Conservatory. On his return in 1914, to the Warsaw School of Fine Arts, there followed exhibitions of his paintings in Warsaw, Vilnius and St Petersburg. At the same time he continued his parallel career in music, directing a Lithuanian choir in Warsaw and a choir in Vilnius, where he settled in 1907. He was the founder and director of the Union of Lithuanian Painters and international recognition of his work as a painter was assured by his membership of the Russian Mir Iskusstva, World of Art Society in St Petersburg. His manifold activities were brought to an end by his untimely death in 1911 at the age of 35.
The work of Čiurlionis was based on the view that all arts stem essentially from the same source, however different they may seem. Several of his paintings were based on musical structures, classified as cycles of fugues, sonatas, and so on. A poem by Čiurlionis has the form of a sonata, while much of his music is pictorial. His compositions include two symphonic poems, In the Forest and The Sea, a string quartet and a variety of pieces for piano or organ and choral works. His piano pieces are mostly short and lead from the romanticism of the nineteenth century to a more modern idiom, influenced by expressionism, serialism or neoclassicism, all of which may be found.
© Vytautas Landsbergis