Juozas Bagdonas

J. Bagdonas was not inclined toward Expressionist painting like most of his contemporaries. In 1938 he won an important award for his figure composition "Back from the sea", painted in the Belgian style (under the influence of the exhibition of Belgian painting that was held in Kaunas). His works are characterised by their lyrical mood, generalised local colour planes, a subtle and nuanced style of painting, and distinct silhouettes of figures. He turned towards abstract stylistics when he lived in Washington, where Abstract Expressionism was popular, and was finally overpowered by it when he settled in New York in 1964. 

Reference: Art album "The World of Landscapes" (Volume II). Compiled by N. Tumėnienė. Vilnius, LAWIN, 2013, P. 194.

Juozas Bagdonas was born on 11 December 1911 into a farmers’ family living in the village of Antrųjų Videikių, in the Plungė rural district. He attended a gymnasium in Plungė from 1923 to 1926, and later in Telšiai. He left the gymnasium in Telšiai in 1928 and entered Kaunas School of Art. In 1930, he began to study at J. Vienožinskis’ studio. He won his first State Prize for his figure composition Back from the Sea in 1938.

The next year, he travelled extensively in Western Europe (Germany, Italy and France). When Lithuania regained Vilnius, he arranged an exhibition of Lithuanian art. He fled to Austria in 1944, and then to Germany. Between 1946 and 1948, he taught drawing and art history at the Lithuanian gymnasium in Ravensburg. In the winter of 1948, he moved to Colombia, where he lived in Bogota and taught art at the Ladies’ College and the State Academy of Art, where he established a ceramics studio.

In 1958, he left for W ashington. H e opened a prestigious art gallery there in 1960, and organised exhibitions of work by American artists. H e also organised the first exhibition of abstract art in the Lithuanian H all in B altimore, and later in the Lithuanian communities in Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Toronto, Hamilton, Cleveland, Los Angeles, H artford, W oodhaven, W ashington and S t Louis. H e moved to New York in 1964. From 1999, he lived in Plungė.

Bagdonas held a solo exhibition of paintings in the Lithuanian Art M useum in 1992, which later transferred to the Kaunas Art Gallery. After an exhibition in the Oginskis mansion in Plungė (1993), he presented 18 abstract pictures to the nation. I n 1995, after the establishment of the Žemaičių Art M useum, he presented another 90 of his works. When he returned to Lithuania to live, he gave pictures to museums in V ilnius, Kaunas, Plungė, Klaipėda and Telšiai. He died on 11 August 2005 in Plungė. The Lithuanian Art Museum put on a retrospective exhibition of his work in 2011.

Reference: "Juozas Bagdonas". Introduction written by D. Ramonienė ir P. Jurkus. Telšiai: Žemaičiai Museum of Art, 2002; Peleckis-Kaktavičius, Leonas. "Visions of Juozas Bagdonas' colors and spaces", Varpai, 2011.