Material / technique: oil on canvas.
Dimensions: 47x38,5 cm.
Vincentas Smakauskas (1797-1876), the graduate of Vilnius University and St Petersburg Academy of Art, is one of the most prominent figures in the Lithuanian art of the 19th century. Mostly recognised as a graphic artist and a draughtsman, he has also left an equally brilliant footprint in Lithuanian painting, having anchored in it the principles of Classicism and created a number of significant historical paintings, domestic scenes, and portraits. That makes every newly discovered painting by this artist a true find for Lithuania, especially if it is a portrait in which Smakauskas invested a lot of his time and attention. He said that a portraitist alone can portray the tremors of the soul that are mirrored in a person’s face, that a good portrait is what makes a historical painting impactful. The psychologically evocative late-period portrait of an elderly man testifies to the creative maturity of the painter in his own right, what with the essence of the person being revealed by fully focusing on his face, registering the subtle mood nuances and the true-life experience that is etched in the skin with a high degree of excellence, abandoning any direct suggestions as to the trade or social background of that man. The composition and the colours follow the tradition of Classicist paintings: the portrait is oval-shaped, the drawing is accurate, the background neutral, highlighting the balance and seeking to achieve a harmony and simplicity without overburdening the painting with excess emotion and utilising the effects that the lighting provides with flair. Nonetheless, it is not some dried-up Classicist piece of work: on the contrary, its psychological depth and the shape of the face that is modelled quite masterfully and with lively strokes obviously point to studies of nature and discoveries in realism, which make the portrait believably evocative. The signature, originally placed in a semi-circle at the oval’s edge, further supports the presumption that this portrait is a valuable piece of work by Smakauskas, one that adds yet another fact of creative discovery to his biography (Dr. Lijana Natalevičienė).