July 23, 2021 / September 1, 2021
From the beginning of the portrait during the Renaissance until the 20th century both in Europe and the USA, and at the same time in Lithuania, the images of specific people rarely left the orbits of the artists' attention. Interest in the portrait decreased only around the middle of 20th century, with a rising wave of decorative non-figurative, abstract composition. In the 1960s and 1970s, there were not so many portraitists in Lithuania. Among them are Marija Cvirkienė, Sofija Veiverytė, Bronė Mingilaitė–Uogintienė, Antanas Gudaitis, Augustinas Savickas, Vladas Karatajus and several others. Jonas Švažas can also be attributed to them, for him portraits occupied a significant place at the beginning of his creative path, as did the other works of the artist, speaking about the tendency towards a generalized form that avoids naturalism and the search for new more dynamic ways of expression. Relatively little attention from Lithuanian creators was determined to the portrait not only by the general tendencies of European painting, with which J. Švažas was familiar, but also by the peculiarities of the genre itself. The person being portrayed usually expects to see themselves "beautiful" in the picture, and the concepts of beauty between the artist and the model often differ. Condescending to the client, the painter can lose his style, not to mention the mentioned aesthetic convictions, and such examples, when creators had to decide between artistic conscience and profitable order, are abundant in the history of art. Apparently, that is why J. Švažas often chose his relatives, friends, intelligent fellows as models, who appreciated the uniqueness of the pictorial language more than the idealized, beautiful image.
There is no doubt that the most indulgent model, who does not oppose any artistic ideas, is the creator himself. Maybe that's why there are more than one self-portrait of J. Švažas. In French, portrait means drawing out, exposing. In order for the internal state of a person to be visualized and made public, it is necessary to feel and know it well. So, anyone but the creator knows his feelings best and can most easily compare them to the imagined states of other people, thus speaking about his relationship with the environment or with the current affairs of the time. However, J. Švažas, while painting portraits of other people, tried to avoid the inner states and personality traits of the models. Psychological characteristics of people were clearly not the task of the artist. The dominant feature of J. Švažas works of this genre is the general mood of the entire picture, which can also be attributed to the people in the picture, which the painter shaped in very diverse and new ways every time. The works exhibited in the exhibition are only a part of the portraits created by J. Švažas. However, all nineteen works complement the usual landscape image of the classic's work, revealing a rich panorama of the artist's artistic solutions and together testifying to the ingenuity characteristic of a true creator and the enormous potential of creativity. - Dalia Karatajienė