The exhibition presents the works of Adomas Varnas (his surname happens to mean ‘a Raven’), the prominent Lithuanian painter and artist, graphic designer and pedagogue as well as the designer of stamps and the first sketches of the Lithuanian money. The exhibition reveals that the painter who was depicting the political and social life of Lithuania sincerely contributed to the establishment of the young country with the stamps and banknote sketches he designed while his caricatures never missed a chance of mocking politicians doubting the independence of Lithuania; he was always faithful to the idea of the national state.
In 1914, the painter designed the first caricatures of Lithuanian public activists residing in Vilnius and published them in “Vairas” magazine. He received encouragement from Antanas Smetona, the head editor, to carry on with creating characteristic portraits. Most political caricatures were born when Varnas was observing speeches of Lithuanian activists in the Parliament of Lithuanians of the whole Russia in Saint Petersburg from June 9 to June 17, 1917. During World War I, those Lithuanians who had emigrated to Russia were observing the political situation, gathering into a community and promoting the national culture hoping to reestablish the independence of their country as soon as favourable circumstances came into existence. Even though 330 Lithuanian representatives gathered in the meeting, Varnas depicted only the most flamboyant ones. He was supporting the partisans of Lithuanian independence; hence they – Stasys Šilingas, a barrister, prof. Augustinas Voldemaras, a historian, Martynas Yčas, a barrister, Mykolas Sleževičius, a lawyer – were depicted in the caricatures as full of dignity and wisdom. Socialists and Bolsheviks opposing the independence of Lithuania – Stasys Digrys, an economist, Petras Balys, a teacher, Jurgis Smalys-Smolskis, a writer, and others – were decorated with devil’s ears and hooves. These caricatures were gathered into a single edition “On the Perch of Politics” and published with witty comments by a priest, public activist and a man of letters, Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas. Varnas was always striving to grasp the mimics and moods of the people whose caricatures he was painting; hence he left after himself caricatures galore. This exhibition shows complete works and their sketches produced by Adomas Varnas which are stored by M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum. The exhibition also presents digital photos of Adomas Varnas and the caricatures of public activists published in the edition “On the Perch of Politics”.
The history and the public life of Lithuania are reflected not only in the graphics and paintings of Varnas but also in the stamps, banknotes and coins of the Lithuanian currency which he designed. The drafts of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Litas banknotes designed by the painter reflect motifs of Lithuanian folk arts, pictures of Grand Dukes Gediminas and Vytautas and other national symbols. Despite the contract with the publishing house mandating to destroy all the sketches of the banknotes and coins and the tentative one-sided and two-sided imprints, the painter brought a part of them back to Lithuania. This load of “recyclable paper” was protected from destruction and found its way to collections of museums and art collectors. The exhibition shows specimens of the first Lithuanian money, banknote project albums and stamps designed by Adomas Varnas and stored at M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum.