I find it interesting how world events, and politics can shape the creativity of a society.
I am reminded somewhat of the old Martin & Lewis movie Artists and Models1 every time I do one of these articles when there is a long history of graphic artist interpretations of literature. In the movie these types of books are seen as a detriment to society through their influence on the young. Personally, I learned how to be a great reader through the form.
Graphic interpretation of writing goes back a ways in Lithuania, and there was even satire leading up to WWII. Something we might find surprising with our thoughts colored by the Cold War and Soviet Block since then.
The Early Years.
A man named Jonas Martinaitis was one of those early satire painters and writers. He also did work for publications where he would use satire in the text of his work and often in rhyme.2 This sounds much like types of things we do here in a Haiku Challenge I host each week.
During the research for this series, I found comics in the form we know them today isn’t how they’ve always appeared. Early on, the text appeared in spaces beneath the images. In a way that makes sense in that you get to see a full piece of art. And understand, these were and can be works of art. Try to draw or paint some of what you see. Many people don’t realize that many comics are painted. But back then, those text balloons get in the way. These days the art is laid out in such a way as to account for the balloons.
Following WWII things were a bit more strict, much like what happened here in the US in the 1950s, with the publications being somewhat dictated to and any artistic images and wit were spun toward propaganda, not like here in the US in the 1950s. Fortunate or not, Martinaitis didn’t have to suffer this creative death. He passed away in 1947.
Creativity Grows Cold.
Imagine if for decades I were to tell you when creating Haiku here on my site, the only place you could write Haiku and that was the only way you had to make money, that your words and images had to support something or be against something, regardless of what you believed. If you fought against me I would make sure you didn’t work anywhere else, because I had control there as well or possibly I could have you thrown into prison.
For Lithuania it was like that. Artists were subject to their work needing to meet the guidelines of Socialist realism as regulated by the government.3
It wasn’t until 1990 that Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare its independence after being occupied in WWII by the Soviets and the Nazis.4 I am trying to imagine the kind of things I would create under that atmosphere.
The Yoke Loosens.
In the 1960s the loosening feel, the I am free to be me feel, that seemed to be in the air must have stretched to Lithuania in some way. Artistry and creativity in literary aspects changed slightly.
A painter named Aleksandras Vitulskis created what would be called the greatest of all Lithuanian comics work in 1968 and 1969.5 The work was compared to that of Alex Raymond6, creator of Flash Gordon7 in 1934. Considering the impact Raymond’s Flash Gordon had on US society in graphic interpretation and cinema I can only imagine what Vitulskis did for Lithuania. Here are samples of his work, not his comics work. I was unable to find any of that at this time. But will update this article when I do.
A Touch of Humor and a Touch of Simplicity.
But not all Lithuanian creators were painters and detailed artists. Some went with simplicity and touching the pulse of a society. Enter Fridrikas Jonas Samukas and Miko Ridiko.Samukas focused using his wit and showing human flaws, something everyone could associate with.8 His art was simple and to the point, uncluttered so as to give a quick impression. For me, if I were looking at the painting above by Vitulskis, I might spend more time looking at each part rather than taking in the message. You need to look at your balance to achieve your goal. If you click on the image to the left you will see there are no words needed to relay the message. That message is universal in every society.
Samukas did that, and did it very well. Mikko Ridiko has been published since 1968 if that tells you how successful his method worked. It still goes on today although under other artists since his death in 2003.
Artists of Today.
First there is Andrius Zaksauskas. I love the images he comes up with. Some are a bit to the point. All very well done, very painter like with one I picked today that gives me a Charlie Brown feel, not so much in the style but in the feel of the words and yes, even in perhaps the style a bit with the size of the heads of the children. But the words spoken by the character in front reminds me a bit of Charlie Brown. I translates I can.
That is how Google Translate does it. I get the meaning but am having difficulties expressing it here. Can you put it into words that make better sense for me? Leave a comment below. Seriously.
The next is Herta Matulionytė-Burbienė. I love this one. I so wish these were in English, but if you are a blogger or someone who Tweets or FBs things, you will get this image meaning easily. That’s the talent of this creator.
Cats Anonymous Slave Society
Prisipazjstu, that I am powerless over my cat, and humbly To be completed by all his wishes.
That’s it for today. I enjoyed researching for the article. Loving history and comics and art and writing, this series has been a lot of fun for me. I hope you enjoyed it. Tomorrow is some place beginning with M. I have no idea yet. I best get on that.
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