Pranas Domsaitis: Karoo dawn - SOLD
Pranas Domsaitis (1880 – 1965)
Oil on board
37,5 x 58 cm
Signed bottom right
Sold - 2011
The son of a peasant farmer, Pranas Domsaitis was born in Kropinas on the edge of the Baltic, and raised in the rural Lithuanian culture of East Prussia.
Early in his artistic career Domsaitis exhibited with the Berlin Seccession, and held his first solo exhibition in Breslau in 1919. He started building a successful reputation in Germany, and was strongly influenced by the German Expressionists. Participating in many group exhibitions, he exhibited alongside artists such as Max Beckmann, Marc Chagall, Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Oscar Kokoschka, Max Liebermann, Jules Pascin, Max Pechstein and Karl Schmidt-Rotluff
In 1949, at the age of 69, Domsaitis moved to South Africa, following his wife who had been offered a lectureship at the University of Cape Town’s College of Music. His new environment offered new stimulation, and he travelled throughout the country, painting rural scenes reminiscent of the peasant culture of his homeland, with indigenous farmers working the fields and tending their livestock.
Domsaitis made a significant stylistic contribution to the history of South African art when he introduced the post WWII expressionist influences from Europe to the local art scene. He is unique among South African painters in that much of his subject matter was devotional in spirit, and even his interpretation of the vast South African landscape was infused with a spiritual intensity. His expressionist approach, with its abstracted and simplified forms, and the effective use of colour combinations to provide the desired emotional effects, resulted in a unique style which had a lasting influence on artistic development in his adopted country. Elsa Verloren van Themaat observes: His painting was symbolic, the subjective use of colour was emotive, and the forms provided the framework .
Domsaitis preferred to manipulate the subjective possibilities of the blue hours of twilight and dusk or dawn when shapes lose definition and become drifting visions. This approach is evident in his series of Karoo landscapes where he emphasises the serenity of the wide open, ‘big sky’ countryside, and his paintings become poetry in paint, brooding, lonely and mystic.
In this atmospheric painting titled ‘Karoo dawn’, the whole composition floats in green darkness, with the landscape’s features mere reflections on the cold morning dew. On the skyline, an oversimplified mountain is deep-etched in first light, carrying upon its back the last remainder of the blue-black night.
Verloren van Themaat concludes: One might suggest that he has succeeded in integrating the width of the South African landscapes with something of his own quiet and brooding nature and his belief that the spirit of the Creator dominates all things on earth .
Elsa Verloveren van Themaat, Pranas Domsaitis , Cape Town, 1976, pp 15, 16 and 22