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Pranciskus Smuglevicius (Franciszek Smuglewicz) (1745 – 1807) is the greatest artist of the Classical period in Lithuania. He studied at a Jesuit college in Warsaw, and studied painting with his father who was the court painter for Augustus III, ruler of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1785, by request of Ignacas Jokubas Masalskis, Bishop of Vilnius, he was asked to paint for the Cathedral which, at the time, was being renovated. In 1786-1797, the painter resided in Warsaw, where he founded a school for fine arts. In 1797, by request of Joakimas Chreptavicius, Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, he arrived in Vilnius and founded the Department of Drawing and Painting at the Principal School of Lithuania (later on – Vilnius University), where he was quickly elected Professor. Pranciskus Smuglevicius became one of the greatest Lithuanian artists to receive the protection of Stanislovas Augustas Poniatovskis, King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and to be supported by the treasury of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania; in 1965, he studied at St. Luke’s Academy in Rome, where he excelled from the very beginning as an exceptional student and received first prize in a competition organized by the Museum of Pope Clement XIV. While studying at St. Luke’s Academy, Pranciskus Smuglevicius created in the Neo-Classical style that was new and prevalent at the time. This was the reason behind the fame of P. Smuglevicius. At the time, there was a great interest in the history of Antiquity, any delivery of ancient artefacts from Rome was strictly prohibited, thus many travellers and scientists who poured into Rome sought after at least a piece of art that was created recently. In addition, there was free access to sites of archaeological investigation in Rome, so artists could create by observing naturally. This had an influence on the style of Pranciskus Smuglevicius’ works. Valued both as a graphic artist and a painter, Pranciskus Smuglevicius became friends and cooperated with archaeologists, antiquarians and collectors (Winckelmann, James Byres), he attracted the attention of publishers of illustrated books and graphic print.

This exhibition contains thirty portraits of saints and Lithuanian noblemen, which are demonstrated in order to introduce one with the artist’s creative techniques and the religious and historical plot. The works of this artist are relevant today as well. P. Smuglevicius’ portraits are characterized by masterful composition, accurate drawing, distinct and generalized form, and subtle changes in lighting. The artist left behind a vast amount of his paintings that contribute to the creation of Lithuanian culture and formation of the society’s identity.