Pranas Domsaitis was an artist of Prussian descent who spent a large part of his life as a farmer and became a full-time artist prior to the dark cloud of World War I gripped much of Europe. Defined by a mix of European expressionism and ecclesiastical art, Pranas was definitely not one-dimensional.

Born on 15 Augustus 1880 in the town of Cropiens, formerly part of the Kingdom of Prussia; although the current location is somewhat of a mystery, it is considered to be mostly Lithuanian even though he only formally took citizenship in 1920. The son of a peasant farmer, his original name was Franz Domscheit and probably never received any formal education till much later in life.

Being a son of the farm, art might not have been something his father would have planned for him. Much to his father’s dislike and with the assistance of Max Liebermann, Domsaitis embarked on studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Art in 1907. Upon graduation of his first form of schooling in 1910 he embarked on further travels and studies in some of Europe’s major art centres; including Paris, Florence, Amsterdam and London.

Picture Credit: www.5thaveauctions.co.za and www.lithaz.org
Picture Credit: www.5thaveauctions.co.za and www.lithaz.org

His peasant and religious culture had a formative influence on his artistic development, style and subject matter. On his travels through Europe he met and befriended Edvard Munch in Norway. The influence of  Liebermann, Lovis, Corinth, Rouault and other Lithuanian folk art also played a major role in his formation as an artist. Munch was credited as being the greatest influence in Domsaitis leaning toward expressionism.

World War I confined Domsaitis to military service and returning to his parents’ farm. The end of the war meant that this budding artist could continue with his aspirations in art.