JUZEF PERKOWSKI. THE ORNAMENTS OF SAMOGITIAN FOLK ART

Dr. Vacys Vaivada

The readers of the book will become acquainted with the study The Ornaments in Samogitian folk Art by Jozef Perkowski, whose life was closely bound with tragic fate of Lithuanian Republic of that time. Juzef Perkowski So to speak, all main state changes found their reflections on the private life of the autor as well as on his relatives’ lives. The restored State of Lithuania had to fight for its rights both against Russia and against Poland from the very first days of its existence. Moreover, the stage of mutual state co-operation among them through contiguous states’ force had alredy been finished by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at the end of the 18th century. The conflict with Poland stirred Lithuanian people’s regard towards manors as well as towards the nobles’ negligible approach to the use of the mother tongue. Naturally, the confrontation with Poland of political reasons at once reflected upon the internal affairs of the State and particularly upon people’s attitude towards the nobles. We may only try to imply the nobles’ - genealogy of whose, at least in some respect, was bound with the former twentieth - century  territory of the Polish State - disregard of all this.  Perkowskis belonged to this kind of people.

  • Perkowski’s father, Seweryn Perkowski, was the original inhabitant of Poland, and his mother, Wanda Gorska, was the descendant of the nobleman Stanislaw Gorski from Mozovia, who lived in Samogitia in the 16th century and therefore she considered herself a member of the nobility of Samogitia. Dziuginenai Estate Despite Jozef Perkowski’s long years spent in Samogitia he had the Polish citizenship; however, in 1939, in his letter to professor Galaune, he announced a desire to become a citizen of  Lithuania. Yet, it is not actually known whether he managed to do that. There were no bigger cities or marked intellectual centres in Samogitia; thus, some greater cultural influence came from big manors as well as from church. Consequently, the manors played a considerable role in the development of the cultural life of Samogitia of that time in spite of an unfavourable situation of the period. One of such manors was just near the town of Telsiai, by the Dziugas Castle Hill, surrounded with three lakes on all sides. It was not big and was called Dziuginenai. It was there were Perkowski lived. Recently, this name is no longer being avoided by art historians investigating the Lithuanian black-and-white arts of the first half of the 20th century as well as by those who have taken an interest in folk art. Perkowski devoted a good deal of his time to the gathering of the examples of Samogitian folk art as well as to the writing of studies on the analysis of folk art pieces.

  • Not much is actually known of Perkowski’s parents. As to Seweryn Perkowski’s past, it is less hidden in the darkness of ignorance. A comparatively thorough presentation of his personality was given by the compilers of the Polish Biographical Dictionary. Seweryn Perkowski was a famous surgeon, urologist and the honorary member of different medical societies of his time. A very hard lot fell upon this man. He was a participant of the revolt of 1863; after its suppression, he had to leave for France. He continued his medical education at the Sorbonne, and the degree of Doctor of Medicine was conferred on him in 1869. During the Franco- Prussian War Perkowski acted as a physician taking France’s part. In 1874 he was admitted to citizenship of the State for his distinguished service. Nevertheless, he did not stay in France and returned to Warsaw in 1874. Subsequent years of his life are mostly related to medical practice and science.

  • We have a scanty amount of information considering the biography of Perkowski’s mother, Wanda Gorska. We are aware of the fact that she was of much help to well known archaeologist Tadas Daugirdas, who travelled throughout Samogitia in oder to gather the material for a series of articles about castle hills. Meanwhile, Gorska told the archaeologist many local stories and legends. A number of these stories have been printed in the publication Wisla. This is all we  know of Perkowski’s mother’s biography. There is awareness of the circumstances of Perkowski’s and Gorska’s meeting. There is only an evidence that they got married in1890.

  • Jozef Parkowski and Tadeusz Perkowski were born on November 23rd, 1896. Actually, by the time their brother Zygmunt and sister Jadwiga were already in the family, and shortly thereafter, in 1897, Zygmunt died. The members of the Parkowski family had always a great care about each other - the letters of Jozef, Tadeusz and Jadwiga show it. Naturally, the sorrow caused by the death of Zygmunt was very great to the Perkowskis, Seweryn and Wanda. The portret of Zygmunt Perkowski was always preserved in the Dziuginenai Manor.

  • The chilhood of the twins Jozef and Tadeusz as well as of their sister Jadwiga was not easy. It was on February 10, 1907, when their father died and seven years later  their mother's death followed. Even during the studies at the Konopszynski Gimnazium, in Warsaw, Perkowski’s visits to his mother’s home, Dziuginenai, where rather frequent, particularly in the summer time.

  • After his mother’s death, from 1915 onward Perkowski stayed at his grandmother’s for he always had deep feeling and longing for the countryside of Samogitia, and that it was there where his thoughts would take him relentlessly. He was attracted by the hidden beauty of the land which was known so little to others. It was just the period of his life when his interest in Samogitian folk art became very great. Later, Perkowski in one of his letters was writing that at the age of twelve he got hold of an issue of the year 1901 of Tygodnik ilustrowany in which the article on Lithuanian folk art was published. The article made a very great impression on Jozef, and the period of this former life was called the “lost one” by him. He started gathering examples of Samogitian folk art, and by the year 1910, he already had an enormous collection which, regretfully, did not come down to us. The largest total of his collection was accumulated in 1915-1922 and in 1928-1940, that is, when the painter was constantly living in Dziuginenai. Perkowski was not met with much understanding, thus, the corresponding image of him was created by people. Even today he is remembered as a strange man by some of them. His way of life seemed very unusual to local people. They would see him walking along the country, observing the nature and people all day long as well as making notes on bits of paper, or taking photos. His visits have been desired earnestly by the people working for hire in the manor and by children as well. The people liked Perkowski’s sincerity and his unaffectedness. He would give the children some presents or simply would take photos of them. Kindness to a man was the main streak of the charakter both of his sister and brother. It is sufficient to say that Jadwiga Perkowska opened a small local school for the poor in c.1920. Besides, the teacher Lozinskaite was supported by her as well.

  • In the meantime, Jozef was also engaged in teaching activities. He worked as a teacher in the vicinity, at the Polish progymnasium as well as at the local gymnasium. His former pupils gave high praise to him, they also spoke highly of the teacher's patience and courtesy to everyone. While teaching Parkowski would meet the language problem, for he was not as good at speaking Lithuanian as compared with his twin brother despite his brother's rare visits from Poland to Lithuania.

  • Throughout 1922-1928 Perkowski had been staying in Warsaw. In 1923, he started his studies at the Applied Art School, Department of the Graphic Arts, where the outstanding Polish graphic master Wladislaw Skoczylas was appointed to a lectureship. Through activities of this energetic man the whole generation of Polish graphic artists have been trained there. Perkowski was successful at his studies. In 1924 1925, he as well as some other  gifted students of School exhibited their works in Milan and Paris. It was during his studies in Warsaw that his works were taken to the exhibition in Budapest, Prague and Warsaw. At the same time the young painter joined the Polish Graphic Artists’ Union Ryt, one of the organizers of which was Skoczylas. Skoczylas’ influence upon the works of Parkowski was great - the relationship with folk art was evident in his works, which was constantly emphasized by his drawing teacher. On the other hand, such a creative trend was very close to Perkowski himself. It is essential to remember his delight in Samogitian folk art. Besides, the relation with folk art has always been stressed in Lithuanian graphic arts on the whole. It might have been the reason for which he, relatively, without any difficulties adapted himself to living circumstances in Samogitia. The exhibition arranged alongside with Remeriene in Kaunas was regarded favourably as well. Even after his return to Lithuania, Perkowski did not lose his contact with Polish graphic artists. In 1933, his works were exhibited at the first International Exhibition of the Graphic Arts in Warsaw. A favourable comment made by severe Polish art critic Treter of that time and published in the newspaper Gazeta Polska was quoted to Perkowski in his brother Tadeusz’s letter. In 1934 some of Perkowski works were exhibited at the Polish Art Exhibition in Versailles. In fact, at first the painter was not aware of that himself. The French press was greatly interested in Perkowskis’ works and the painter was presented to the French public in the magazine La Revue moderne illustree des arts et de la vie.

  • From 1928 onward, Perkowski had lived in Samogitia again. The Dziuginenai Manor was almost ruined. His sister Jadwiga, who was born as the lady and the housekeeper of the manor, was eager to sell it to Bilevicius. Primarily, her intention was influenced by her weak health. Luckily, the manor was not sold. Principally, the circle of Perkowski’s acquaintances did not become wider in comparison with that of  former years. Usually, the young graphic artist would meet with Leopoldas Andrijauskas who had finished his studies in fine arts in France and lived in the vicinity, at the Siraiciai Manor, as well as with some intelligent fellows from Telsiai. The poet Pranas Genys was among those who would visit Dziuginenai and whose book of verse titled The Dziugas bell was illustrated by Perkowski.

  • It was on the days of the arrival of his brother Tadeusz and his wife from Poland when, at least for some time, the manor would revive. This usually happened once a year. On the occasions of the arrival of Tadeusz and his wife, they would most frequently move to their relatives’ or acquaintances' places. The Perkowski were frequent guests in the Birzuvenai Manor which was owned by Gorskis. Some more guests would visit Dziuginenai as well; however, there was not much uproar there. In the evenings the sounds of the piano could be heard.

  • Throughout this period of life Perkowski gave almost all his time to the studies of graphic arts as well as to the investigations of Samogitia folk art. As early as 1929, two Perkowski’s articles appeared. They were on the decor of Lithuanian small architecture and Samogitian folk sculpture (Dzien Kowienski, No. 130-131, 134-136, 140-41, 145-147; the second article - No. 195-196, 199-201, 204-205).

  • In 1930, Perkowski in his letter to professor Galaune mentioned that he had both the manuscript of the work “Ornamentation in Samogitian folk art, carving and the artifacts of blacksmiths” as well as unfinished work on figured folk sculpture.

  • The fate of this Perkowski's work was complicated. It was writen in 1931. At first, it was intended to publish it in Tauta ir zodis. However, the publishers required that illustrated material should be revised and text should be translated into Lithuanian.The first condition was more favourable that another as Perkowski didn't have enough money to pay for the translation. These are the words from his letter to professor Galaune written on August 31, 1931: “I had never wished to publish my work solely in Polish… The only obstacle is that of translation from Polish into Lithuanian, for I am not able to do it myself because of my poor knowledge of the Lithuanian language. My income is also too little in order to pay for the translation…” At first, the possibility of asking Genys for the translation was discussed with professor Galaune. Later, Perkowski decided that it would be too dificult for Genys to cope with the work of such volume. The manuscript went back to the author. Now and then, he would return to the work and correct its illustrated part but did not see his work in publication until his death.

  • Yet, this failure did not diminish Perkowski’s desire to investigate folk art. As early as 1931, he started gathering material on Samogitian folk sculpture. This was not the only subject in which the painter showed his eager interests at that time. In 1933, he published the article dealing with the connection between the decor of Samogitian small architecture and Polish folk art (Zemia, No. 3); and it was in 1935, when the article on the remnents of ancient beliefs and cults in Samogitia (Musu tautosaka, Vol. 10) as well as in 1936, the one on the simbols of Samogitian folk art and international motifs were published. These are merely a few of his publications of that period. The last years of his life were full of creative conceptions. However, the ordinary life of his was interrupted by the Soviet occupation in 1940. It was a great sorrow for the painter, and he could not really decide how to proceed in his life: he did both avoided meeting with people, and returned to them again. Perkowski intuitively could feel for a great misfortune to come. He was trying to explain this incident to the people around him but all was in vain because everyone was very busy with the summer works.Perkowski had a true image of the new authorities - he had often heard stories from the coachman Rocius who would take Patulickaite to Dziuginenai. Besides, the painter had been told about the events in Russia by his brother, who had his job in the Diplomatic Service in Poland. On the 24th of July Perkowskis did not return to his manor. In the morning he was found by his domestic servant who were taking the milk to Telsiai - he had laid his hands oh himself. He was the very first victim of the Soviet occupation throughout the surroundings of Telsiai.

  • Jozef Perkowski’s funeral was without any pomposity, and was attended by not many relatives and acquaintances. He was burred in the old cemetery of the Dziuginenai Manor. On his last way, he was accompanied by the priest of the parish church of Lieplauke. A small wooden cross was erected on the grave. In due course of time the cross was ruined. Nevertheless, Perkowski’s grave has been looked after by Stanislava Gumuliauskaite, a former domestic servant - girl of the manor. The grave was also in the care of sisters Lemzytes, former domestic servants, as well as of some country women. They all remember the painter as a very good man. The exact place of the painter’s burrial was preserved due to these women. Nowadays, the grave is marked by the grave stone, which was built by the student from the Telsiai Applied Art Higher School.

  • Six photo albums (over 400 photographs) with the sights of Samogitian nature and examples of folk art are kept in the Zemaiciai Alka Museum. Besides, there are Perkowski’s albums with the examples of folk art there. They are a unique material.

  • The total of 700 drawings is in the albums. The painter’s inheritance of graphic works is not so large; it contains 33 black-and-white drawings. Some part of the Dziuginenai archives were handed to the museum by Stanislava Gumuliauskaite not long ago. There are also the painter’s letters written to Jozef Perkowski and Jadwiga Perkowska alongside with the other material that reflects the life of the Dziuginenai Manor. However, the stocks of the material are not in appropriate order.

  • Perkowski’s published work is the most proper study of the painter. It was found by the research fellow of the Alka Museum Laimute Valatkiene among the material of year 1940 taken from the Dziuginenai Manor.

Article from the book "Juzefas Perkovskis. Žemaiciu liaudies meno ornamentas: 
forma ir simbolika". Vilnius, 1999.

 

Samogitian Cultural Association Editorial Board, 2000
Samogitian Museum ALKA, 2000

Last update 2013.09.30
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