Kazys Varnelis House-Museum
The House-Museum of painter and collector Kazys Varnelis is like an ordinary residential house. In the small halls full of elements of the old Gothic architecture, expositions of historical graphics and Western European sculpture are arranged. The expositions are supplemented with the ensembles of Renaissance and Baroque furniture and the creative abstractions by Kazys Varnelis. Such harmony designed on the principle of contrast makes the exposition unique and exceptional. The collection of Kazys Varnelis, which had been gathered for fifty years and was later given to Lithuania as a gift, enriches substantially the sets of Lithuanian cultural values, fills in the gaps of the collections possessed by Lithuania, and introduces new exhibition principles.
Lithuanian Maps (Room 1)
An exceptional map collection of Kazys Varnelis is displayed in the Front Hall. The collection contains such objects as the oldest (1576) Vilnius city plan from the Third Volume of Civitates Orbis Terrarum (Eng. Cities of the World) by Georg Braun; an imposing example of the Renaissance cartography, i.e. the map of Mikołaj Krzysztof Radziwiłł (the Orphan) (second edition from the 1631 atlas by Willem Blaeu); and the 1735 map of Lithuania Minor (with attached plan of Gusev) signifying the territories inhabited by Salzburg colonists.
Gallery of Historical Portraits (Room 2)
During his studies at Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and later, while residing in the United States, Kazys Varnelis was accumulating the collection of Lithuanian iconography. The Gallery displays graphic portraits of the late kings of Poland and Grand Dukes of Lithuania as well as their family members (from the Vasa and Wettin Dynasties); and the portraits of such Lithuanian noblemen as Krzysztof Radziwiłł, Mikołaj Krzysztof Radziwiłł (the Orphan), Michał Kazimierz Pac, and Kazimierz Leon Sapieha.
Engravings by Erik Dahlberg (Room 3)
Here visitors are introduced to a specific exhibition method of this House-Museum, i.e. objects from various epochs, of different styles, genres and types are combined together. The exposition is the creation of the artist and collector, the installation reflecting his taste and beliefs, and his attempt to establish a miniature museum of the world art history. The focus of the room (next to the old graphics related to the history of Lithuanian culture and politics, historical furniture and sculptures) are the copper engravings depicting the battles (i.e. the battles near Sandomierz, Filipów, and Brest-Litovsk) during the times of the Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth and based on the drawings by Swedish officer Erik Dahlberg.
Masterpieces of Western European Engravers (Room 4)
In his collection Kazys Varnelis gathered exclusive engravings by masters of Western European fine arts. The works of famous genius of German Renaissance Albrecht Dürer are reflected by his copper engraving St. Eustachio (1501). Nearby, one of the most renowned etchings The Temptation of St. Anthony (1635) by Jacques Callot, the coryphaeus of graphics of the Late French Renaissance – Early Baroque, is displayed. The etching had been inspired by the visions of the predecessor of Christian monkhood as well as the turbulent spirit of those times. The collection of Western European graphics of Kazys Varnelis contains three prints by Francisco Goya from his series Los Caprichos (1799). Moreover, here viewers can observe the works by such artists as Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Hendrik Goltzius, or Francesco Villamena.
Promenades of Kazys Varnelis (Room 5)
Artist Kazys Varnelis referred to the late period of his works produced during the last decades as Promenades, i.e., the artist plunged into the shapes of organic-inorganic structures, architectural elements and their pictorial interplay in the paintings that became much more liberal from the painterly point of view and more specific with regard to depicted objects. Promenades (Lith. Pasivaikščiojimai) is the cycle of paintings produced in America in 1980s and 1990s, and later in Lithuania. Several paintings of this cycle are exhibited in this room.
Collection of Western European and American Fine and Applied Arts of Kazys Varnelis (Rooms 6-10)
On the first floor of the building of the Small Guild, which was hustling with intensive trade life in the sixteenth-seventeenth centuries, Kazys Varnelis displayed the collection of Western European and American fine and applied arts that he was gathering consistently for nearly fifty years. The collection contains objects of painting, sculpture, graphics, furniture, ceramics, and textile. The oldest exhibits are the paintings dating back to the Early Italian Renaissance. A fairly large portion of the collection consists of the portraits produced by French and English painters and sculptors (Jean-Marc Nattier, Allan Ramsay, Francis Legatt Chantrey, François Joseph Bosio), Renaissance and Baroque pieces of furniture (chests, chairs, tables), nineteenth century small-scale bronze sculpture (The Broncho Buster by Frederic Sackrider Remington), and the samples of Renaissance and Neo-Renaissance Italian majolica as well as the samples of German and French porcelain.
Paintings by Kazys Varnelis during Last Decades (Rooms 11-15)
On the first floor of the former house of the Masalski, the late works by Kazys Varnelis are displayed. This is a constantly renewed exposition, where the painter introduced his newest productions to viewers. During the last decades, the painter turned from geometric abstraction to figurative painting. Two prevalent tendencies can be noticed, i.e. the one typical of the Promenades and the “formal realism” embodied by stylistically similar works, where abstracted sculpturesque forms obtained by pictorial means and the “new materiality” expressed in still-lifes became important. In the twelfth room, next to the paintings by Kazys Varnelis, the furniture of the Renaissance and subsequent styles (chairs, armchairs, tables), there is a typical medieval open hearth.
Op Art by Kazys Varnelis (Rooms 16-26)
In the world and in the USA, Kazys Varnelis is known as the painter and sculptor of op art and minimalism among art admirers and specialists. The collection from the “golden age” of creation of the painter is exhibited in the ten halls on the second floor of the museum. This is the phase of creative development of the artist, which lasted from the end of the 1960s and throughout 1970s. Thanks to these works Kazys Varnelis represented the Chicago school of optic art and minimalism and was its one of the most prominent representatives. The famous and well-known paintings (Cube Ensemble, Crystal Cascades, Convex Plus Concave, False Labyrinth) as well as spatial constructions by Kazys Varnelis are exhibited in the ten rooms.
Far East Art Collection (Rooms 27-30)
Kazys Varnelis always admired the Far East cultures and, therefore, collected the works of Chinese and Japanese fine and applied arts. Several rooms of the Small Guild display Chinese bronze and porcelain, examples of lacquer technique and furniture, Japanese landscapes, calligraphy, and wood engravings.
Collection and Creation of Kazys Varnelis (Rooms 31-32)
The op art paintings by Kazys Varnelis as well as the objects from the collection of the artist (the Western European Applied Arts) are exhibited in the former representative halls of the Small Guild. While creating the exposition the artist managed to establish a dialogue between modern paintings and the old articles of the applied arts. Ascetic minimalist painting stands in contrast with the forms of Renaissance, Baroque furniture and porcelain statuettes.
Modern Industrial Design (Room 33)
The items from the study of the artist in Chicago are displayed in the last room of the Kazys Varnelis Museum. These are the examples of the industrial design from 1940s-1960s. Some of the objects have already become classics, e.g. the Alvar Aalto Vase that caused great sensation at the 1937 World Trade Fair in Paris, the Charles Eames Lounge Chair Wood (1945), and the Charles and Ray Eames Folding Screen (1968). The marble table standing in the middle of the hall was designed in 1960s, made by Kazys Varnelis, and reiterates the minimalist painting forms of the artist.
Library of Kazys Varnelis (Rooms 34-36)
The library comprises a highly important and exceptional part of the Kazys Varnelis House-Museum. This is the collection of books, which consists of more than seven thousand items. Thematically the collection is composed of several parts, i.e. art history books (albums, monographs, studies, article collections), books as works of art (mostly unique publications, or publications of limited edition valuable for their bookbinding, book design, or illustration features), and Lithuanian philology (manuscript Meletema by Philipp Ruhig), the classics of Lithuanian historiography, Lithuanian books published in Prussia and the USA during the period of press ban). Three eighteenth century paintings from the gallery of the forefathers of the Grinceviciai family are exhibited in the library. Also, the 16th-18th century Lithuanian maps and maps of Lithuania are preserved here.