February 12, 2021

Pranas Sederevičius, Skulptūrų sodas / Sculpture garden

picture by Laima Gūtmane
licensed under Wikimedia Commons 

Kudirkos Naumiestis, a small community in western Lithuania, located close to the border with the Russian region of Kaliningrad, is home to a striking art environment, as shown above.

Life and works

This ensemble of 21 sculptures was created by Pranas Sederevičius (1905-1971).

It has been said to be the only example of primitive folk art of this nature in Lithuania, and indeed in this country until now no other art environments in the capacity of a garden with large and realistic concrete sculptures have been known.

this picture and the next six are screenprints
from the video by Lithuanian TV, see documentation

Sederevičius started creating his art environment in 1951, when he was in his mid-forties and had a job as a factory worker.

With regard to the years before, the internet has no biographical data available.

If he was born in Kudirkos Naumiestis or surroundings, in his early years he must have known about the First World War, but as a young adult he must have experienced the Second World War close by, because in those years his native region bordered on Germany and when the war between Germany and Russia broke out there was a lot of war violence in the area.

Sederevičius has been described as a sympathetic person, often good-humored, easy-going and tactful.

one of the sculpted horses on the right side of the house

And he loved horses...... 

This preference is very clearly reflected in his ensemble of sculptures. The scene around the house is dominated by a number of more than life-sized sculptures of horses. 

At the right side of the house, seen from the street, there are some five horses, including three that rise more than life-size ....

another sculpted horse, on the left side of the house

..... and as shown in the picture above, on the left side of the house there is also a sculpture of a horse, this ne rising high above the house's roof ridge. 

To make these large sculptures Sederevičius used a method, in which he first made an iron infrastructure from all kinds of iron remnants, such as parts of old bicycles and bed spirals, bound in the desired shape by a lot of iron wire. Then he covered the resulting form with cement, which would be painted after hardening.

Obviously, large amounts of cement were needed for the large sculptures. There are no clear reports about this, but it could be that Sederevičius obtained the loads of cement that he needed, through the company where he worked.

sculptures on the right side of the house

The photo above once again shows the size Sederevičius' horse sculptures got.

However, his art environment also includes a variety of smaller creations, like the one at the bottom right of above photo, a sculpture in high relief on a wall, which is a self-portrait of Sederevičius, flanked left and right by the head of a horse of course. 

Among the smaller sculptures, there is also a series of busts, predominantly featuring celebrities from the history of Lithuania.

two busts and a horse head

To give an idea what kind of  persons have been depicted, here is a small review.

There is a bust of a historic person named Vytautas the Great (1350-1430), who was a ruler in what was then the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.  

And then there are busts of famous people from the Lithuanian cultural sphere, such as Vincas Kudirka (1858-1899) who was a poet and wrote the lyrics and composed the music of the Lithuanian National Anthem, but also Pranas Vaičaitis, (1876-1901), also a poet who violated a press ban and was imprisoned for a month in 1899.

There is also a depiction of Vincas Grybas (1890-1941) a professional sculptor, who was arrested and killed by the Germans in the first year of the war.

the two famous pilots Gyrénas and Darius 

The two busts of uniformed persons, as in the picture above, depict two pilots. Stepona Darius and Stasys Gyrénas, who got fame in Lithuania in the early 1930s.

Darius (1896-1933) migrated with his family to the USA, returned to Lithuania in 1920 where he completed a pilot training and actively promoted various (American) sports'. Early 1923 he participated in the Klaipeda revolt. Later he returned to the USA where he worked in civil aviation.

The Klaipeda revolt had as a result that the German Memelland area along the western border of Lithuania -an area which after World War I was under specific international rule- in 1924 came under rule of Lithuania, a situation which ended in March 1939 after a German ultimatum.

The other pilot, Gyrénas (1893-1933) also migrated to the United States, where in 1927 he acquired an airplane and worked in civil aviation.

Together flying in an airplane named Lituanica, Darius and Gyrénas were among the first to fly across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to the planned landing site in Kaunas, Lithuania's second-largest city,
Their plane crashed under unclear circumstances above Germany, some 650 km away from the airport in Kaunas, according to an official report due to bad weather conditions and engine problems, according to un-official opinion the aircraft was shot down by the Nazis.
two more busts and a couple of deer

The descriptions of the background of the people depicted in the busts, show that most of them have a specific link with Lithuania as a nation and consider the independence of the country of great importance.

It should be borne in mind that Sederevičius made his sculptures in the 1950s and 1960s, when Lithuania was part of the USSR and allusions to the independence of the country were not accepted by Moscow. Lithuania did not gain independence until 1990.

That Sederevičius nevertheless presented these persons in his creation, says something about his character, as it also says something about the inhabitants of the community of Kudirkos Naumiestis, of whom no one reported to authorities, but who approached the site with appreciation and admiration.

The site became a cultural landmark

Sederevičius died in 1971 of a stroke. 

It is unclear who subsequently became the owner of the house and the garden with sculptures. It has been reported that the house has been occupied by persons who were teachers from a school.

In any case, it can be concluded that the sculpture garden is well maintained, because today (2021), fifty years after the death of their creator, the sculptures still stand as if recently made.

Currently the site is a cultural landmark that attracts a lot of visitors.

* Article (May 2018) on the website of Lithuanian Radio and TV (LRT), with pictures and a video by Lithuanian TV entitled Pranas ir Julija 
* Article (undated) on website Panatyk Lietuvoje, with pictures and a map
* Article  (undated) on website Atlas Obscura, with a series of pictures
* Article (undated) on website Pamatyk Lietuvojelt, with a series of pictures

Pranas Sederevičius
P. Mašioto g. 42,
71319 Kudirkos Naumiestis
site can be seen from the street

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