Art and literature of Lithuania have been defined by multiple alternating periods of persecution an freedom. There may be no world famous names among the Lithuanian art creators but their works well-represent the rapidly shifting Lithuanian situation. Moreover, some would say a few Lithuanian authors failed to reach worldwide fame solely because all the political and military upheavals precluded it.
History of Lithuanian Art and Literature
Folklore, folk traditions and mythology are the roots of Lithuanian art. Folk art tradition continued longer in Lithuania than in many Western countries and for a long time, it was the sole truly Lithuanian art. As such, it still inspires many people today.
In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth era Lithuanian and Polish art were hard to distinguish as there was a widespread Polish-Lithuanian diglossia with Polish used as the literary language. However, at the same time a Lithuanian language literary tradition was developing in Lithuania Minor (East Prussia).
1795 Russian Imperial occupation of Lithuania eventually led to heavy persecutions and ban on Lithuanian literature. Yet this also triggered the National Revival which made Lithuanian a popular literary language all over the country. Lithuanian books used to be illegally imported from Lithuania Minor.
By 1904 the czar was forced to moderate his policies and in 1918 Lithuania became independent. Lithuanian art and literature flourished in this interwar era.
It all ended in 1940 when the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania. Heavy censorship was introduced, many artists and writers murdered or imprisoned. Only pro-Soviet literature continued to be published while art was restricted to Socialist realist guidelines. Every author had to "pay his dues" to the regime by creating some propaganda works. Meanwhile, the censorship reached absurd proportions. Pre-Soviet and foreign art and literature were also censored (some of it banned).
As an alternative to the Soviet art (which has been partly stripped of creativity), new forms of art were developed by refugee Lithuanian artists and writers in the West (mainly the USA). The so-called "landed" generation was followed by the "landless" (those who grew up abroad). Their creations followed worldwide trends (with an additional overarching theme of longing for the lost homeland). They had been banned in the Soviet Union but their illegal imports were endlessly copied by a samisztad press.
With the 1990 independence restoration, the Lithuanian art and literature once again reunited and became free of forced ideology. By 1990s the "exodus literature" (as the creations of Lithuanian Americans became known as) was adopted into school curriculums while in 2000s Lithuania also rediscovered Fluxus movement.