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Domsaitis, Pranas

Domsaitis, Pranas (1880 – 1965)

Pranas Domsaitis was born in Kropinas, Memel, on the border of East Prussia and Lithuania, and passed away
in Cape Town, South Africa. Domsaitis spent the last years of his life in South Africa. The works which he
produced here between his arrival in 1949 and his death continued to combine his native Lithuanian religious
folk art forms with the simplified and darkly outlined ones that he learnt in his training in Germany and from his
contemporaries, the German Expressionists. Many of his works are of melancholy and religious nature; his many
representations of the life and death of Christ were done in this country.

Writers and critics have compared his work to the French artist, Georges Rouault, who similarly dwelt on these
themes, using bursts of colour and the same thick, black outlines. Pranas Domsaitis’ South African landscapes
are unique in that he did not choose to paint, what most South Africans did, which was the bright light of scrub
and deserts, or the lush vegetation of Natal and the green dampness of the Cape Peninsula. Like many artists he
painted the karoo, but his scenes have a gloomy, oppressive quality. Domsaitis brought his sense of the darkness
of the Northern European dusk to his vision of the Karoo, imparting to it an almost mystical quality of infinity and

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