Pranas Domsaitis

Born: 1880. Kropinas, East Prussia / Lithuania Died: 1965, 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 eternity.

Artist CV

Art Education

- 1907–1910 Pranas Domsaitis studied art at Royal Academy of Fine Art, Köningsberg.

- 1910 Pranas Domsaitis studied art under Lovis Corinth in Berlin.

Short Artist Biography

- Pranas Domsaitis Aspired to an artistic career from youth – encouraged by his mother, opposed by his father who wanted him to be a farmer.

- 1907 Max Liebermann assisted Pranas Domsaitis by writing to his father to persuade him of his son’s talents and by influencing the Köningsberg Academy to accept him as a student. After studying at Köningsberg he taught architecture and painting at the Academy. Furthered his knowledge on study-tours to Paris, Florence, Amsterdam and London.

- 1912 Met Edvard Munch, early influences of Liebermann and Lithuanian peasant art gave way to more simplified forms and deeper emotionalism.

- 1914 – 1918 Pranas Domsaitis worked in Berlin and Lithuania, Death of his mother. After serving in the army he lived and worked among farming communities in Bavaria and Austria; development of religious themes. Painted under the name Franz Domscheit; showed with Berlin Secession.

- 1919 Following his first exhibition in Berlin Pranas Domsaitis began to build a successful reputation in Germany.

- 1925 – 1933 Traveled widely and exhibited in East Europe, Balkans, Turkey.

- 1929 Pranas Domsaitis met the young singer, Adelheid Armhold.

- 1935 He was included among artists whose work was denounced as ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis, but continued to paint in Germany.

- 1944 Pranas Domsaitis left Germany to work in Austria; changed his name to Domsaitis.

- 1949  His wife was offered a lectureship at the college of Music, UCT. They settled in South Africa; (he was then 69 years old). He worked actively and exhibited frequently but only won general recognition in the last years of his life;

- 1964 Pranas Domsaitis won the ‘Artists of Fame and Promise’ competition (84 years old). His paintings have been reproduced by E Schweikerdt (Pty) Ltd, Pretoria and AA Balkema (Pty) Ltd, Cape Town. His reputation, which had soared following his death, suffered a temporary setback during the 1970’s when a number of forgeries and posthumously retouched paintings found their way onto the South African art market.


- 1919 First one-man art exhibition, Breslau, Germany, several group-exhibitions in Germany, alongside such notable artists as Max Beckmann, Lovis Corinth, Marc Chagall, Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Oscar Kokschka, Max Liebermann, Jules Pascin, Max Pechstein, Karl Schmidt-Rotluff; also First and Second International Lithuanian Art Exhibitions, New York 1958 and Toronto 1963;

- 1970 Memorial Exhibition, Kunsthalle, Bielefeld, Germany.

- 1949 Pranas Domsaitis' first one-man art exhibition, Cape Town, South Africa.

- 1952 Van Riebeeck Tercent Art Exhibition, Cape Town.

- 1953 South African Art, Rhodes Centenary Exhibition, Bulawayo.

- 1960 Second Quad of South African Art.

- 1962 ‘German Contribution to South African Art’, South African National Gallery, Cape Town.

- 1963 Soa Paulo Bienalle.

- 1964 Third Quad of South African Art.

- 1966 (Posthumous) Republic Fest Exhibition, Pretoria.

- 1967 Prestige Retrospective Exhibition – South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town and Pretoria Art Museum.

Public Art Collections

South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Pretoria Art Museum; Durban Art Gallery; William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley; King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth; Hester Rupert Museum, GR; National Museum, Bloemfontein; University of Wits Art Galleries; UNISA, Pretoria.

Art Collections Abroad

National Gallery, Berlin; Lübeck; Köningsberg; Rhodes National Gallery, Salisbury.   Pranas Domsaitis Pranas Domsaitis Pranas Domsaitis