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Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History
Vilniaus Gaono Žydų Istorijos Muziejus


Arbit Blat: a Modernist Shaped by the Theatre


From 16 December 2021 to 20 March 2022 The Samuel Bak Museum is hosting an exhibition of artwork by the Litvak artist Neemiya Arbit Blat (1908, Kaunas–1999, New York) titled Arbit Blat: a Modernist Shaped by the Theatre.

Neemiya Arbit Blat was born in Kaunas on 19 November 1908. The prolific painter, graphic artist, sculptor and scenic designer, who worked in theatres in Vancouver, Venice, Madrid, Lisbon, Strasbourg, Hamburg and Warsaw, would have celebrated his 113th birthday this year. At the age of seventeen, he arrived in Paris, where he studied art with the best representatives of L'École de Paris. In 1939, the artist moved to New York, where he met Regina Resnik, a soloist at the Metropolitan Opera, who became his wife and introduced him to the world of theatre.
The exhibition Arbit Blat: a Modernist Shaped by the Theatrepresents the artist's paintings, sculptures and graphic art. Included, is a real feast for the eyes – an album of lithographs with characters from Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera (based on songs with lyrics by Bertold Brecht) and reprised in the form of bronze sculptures. This exclusive album of lithographs is dedicated to Marcel (Mangel) Marceau, a French mime artist of Jewish origin, (famous for his L'art du Silence performances) and testifies to Arbit Blat's friendship with the famous actor.
Visitors will also see photographs from the artist's life in France, which testify to Blat's close friendships with such great masters as Jacques Lipchitz, Pablo Picasso and Maurice Utrillo. The artist is considered to be the last representative of L'École de Paris, the chronicler of the Paris school, who immortalised the great pioneers of modernist trends in his artwork. Their portraits line up in the lithographic album of 1962, Homage a L'École de Paris. Individual sheets from it will be included in the exhibition.
The artist was awarded the Knight and Officer Crosses, of the Order of the Legion of Honour for achievements in the field of French art, the State of Israel Masada Medal and several other awards. These honourable awards, including several other personal items of the artist and his family, will be on display.
Having combined various modernist trends in his artwork, Neemiya Arbit Blat immersed himself in the magic of the art and theatre world, which became an inexhaustible source of inspiration for him. The artwork presented in the exhibition is part of the art collection of the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History, which is rarely exhibited or indeed, has never been exhibited. The exhibition is enriched by photographs, personal items of the artist, and contextual artwork from the Lithuanian National Museum of Art, the M.K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art and the Lithuanian Theatre, Music and Cinema Museum.
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