Vytautas O. Virkau

Vytautas has left us; the acorns he has planted remain ever green

Vytautas Osvaldas Virkau, the ex-pat Lithuanian artist and botanist, died in Chicago at the age of 87 years, on the 18th of August 2017.

The Lithuanian community in Chicago, as well as his compatriots in Lithuania knew him as a unique and individualistic painter, with art exhibits across the USA and Europe, and also through his love of botany. During his lifetime, he planted many trees. One of his most prominent projects, begun more than thirty years ago, has been the planting of acorns from Stelmužės ąžuolas. At 1500-200 years old, the Stelmužė oak is the oldest oak tree in Lithuania, and one of the oldest in Europe. Seedlings from this grand oak have now grown into trees in Chicago and the surrounding vicinity, near Lithuanian centers, including the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, and in Lemont and Marquette Park.

Vytautas has on many occasions remarked that, had he remained in Lithuania, he would have become a biologist. However, having found himself far from his birthplace, he chose a different path: art studies.

At the close of World War II, V. Virkau and his parents fled Lithuania and for a while lived in Munich, where he finished high school in 1949. After a few years, the Virkau family emigrated to the USA. Vytautas studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1955 and a Master of Fine Arts in 1956, specializing in painting and graphics.

Vytautas taught art at the YMCA of Metro Chicago from 1954 to 1964, and from 1961 to 1985 was a professor of art at George Williams College. From 1986 through 1995, he was a professor and the chair of the art school at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. He refined his talents at the Lorado Taft Midway Studios during 1966-1969. From 1970 onwards, he was the arts editor and graphic designer for the Lithuanian quarterly journal Metmenys.

Vytautas O. Virkau was a prolific designer of bookplates, creating more than 400 ex-libris. The first of these was created in 1970, on the occasion of a large donation of books from the Lithuanian-American community to the University of Vilnius on the occasion of it's 400 anniversary. He has designed and illustrated more than 50 books. He exhibited in many international ex-libris exhibitions, including the 7th thru 10th International Biennial Exhibition of Modern Ex-Libris in Poland, and the 15th through 17th International Ex-libris Congress. He has mounted solo exhibitions in Chicago, Los Angeles, Trenton, and Ottawa, and in Lithuania, in Pakroujis, Šiauliai, Kaunas, Biržai, Radviliškis and Panevėžys. He has been awarded medals at the 7th, 8th and 10th International Biennial Exhibition, among many other prizes and awards.

In these last years, V. Virkau was no longer painting, but remained very busy. He was translating all of the letters and correspondence of the famous Lithuanian literary scientist and essayist Algirdas Greimas, in preparation for a forthcoming book about Greimas organized by Thomas Broden.

Santara-Šviesa

Links

Vytautas O. Virkau Memorial Archive

Under construction! This page will eventually host an archive of various materials created by Vytautas Osvaldas Virkau. It is being created, haphazardly, right now. More content will be added over time; existing content will be re-organized.

Paintings

Some low-quality fotographs of his paintings are here.

Library

The books in his library.