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Today, stained glass is one of the most developed types of architectural art in Lithuania, although the oldest historical stained glass windows still found in situ were created in the 19th century, in foreign workshops. One of the biggest historical stained glass ensembles is located in the Church of St. Johns in Vilnius: two stained glass windows of the Chapel of the Body of God (Oginskiai) were made in the Gsell-Laurent workshop in Paris in 1861, according to the projects of J. K. Vilčinskis, and seven Presbyterian stained glass windows were made in E. Todesas workshop in Riga in 1898. The stained glass called “The Crucified with Angels” created in the Geyling stained glass workshop in Vienna in 1881, came to Lithuania from St. Petersburg together with 4 stained glass windows of the Evangelists, which were acquired by the Church of Holy Sacrament in 1934. Stained glass windows placed in Rokiškis St. Apostle Evangelist Matthew Church were created in the same Geyling workshops in 1884. The first stained glass workshop in Lithuania, Kaunas, was founded by Wladislaw Przybytniowski in 1905, before its closure in 1914, stained glass pieces were created in there for the St. John Baptist Church in Lapės, Vabalninkas the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, Viduklė St. Cross Church and other churches, as well as heraldic stained glass for Kaunas City Museum based on the projects of Tadas Daugirdas.

The beginning of the Lithuanian stained glass school is associated with Stasys Ušinskas (1905 – 1974). After studying stained glass in Paris, having brought stained glass, pigments and tools from there, he established stained glass workshops in Kaunas, taught stained glass at Kaunas School of Art, and in the post-war period at the State Art Institute of Lithuania. He created heraldic ornamental stained glass in 1931 in the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Kaunas (Vytautas the Great Church), the first figurative action stained glass windows in the public building “Lietuvaitė” and “Statybininkas” at the Kaunas Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Crafts in 1937-1938. He also created church stained glass ensembles: for the Church of Lithuanian Martyrs in Berčiūnai (1939 – 1944), the Kaunas Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (1945 – 1947) and in the small Church of the Resurrection of Christ in Kaunas (1945 – 1947). The works of the artist of this period could be characterized by a clear composition structure, monumentally stylized figures, calm pulsation of lines and masses, national colors, lyrical interpretation of the theme – this is defined as “stylish realism”. In the post-war years he created story compositions “Žalgirio mūšis” (1946), and “Kristijonas Donelaitis” (1964). S. Ušinskas experimented in the field of glass technologies: he developed the technology of low-temperature stained glass paints, he was the first in Lithuania to experiment in the field of multilayer glass fusion and ingot glass. These searches can be noticed in the stained glass pieces of constructive composition “Studentai praktikoje” (1964), “Eglė žalčių karalienė” (1968) – the latter is now exhibited at the Kretinga Culture Center.

Students of S. Ušinskas, Algimantas Stoškus (1925 – 1998) and Kazimieras Morkūnas (1925 – 2014), improved the technology of ingot glass, most Lithuanian stained glass artists used this technique in the 1960s and 1980s: Antanas Garbauskas (1932 – 2008) created an ingot glass composition in the lobby of the National Library in Vilnius (1963), and A. Stoškus created the biggest ingot glass pieces in Lithuania in the hall of Klaipėda Wood Factory Culture House (1974 – 1975), K. Morkūnas – dramatic composition in Kaunas Ninth Fort (1982). Eventually, A. Stoškus began to create spatial sculptural compositions of cast glass: “Skrydis” at the Institute of Urban Construction and Design in Kaunas (1975), “Šventinė siuita” in Vilnius (1974 – 1981), “Gyvybės pulsas” in Juknaičiai (1984 – 1985). The unique cast glass plastic was perfected by Irena Lipienė (1939 – 2016). K. Morkūnas returned to the classic thin glass stained glass; created a dynamic composition of flying figures “Šventė” in the Palace of the Supreme Council of Lithuania in 1981 and batal drama in “Saulė” cinema of Šiauliai in 1987.

The ideological peculiarities of the Soviet era led to the monumental arts becoming in demand in public architecture. From the church, which had previously been the main client of monumental arts, to the Soviet government, which was trying to take over the role of gathering the community, becoming the main client of artists after realizing the importance of ideologized art in public space. Stained glass, characterized by a generalized, posterly schematic and clearly readable composition, expressive stylization, monumental scale, was extremely popular in the public buildings of that time, blended harmoniously into the ensembles of modern architecture. Then public buildings: the palace of culture and marriage, cultural halls, libraries, leisure, recreation, catering and ritual services companies, as well as government, education and treatment facilities – became the main customers, while Art factories established in major cities (in Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda) distributed orders and funding and supervised implementation of works. A stained glass workshop was established at the Vilnius Art Factory in 1966, and stained glass artist Konstantinas Šatūnas took care of its installation. A colored glass for ingot stained glass was cast in Vilnius “Raudonoji aušra” glass factory in 1969, later a thin stained glass production workshop was established. The state’s approach to the importance of monumental art led to the fact that there was no shortage of orders in public buildings, and funding was guaranteed by 2 percent deducted from the budget estimate for the construction enshrined in law of a public building for the acquisition of works of art. The model of centralized planned economy also worked in the field of art, the ideological side of which was supervised by the Arts Councils. They were created to ensure that all works conformed to the canons of Soviet ideology and “remove” ideologically inappropriate works, but the majority of council members were professional artists and architects, who preferred the artistic and professional level of works, therefore, often the verdict of the Art Councils’ was the guarantee of the quality of the art piece. No Art Council or ideological dictation stopped K. Šatūnas, who created exclusively abstract stained glass windows in public architecture, did not notice Algirdas Dovydėnas (1944 – 2015) who created abstract variations of the National tricolor colors in the stained glass of the Puppet Theater (1975) and agreed with quotes from the history of romanticized culture in the compositions of stained glass of Bronius Bružas. Many of the artists of that time, who compromised with Soviet ideology and from time to time created one or two pieces for them, eventually created works detached from ideology in pursuit of an exclusively professional artistic quality.

In addition, the stained glass artists worked closely with the architects. Often, when designing a building, architects anticipated the location of a monumental work of art, invited artists for a consultation to discuss the location of the work, its scale, its review possibilities, lighting and other conditions. Stained glass was perceived as an integral part of the building, a tectonic element that actively forms the whole of the interior.

During this period, K. Šatūnas was the first to compose abstract stained glass pieces, about a hundred of which he created in the 1960s and 1980s: in the Juknaičiai Culture House (1972), “Auska” rest house in Palanga (1986 – 1988) and Palanga Stasys Vainiūnas Art School (1986). He created a glass ensemble at the Vilnius Wedding Palace: colorful stained glass windows of classical technology and an impressive three-dimensional composition of blown crystal (1974). Other stained glass artists soon also began to create abstract stained glass: A. Dovydėnas, Bronius Bružas, and others.

Classic thinner stained glass with plot, lyrical, romantic, multi-figure compositions with contemporary plots, quotes from cultural history, and meticulously painted figures, landscape and architectural details prevailed in the 1970s and 1980s. Ignas Meidus, Eglė Valiūtė, Gintautė Laimutė Baginskienė, Julija Vaičienė, Vytautas Švarlys, Henrikas Kulšys (1944 – 1991) and many others – this generation of stained glass artists formed the Lithuanian stained glass landscape.

After the collapse of the Soviet regime and the restoration of the independence of Lithuania, there was no ideological dictation left in the arts, artists turned to eternal values, and significant works were created that reflected the nation’s identity and history. One of the first monuments created in the memory of the restored country was the Rainiai Suffering Chapel, built according to the original idea of the architect Jonas Virakas (author of the restoration, architect Algirdas Žebrauskas), in which the frescoes of Antanas Kmieliauskas, the Crucified of Regimantas Midvikis and stained glass of Algirdas Dovydėnas merged into a single cycle. These four authors were awarded the Lithuanian National Culture and Art Prize for the creation of the Rainiai Memorial in 1994; by the way, A. Dovydėnas is so far the only stained glass artist who has been awarded this highest state award.

After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence, the church became the main customer of stained glass in the public space. Large stained glass cycles in the house of prayer were created by K. Morkūnas: in the Vilkaviškis Cathedral (1996 – 1999), stained glass stations of the Way of the Cross in the Utena Church of God’s Providence (2008), spatial stained glass of Christ in the St. Casimir Church of Klaipeda, which was finished by E. Valiūtė (2016) after the death of the artist. A. Dovydėnas created stained glass windows in the Church of St. Nicholas – a cycle of classical stained glass with portrait and heraldic medallions (2002 – 2003), stained glass in Domeikava Lithuanian Martyrs’ Church (1999 – 2004). B. Bružas created the largest cycles of classical stained glass in recent times: in Vilnius Bernardine Church (2011 – 2019), Kaunas St. George the Martyr Church (2009 – 2020). Many stained glass windows were created in the churches by Vytautas Švarlys, Ignas Meidus, Nijolė Vilutytė, Rimvydas Mulevičius. However, the generation of stained glass artists who grew up at the turn of the century also took up church work – Eimutis Markūnas, Andrius Giedrimas, Artūras and Daina Rimkevičiai, Jurgita Uzdilaitė, Olegas Katenskij, Rūta Lipaitė, Nerijus Baublys, Ieva Paltanavičiūtė and others created stained glass in the sacral space. Stained glass was also accepted not only by Catholic but also by other denominational churches: Rasa Grybaitė – one of the most productive stained glass artists of the middle generation, virtuously mastering grisaille painting techniques, created stained glass windows in the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Šakiai (1999 – 2002), Vilkyškiai (2011 – 2020), impressive volumetric stained glass composition of the Crucified in Jurbarkas Church (2010). The stained glass of Vytautas Janulionis stands out by innovative technology in the windows of the New Apostolic Church (2000). The Orthodox Church also adapted stained glass in the house of prayer: Dalia Mulevičienė created a cycle of canonical figure stained glass (2013 – 2016) in Visaginas St. Martyr Panteleimono Church. Back in 1990 in Kaunas Mosque Ričardas Peleckas composed decorative ornamental stained glass windows, which in 2020 were restored and complemented by Artūras Rimkevičius.

However, stained glass was also ordered in public spaces: at the turn of the 20th-21st century, stained glass was created in respectable banking spaces, restaurants and cafes, spa centers, as well as educational institutions and libraries. E. Markūnas created stained glass windows with the portrait of Ignatius Loyola at Kaunas Jesuit Gymnasium (1999), E. Utarienė created stained glass windows with the university sign in VGTU main building (1997), stained glass cycle “Pažinimo medis” in the library of the same university (2002), as well as stained glass windows in VU old building (1998 – 1999). Gediminas Lasinskas together with glass master Zenonas Vaičekonis in 2006 created a stained glass window of innovative technology in Klaipėda County Public I. Simonaitytė Library.

In modern architecture, stained glass artists are looking for new stained glass language and opportunities for contact with the new steel and glass architecture, which encourages the expansion of the range of technological possibilities. Large format glass sheets are painted, matted, acid etched, engraved, glued in several layers with stained glass paint, especially the technology of fusing multicolored glass into a single composition has been improving, hot glass technologies: molding, viscosity and others moved into architectural scales. The technology of fused glass was especially used by stained glass artist Simonas Gutauskas, Eimutis Markūnas and Artūras Macevičius were famous for their experimental compositions. A. Dovydėnas used the possibilities of glass sticking technique when creating the Cross Road station in Nida St. Church of the Intercession of the Virgin Mary (2008). Recently, the concept of stained glass has been supplemented by a new concept of architectural art glass.

The development of stained glass in Lithuania – a continuous and uninterrupted process. New generations of stained glass artists are being educated at the Vilnius Academy of Arts. Stained glass professionals implement orders in private interiors, compose large stained glass ensembles in houses of prayer, and create pieces in public spaces. Artists are constantly experimenting with small, chamber-format works, developing technologies, looking for a new composition expression and plastic language in stained glass. “Vitražo manufaktūra” in Vilnius – an excellent place where tradition and innovations, experienced professionals and young artists meet, where contemporary stained glass exhibitions take place next to the museum’s exposition of chrestomathy works by Lithuanian stained glass artists. This only proves that the Lithuanian stained glass school is vibrant, continues the tradition and is looking for new ways.


Žydrūnas Mirinavičius