19-20 May, 2023

Lithuanian Culture Research Institute 


 International conference 


19-20 May, 2023
Vilnius, Lithuania 

Lithuanian Culture Research Institute celebrates the 120th anniversary of the birth of Jurgis Baltrušaitis (1903-1988) with international conference dedicated to his work. The main goal is to bring together international scholars and enable a broad dialogue about the legacy of the distinguished art historian, who focused on the faculties of imagination embodying the fantastic and the aberrant.

Our aim is to reflect on Baltrušaitis' intellectual background related to a complex historical period. The conference brings attention to the main lines of his scholarly work of remarkable originality. Of special significance is Baltrušaitis’ contribution to the history of medieval art. He traced the evolution of the Romanesque style and its ornamental teratology, and became known for his studies of the fantastic in the Middle Ages. Another important field of his investigations was dedicated to the distorted perspectives that produced visionary worlds, which includes pioneering studies of anamorphoses and aberrations that link the history of art to the history of ideas.

Baltrušaitis contributed to the interpretation of images across multiple fields and different civilisations, and accentuated the ability of imagination to produce the irreality, in which “the truths of metaphysics” uphold. At the conference, we encourage to discuss his investigative attitudes and relevance of his ideas for contemporary academic discourse that deals with visual culture.

Fluidity is one of the conceptual links between Baltrušaitis' writings and our current times. His work seems to suggests, following Nietzsche, that forms and their meanings are fluid, flowing across cultural boundaries, in between margin and centre, and that there is a certain fluidity of imagery moving across times, in between rational and fabulous, art and science and other disciplinary localities.

We are looking for papers with a critical perspective that address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • The various strands of Baltrušaitis’ background: from symbolism to surrealism
  • The morphology of medieval art and the “life of forms”
  • Comparative research and scientific journeys to Armenia and Georgia
  • Lithuanian folk art studies and curated art exhibitions
  • The fantastic in the Middle Ages: survival and revival of images, transmission and cultural exchange
  • The aesthetics of disorder and philosophy of the image
  • Distorted perspectives: anamorphoses and aberrations
  • The morphology of legends and creative imagination
  • Art history in dialogue with other disciplines: in between art and science
  • Methodological tools and approaches to visual culture
  • The Baltrušaitis’ network: intellectual exchange and impact on academic discourse
  • Inspirations in art

The conference languages are English and French.

Proposals are welcome from various disciplines, such as: art history, cultural studies, philosophy, anthropology, visual culture, and the humanities of different academic approaches, as well as from artists interested in Baltrušaitis’ work. 

Proposal submissions: Please send submissions, including title, abstract (300 words) and a short biography (200 words) to email addresses specified below.


Deadline: February 15, 2023.

Notifications of acceptance to authors will be sent via email.

The chair:  assoc. prof. dr. Odeta Žukauskienė (LCRI)

Organizing committee: Dalia Aleksandravičiūtė (LCRI), assoc. prof. dr. Elitza Dulguerova (Pantheon-Sorbonne University), assoc. prof. dr. Žilvinė Gaižutytė-Filipavičienė (LCRI), dr. Kristina Mitalaitė (LCRI, CNRS)

Invited speakers: Raphaël Borries (Mucem, Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean), prof. dr. Jean-François Chevrier (National School of Fine Arts in Paris), assoc. prof. Lydie Delahaye (Panthéon-Sorbonne University), prof. dr. Patrick Donabédian (Aix-Marseille University), prof. dr. Annamaria Ducci (Academy of Fine Arts of Carrara), prof. dr. Maddalena Mazzocut Mis (University of Milan), prof. dr. Raffaele Milani (University of Bologna), prof. dr. Loanna Rapti (Practical School for Advanced Studies in Paris), assoc. prof. Riccardo Venturi (Panthéon-Sorbonne University)

Jurgis Baltrušaitis (1903-1988) was an exiled Lithuanian art historian who wrote most of his body of work in French. Graduate of Sorbonne, he was a member of the school associated with Henri Focillon. In the interwar period he taught art history at the Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas and received invitations to lecture at many universities, including Yale, Harvard, Cologne, and Amsterdam. He published over 10 books on the history of medieval art, including Études sur l’art médiéval en Géorgie et en Arménie (E. Leroux, 1929), La stylistique ornementale dans la sculpture romane (E. Leroux 1931), Art sumérien, art roman (E. Leroux, 1934), Le problème de l’ogive en Arménie (E. Leroux, 1936), Cosmographie chrétienne dans l’art du Moyen Âge (La Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1939), Le Moyen âge fantastique: antiquités et exotismes dans l’art gothique (Armand Colin, 1955), and Réveils et Prodiges. Le gothique fantastique (Flammarion, 1960). Baltrušaitis contributed to organizing the exhibition “Baltic Folk Art” (1935) in Paris, and, decade later, published Lithuanian Folk Art (Aufbau, 1948). After emigrating from Lithuania in 1939, the art historian became involved in diplomatic activity. Further, from the 1950s to the 1970s, he published an original book series on “distorted perspectives”: Anamorphoses ou perspectives curieuses (1955), Aberrations: Quatre essais sur la légende des formes (1957), La Quête d’Isis: Essai sur la legende d'un mythe (1967), Le Miroir: révélations, science-fiction et fallacies. Essai sur une légende scientifique (1978). Baltrušaitis focused on the reverses of art history, shedding new light on imaginative reveries, enfolding illusions and realities. Lavishly illustrated, his books cover various fields of art, philosophy, and science.

Hosted by the Department of Comparative cultural Studies at the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute (LCRI), this conference is being planned as a live, on-site event at the LCRI in Vilnius with options for speakers to present papers digitally.

Selected conference papers will be published in an edited volume.

Venue: Lithuanian Culture Research Institute, Saltoniškių str. 58, Vilnius