A generation of Romantic artists was formed at the Department of Sketching and Painting headed by Jan Rustem. Students gained a belief in the educational power of art and an understanding of the artist’s mission in society from their teacher. After the 1831 insurrection, in which some of J. Rustem’s students participated, art became a form of resistance to the Tsarist regime and a way to support the national consciousness. The young generation of artists and litterateurs cherished national culture and paid attention to all that was typical of their native land. In their creative work, they recreated landscapes, old castles, national customs and rituals, scenes of nobility life, episodes of ancient history, members of the nobility from the past and famous people who lived at the time. An exotic motif they inherited from their teacher was scenes from the life of Jews, an inherent part of the country’s history that was attractive because of its otherness and mystery. The humorous and grotesque style in J. Rustem’s domestic scenes was replaced by a solemn and poetical interpretation.

Apart from their purely creative tasks, Vilnius University alumni promoted the art of local artists. When the university closed, the artists attempted to at least partially compensate for the lack of an art school by establishing private studios.

Of course, only some of the numerous students of J. Rustem (there were more than 500, according to university documents) became prominent artists (“national heralds”). They included W. Smokowski, K. Rusiecki, W. Wankowicz, M. Kulesza, W. Dmochowski, K. Rypinski and others. Most students with no bigger creative ambitions started their work in schools and gymnasiums of the Vilnius educational district. They worked as drawing tutors and became portraitists and artists who painted scenes of nobility life or made theatre decorations at a high level. Students of other departments who attended J. Rustem’s workshop and learned drawing for their own pleasure became part of the growing group of amateur artists.