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Sketches

Jan Rustem worked as a drawing tutor for quite a long time and sketches have an especially important place in his creative work. The artist created a huge number of sketches recording scenes of daily life, and elaborated studies and portraits of townspeople, gentry and peasants. Drawing for J. Rustem provided not only a creative laboratory and preparation for “major” work, but a separate creative area where he developed his “small works of art”, as they were called by Kazimierz Bachmatowicz. He recreated some of his tutor’s sketches in the cycle of lithographs “Souvenir pittoresque des petits ouvrages de J. Rustem”.

The influence of J. Rustem’s first tutor, Jean-Pierre Norblin de La Gourdaine, can be felt in the free and impulsive strokes of his sketches. The subject of the sketches is another link between J. Rustem and J-P. Norblin de La Gourdaine, with an attention to the realities of life, domestic scenes and a predilection for Rembrandt-like artificial lighting.

J. Rustem mastered different drawing techniques using pencils, chalk, pens, paintbrushes, ink, sepia, bister and other methods. For his drawings, he chose subjects and motifs from different areas of life and depicted the domestic life of landlords, townspeople and peasants, displaying representatives from different social strata and professions during their activities, at work or rest. He attempted to immortalise the behaviour and typical dress of different nationalities and societal groups. In particular, J. Rustem often sketched Jewish people whose appearances and manners attracted attention in the streets of Vilnius. In many sketches, the artist immortalised particular events that were renowned in Vilnius at the time or episodes of daily life, easily recognisable because of the particular figures from Vilnius streets that were always abundant there. The expression and specific nature of some sketches is close to innocent grotesque. The perspective from which he sees is delightful and a little humorous, and he also treats himself with humour: a bright spot on a Turkish fez or a sharp profile known from the artist’s self-portraits appears in the colourful representation of Vilnius life at the time.