(From the book "Lietuvos liaudies menas" (Lithuanian folk art) by Paulius Galaunė, Kaunas, 1930)
Old woodcuts are examples of primitive graphics art. It is noticed, that woodcuts techniques of different times are quite refined. So, it seems doubtless that woodcut reached Lithuania from other countries. Woodcutters took magic paintings and statues from churches as their models. These pieces of art came from German and French churches. Lithuanian woodcuts techniques have German origins.
The first decade of XVIII century can be called the beginning of woodcuts in Lithuania. The oldest woodcut – St. Jorge was made in 1710. The last works are dated 1853. However, some prints of woodcuts were found later also.
The prints of woodcuts in Lithuania were made not for palaces and churches’ decoration. They decorated peasants’ houses and barns. Young girls even used these prints to beautify the inner side of dower-chests. Usually woodcuts were printed on bad quality paper. Also folk artists used bad quality or even home made paint. As a result, smoke, dust, humidity and sun used to damage works very quickly. Therefore, woodcutters were making many copies of the same example or different episodes with the same saint.
The Samogitia was the center of woodcuts printing. The works were cut and printed all around region. The most famous was Zemaiciu Kalvarijos woodcuts school and woodcutters from Darbenai and Kretinga. Monks, who lived in Kretinga, had a great collection of woodcuts (planks). However, in the XIX century they sold them to the Polish people. Today it is known only two full names of woodcutters – Samuelis Stepanovas and Tadas Jurevicius. Also there are known three monograms – E.W., A.J. and P.W. There were more folk artists, sadly, today they are not known.
As models for woodcuts folk artists took paintings and other pieces of art of unknown artists or famous European authors. Magic paintings of saints were especially popular. Everyone wanted to have a print of saint, especially sprinkled with holy water during the feast day dedicated to that saint.
In the beginning of XIX century folk artist quitted cutting and printing woodcuts. Cheaper prints of saints made using lithography technique were brought to the country.