LAZAR (LEON) KAGAN

We are excited to present an exhibition of a Lithuanian interwar caricaturist, Lazar (Leon) Kagan . Little is known about the artist’s life: even today his exact birthplace and fate after 1940 remain a mystery . It is known that in 1929 Kagan attended the art school of Kaunas. The same school was attended by such famous artists as Zale Beker, Yakov Lipchitz, Cerne Persikovichiute, Estera Lurje and others.
Kagan attended the art school for about one year. He then quit and started drawing grotesques. The talented young man drew humorous grotesques and caricatures of interwar artists, politicians and public figures. In the beginning of 1932 Kagan’s caricatures appeared in the press for the first time. In the same year the newspaper “Suvalkietis” mentioned Kagan as a famous caricaturist from Kaunas whose travelling exhibitions were successfully presented in Palanga, Panevėžys and Šiauliai. The artist held exhibitions not only in Lithuanian but also in Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, and Dutch. He also participated in various caricature competitions in Lithuania and abroad.
The artist's works were mostly published in Lithuanian interwar periodicals, such as “Lietuvos aidas”, “Sekmadienis”, “Naujoji Romuva”, “Studentų balsas”, “Meno dienos”, “Diena”, etc. Kagan usually signed his works as L.K-as, L.K-sa, or K-so.
The press of the time had different opinions on Kagan’s creative work. After the presentation of his exhibition at the Lithuanian Independent Artists Association salon the newspaper “Naujoji Romuva” (1933, Nr. 105) said that the exhibition had aroused interest, yet it emphasized that “Kagan had regressed toward a journalist-reporter profession and lost his own proper style”. The author of the article also chastised the artist for not finishing any kind of art school. In the same year the newspaper “Vairas” (1933, Nr. 1) called Kagan “a young autodidact who will flower and find plentiful and versatile means of expression”. The newspaper “Lietuvos aidas” (1932 July 27th, Nr. 168) mentioned Kagan as a famous caricaturist. The author of the article pointed up that although the artist was young and had only worked in the area for two years, he succeeded to prove himself a talented caricaturist and gain the viewer’s affection. In other words, Kagan did not lack attention from the contemporary press, which proves that he was one of the most intriguing caricaturists of the Lithuanian interwar.
Kagan managed to capture the most essential traits of people with just several strokes. In his caricatures and grotesques various public figures are portrayed sharply and with great humour. At the same time not for a split second did Kagan lose respect for those he portrayed, which clearly shows in his works.