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Australian art

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The twelve ravens: a Lithuanian fairy tale



Vaclovas Ratas

Australia, Lithuania

25 Feb 1910 - 03 Jan 1973


'The twelve ravens: a Lithuanian fairy tale' is an artist's book illustrating a traditional Lithuanian fairy tale (in English translation) with 9 original woodcuts by Ratas. The book is in the European tradition of fine, limited edition artists’ books, and is of a high quality of production with hand-set letterpress text and individually printed woodblock prints as illustrations.

Vaclovas Ratas was a Lithuanian émigré artist who arrived in Australia in the years immediately following WWII. Ratas was instrumental, with a select group of other artists (including fellow-Lithuanians Eva Kubbos and Henry Salkauskas), in the revival of contemporary printmaking in Sydney in the early 1960s.

Ratas' prints in this book have a deftness of execution and pictorial clarity that reflects his talent, drawing from the folk traditions of his roots, but with a modern sensibility. This was a trait increasingly common with a number of pre-war European printmakers of his generation (such as the German expressionists).

Vaclovas Ratas was born in Lithuania in 1910. He studied graphic art at the National Art School in Kaunas, with additional studies in Germany and Italy. He exhibited his work from the time of his graduation in 1935. From 1937-44 he was Curator of Art at the Ciurlionis National Art Museum in Kaunas, until he moved with his family to Austria. Following the war, he moved to Augsberg, Germany where he established an art school and produced this book and was one of four artists whose work was included in another, 'Forty woodcuts'. He migrated to Perth in 1949 and settled in Sydney in 1954. He was an active member of the Contemporary Art Society and the Sydney Printmakers, and exhibited extensively in subsequent decades. He died in Sydney in 1973. Ratas is best remembered as a printmaker who was unafraid to experiment with materials and methods.




Media categories

Book , Print

Materials used

bound book: 32 leaves, 25 printed pages, 10 woodcuts including dustjacket, with letterpress text in English on cream laid paper


1st edition, 135/560


20.0 x 34.0 cm leaf; 30.7 x 25.0 x 1.3 cm book closed; 30.8 x 50.8 book open

Signature & date

Signed and dated on dedication page [part g, page 13], pen and blue ink ".../ .../ 16[?].2.49 [illeg] V.Ratas/ J.B. Cunovas".
Inscribed l.l. corner [part k, page 21] in block "VR 48".
Inscribed l.r. corner [part m, page 25] in block "VR 1948".
Inscribed l.l. corner [part o, page 29] in block "VR 1947".
Inscribed l.l. corner [part q, page 33] in block "V Ratas 48".
Inscribed l.r. corner [part s, page 37] in block "VR/ 48 [circled]".
Inscribed l.l. corner [part u, page 41] in block "VR 1947".
Inscribed l.r. corner [part w, page 45] in block "Ratas".
Inscribed l.l. corner [part y, page 49] in block "VR 48".
Inscribed u.r. corner [part aa, page 53] in block "48".
Inscribed l.l. on dustjacket image [part gg] in block "VR 1947".


Purchased with funds provided by the Australian Prints, Drawings and Watercolours Benefactors' Fund 2011


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Vaclovas Ratas

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 2 publications


Josef Lebovic Gallery, Australian art, Sydney, 2010. 112

Anne Ryan., Foundation Newsletter #18, 'Australian PDW Report', Sydney, Jun 2011.