Mariz Cassar, the daughter of artist duo Lewis Wirth (1923-2010) and Helen Cavarra, is organising a retrospective exhibition in celebration of her parents’ art.

Both artists contributed to the cult of beauty, to a classical ideal through romanticism with a great attraction to realism and naturalism. The husband and wife artist couple escaped from their urban environment and from the monotony of everyday living into the countryside to be one with nature.

They loved the tranquillity, serenity and peace open countryside provided and they reflected about such beauty and expressed it in painting. The harmony between the duo, as they worked in tandem, was enhanced by the harmony in nature; a sunset, a sunrise, a reflection in water, clouds passing by and fine weather (never a storm).

Their sole desire was to create a utopic vision of life, create a Garden of Eden, where beauty, peace and quiet stood still. Their common interest and love was flowering plants. Both loved botany and sketched and painted flowering shrubs to their great contentment. Wirth loved sketching and drawing trees as some of his pencil drawings portray.

These drawings of flowers express a velvety delicacy, a gentle touch, a meticulous, clean and formal approach capturing the essence of the plant’s physical resemblance without resorting to a textbook sketch or illustration.

Wirth was an incurable romantic. He was a patient, studious artist whose work is the result of meditation. He was inspired by a sweet melancholy, a mood explicitly captured in a felt female portrait, an image used for the exhibition poster. His calm and contained nature sublimated his expressive vision, yet he was expressive, emotive and welling with feeling.

The harmony between the duo, as they worked in tandem, was enhanced by the harmony in nature

The best interlocutor for Wirth is his grandson Robert. For Robert, his grandfather was his mentor and friend. He speaks warmly of him and mentions above all his humanity, his greatness and goodness, his caring and gentle nature, his disposition to teach and help others, his precision and experimental qualities in art, his creative talent and serene disposition. And as his grandson puts it: “Art was his life.”

Wirth loved archaeology with passion. He enthusiastically painted classical architectural features, sculpted stones and ruins captured from plein air sketches of Leptis Magna and Sabratha. His sketches, drawings and paintings of his stay in Tripoli narrate a colourful period in his life while his love for Rabat (Malta), resurfaces during his years at the residence for the elderly there, in his recollections with his daughter Mariz. Possibly, his family were evacuated to Rabat during the war.

The team work between Wirth and Cavarra produced a rich and varied heritage of sketches, pencil and charcoal drawings, watercolour and oil paint-ing together with collages, sketches for stamps and prints. It is a partnership of love as they collaborated fully in the vision they lived for: art. Both the exhibition and the publication will surely give due homage to a deserving couple and redress initial inertia.

The exhibition opens on Thursday and runs until August 14 at the Auberge d’Italie, Valletta. A commemorative publication written by Joseph Paul Cassar will also be released during the exhibition.

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