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N

iko Pirosmani, clad in sober clo-


thes, carried all of Georgian cul-
ture in his eyes and mind, and
spent most of his life in this city of vi-
brant contrasts. His art is the bridge that
connects medieval Georgian painting
with the art of the 20
th
century. The two
poles coexist the monumental silence
and spirituality of frescos on one hand
and brilliant artistic technique on the
other. His style showed that although Pi-
FEEL PIROSMANI
PIROSMANI, ARTIST OF THE GEORGIAN PEOPLE
ART > Ekaterine Kiknadze
At the turn of the 20
th
century, Tbilisi was located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe and characterized equally
by Eastern exuberance and European sophistication. Houses with elaborately carved wooden balconies alternated
with Art Nouveau architecture, while chokhosani, or men from the mountains wearing traditional Caucasian coats,
the chokha, mingled with silver-belted kintos, a social group found in urban areas, made up of local tradesmen, or
other locals who spent their time in taverns and wore their own distinctive attire. These populations mingled in the
streets with ladies and gentlemen adorned with the latest Parisian fashion.
rosmani lived among tavern-keepers and
tradesmen in the Asian part of Tbilisi, he
perceived the world like a European mo-
dernist.
For great people, the spiritual world,
reflection and everyday life are rarely
separated. This is the way it was with
Pirosmani often homeless and alone,
he was also a man of incredible innate
dignity. His pride and reserved man-
ner prompted his acquaintances to call
him "Count". Some say his reserve was
typical of the Eastern region of Kakheti,
and especially in Kiziki, where Pirosmani
was born, an area that that never knew
serfdom. It is perhaps not coincidental
that another monument of 20
th
century
Georgian culture, the writer Vazha Psha-
vela, also came from a region free of
serfdom Pshavi. Both men expressed
exceptional individuality in their artistic
expression and carried a strong combi-
nation of tradition coupled with a sense
of inner freedom.
The circle of those appreciating
Pirosmanis art was just as full of con-
trasts as his painting intellectuals on
one hand and local inn-keepers on the
other. The artist Kirill Zdanevich and his
brother Ilia Zdanevic, along with the
Russian futuristic artist of French origin
Mikhail Le Dantu discovered Pirosma-
ni, painting in a traditional Tbilisi inn
called "Varyag". Le Dantu's first words
about him were "This is todays Giot-
to!" For these artists, Pirosmani's pain-
tings "Queen Tamar", "Deer", "Hunter
with a Rifle", "Erekle II" and "Shepherd"
evoked a close association with mo-
dern European art in that they equally
and forcefully evoked both national
and universal themes. This is a trait of
many great painters.
The interest towards him in Georgia
and beyond was always great. In 1969
an exhibition of Pirosmani's work was
hosted at the Louvre. Since 2007, a col-
lection of 150 of his works from the Ge-
orgian National Museum has been exhi-
bited abroad in France, Turkey, Lithuania,
Ukraine, the Netherlands. In 2012, the
year that marked the 150
th
anniversary of
his birth, UNESCO promoted many com-
memorative events for Pirosmani, inclu-
ding the largest exhibition of the artists
works ever held at the Georgian National
Museums Dimitri Shevardnadze Natio-
nal Gallery. Niko Pirosmani's works are
presently on display in this gallery and in
the Sighnaghi Museum.
Still Life
Roe Deer in the Landskape
Threshing
GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM 63
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