Pirosmani

Niko Pirosmanashvili (or Pirosmani) is a symbol of Georgian culture (along with Shota Rustaveli, who is a master of words). He became the heritage of the world’s painting, depicting life scenes and landscapes of his native land.

In addition, he is considered to be one of the founders of primitivism, which appeared at the turn of century before last and the last century. It even seems immortal. Why do I think that this genre will never die? Because it is the most sincere genre, where any artist can show his childishness, spontaneity and honesty. Ironically, in order to work in the genre of primitivism, it is not necessary to be able to paint professionally. But paintings in the genre of primitivism are made by brush of professionals who have passed a long drill of academic drawing. Why is it so? Probably the same reason is that often the big boss and the other stars in the middle of life begin to wear linen clothes and go anywhere to Goa or Sri Lanka to sleep on a mat and eat bread and drink water. It is the law of the pendulum, which sooner or later must swing to the opposite direction. However, Pirosmani was an exception.


Niko had lived a very hard life, during of which he was poor and lonely and could not find any understanding among colleagues or among the audience. But let’s begin the story from the beginning.

He was born in 1862 in the village of Mizraani in a peasant family. He had three older brothers. He became an orphan when he was 2 (his father and elder brother died, than his mother died later). The employer of his father took him to live in the house, where he spent about 15 years. Then he mastered the printing trade, worked as a shepherd, sold milk and drove to sell pure water from the sources of Georgia and Northern Caucasus. However, all this time he was dreaming about painting studies. For his dairy shop he even painted the paintings «White Cow» and «Black Cow», which were used as signs.

He was studied by wandering artists. He caught every their word and tried to be involved in the so-called ability to draw, but unfortunately, he didn’t get understanding and respect among professionals. He could only dream about studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, because he led a beggarly life and could not afford it. But on the other hand, he tried to earn money by himself. For example, in 1880 Niko with Gigo Zaziashvili (his self-taught colleague) tried to open a shop of decorative painting in Tiflis, where he moved after his failed trading experiments. According to legend, this shop got only one order, which had not been paid.

From 1895 to 1912 Niko actively engaged in painting. Sometimes he even got orders to paint different signs. Put this money was not enough to pay for materials, food and shelter. And then in Georgia prohibition appeared, so the main source of income of Pirosmani (signs for liquor stores and small restaurants) failed.

According to rumours, Pirosmani’s reputation was so-so. He was known as a man not of this world, crazy, nervous, which was difficult to deal with.
Niko felt craving for drawing constantly, even when he had no money at all. He painted using whatever came to hand: sometimes even on the oilcloth, which was pulled off the table in a tavern. Later such paintings created big problems for restorers, because the integrity of such works is a big question.

Of course, the artistic merits of paintings were evaluated many years later since his death, which happened in a poverty and obscurity. Last 6 years of his life (from 1912 to 1918) the artist slept exclusively in Tiflis cold basements. He spent a few days on the street Molokan of Tiflis, in the basement of house number 29 in early May. He was very ill. Someone found him, drove to the hospital, where after a day and a half the artist died (May 5, 1928). We do not know even the location of his grave.

But there were relatively light moments in the life of Pirosmani. However, these moments could have been called lucky only at a stretch. For example, in 1916 in Tiflis in a studio of the artist Cyril Zdanevich the personal exhibition of works by Pirosmani was held. This exhibition even had a success – Pirosmani was admitted to the Society of Georgian artists and his paintings began to use the relative demand. However, it had no effect on his financial position.

By the way, the story of his love for the actress Margarita was not documented. However, it is not surprising, because Pirosmani during his life was unnoticeable and no one was interested in his biography and personal life.

But, after the death of artist his works were brought to the Tretyakov Gallery and the Museum of the East, as well as to the State Art Museum of Georgia in Tbilisi. In the 80s of last century house-museum of the artist was founded in Mizraani.


Who is Pirosmani for me? He is an author of beautiful paintings in the album of my parents. When I was 6, I liked to have a good look at them. It is an embodiment of the spirit of Georgia, its air of purity, divine landscapes, beautiful and kind people. Pirosmani was like pure Borjomi water, unspoiled by glory and fame. Genius, who was worth recognition and finally he got it. Even if it was late.

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