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A Legend in "Naïve" Art

02 August - 07 October 2007

Since its establishment, Pera Museum has hosted works by several outstanding artists representing different genres. In 2007, the museum opened its doors to one of the most intriguing creative artists in the world, the Georgian peasant painter Pirosmani. This exhibition of Pirosmani’s naïve paintings took us on a journey through joyous feasts of colour, scent, and forms, through the blossoming meadows, villages, and animals of a neighbouring country.

Recognized only by his immediate circle while he was still alive, Pirosmani gained acknowledgment in the 1920s and 30s, particularly in the Western art circles, in which primitive and naïve artists were starting to be appreciated. Since then, his paintings continue to fascinate art connoisseurs in the world with their unprecedented sincerity and charm.

Niko Pirosmani (1862-1918) was born to a peasant family in one of the regions of Georgia - Kakheti, in the village of Mirzaani. During his life, most of which he spent in Tbilisi, he never received any professional education. In 1882, he opened a studio with another painter, Gigo Zaziashvili, accepting commissions for signboards. However, the partners soon went bankrupt. For mere subsistence, he occasionally worked in Tbilisi “dukhans” (tavern), or at the rail station, dying in poverty in Tbilisi, in 1918.

Art was the goal of his whole being, his life’s vocation. Towards the end of the 1890s, he devoted himself exclusively to painting. Pirosmani’s life was hard and tragic. The artist was homeless and lonely. Whenever he could afford it, he would rent a small room in the basement or under a staircase. Often, he would spend the night where he worked.

Pirosmani passed away in loneliness and obscurity in 1918. Even the location of his grave remains unknown. As it usually is the case, after his death, the artist’s works were collected and bought, references about his life were sought, and publications started to flood the newspapers. Pirosmani’s name and his works were famed and appreciated worldwide.

Pirosmani’s paintings speak for the great mastery of the artist. Most of them are performed on black oilcloth, which was his technological expertise. It is known that Pirosmani created quickly; it only took him several hours or days to paint. He worked rapidly and spontaneously. A certain clue to unveiling Pirosmani’s artistic conception is the inscriptions and names on the paintings, the meaningful connotation of which defines the artistic order of the painting. In each specific case, the common compositional structure, time, space interpretation, rhythm, manner of conveying the form and colour expression directly respond to the defining role of the artistic image.

Pirosmani, as an artist, was first discovered in 1912 by Ilya Zdanevich (Ilyazd), a poet and an active representative of Georgian, Russian and European avant-garde, along with his brother artist Kiril Zdanevich, and the artist Michael Le Dantiu. At the avant-garde exhibition “Mishen” (Target) held in Moscow, in 1913, Ilya Zdanevich presented Pirosmani’s works to the public for the first time and began promoting the artist through different publications thereafter. He also arranged an exhibition for Pirosmani in his art studio in 1916. Interest towards Pirosmani grew considerably. The same year, he was invited to the meeting of “Georgian Artists’ Society.” The artist’s photograph and a reproduction of his painting were published in the newspaper “Tsnobis Purtseli” (“Messenger”). Pirosmani was starting to be recognized by Georgian artists and the public.

Today, Pirosmani is known across the world and his art has long reached beyond the borders of his native country.




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Pirosmani A Legend in "Naïve" Art

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