Niko Pirosmani

1900 Self-Portrait oil on oilcloth 38 x 49 cm
Following on from the sophisticated and realistic portraits by Russian artist Ivan Kramskoy, I thought it would be good time to show the works of a C19th naïve artist  Georgian artist Niko Pirosmani as a contrast. 

Pirosmani was the subject of a stylish and stylised film by Giorgi Shengelaya, made in 1969, that won the Grand Prix at the Chicago Film Festival in 1972. I loved this film when it came out and saw it at the cinema at least four times. It employed stylised scenes where people were posed straight at the camera, emulating the style of Pirosmani's paintings.

Niko Pirosmani was born in the Georgian village of Mirzaani to a peasant family of farming smallholders. He was later orphaned and left in the care of his two elder sisters. They all moved to the capital Tbilisi in 1870. In 1872 he worked as a servant to wealthy families, and learned to read and write Russian and Georgian. In 1876 he returned to Mirzaani and worked as a herdsman.
He gradually taught himself to paint. One of his specialties was painting directly into black oilcloth. In 1882 he opened a painting workshop with self-taught George Zaziashvili, making signboards. He also worked for shopkeepers in Tbilisi, creating signboards, paintings and portraits as commissions.

In the 1910s he won the critical enthusiasm of the Russian poet Mikhail Le-Dantyu and the artist Kirill Zdanevich and his brother Ilia Zdanevich. Ilia Zhdanevich wrote a letter about Pirosmani to the newspaper Zakavkazskaia Rech, which it published in 1913. He also undertook to publicise Pirosmani's painting in Moscow. The Moscow newspaper Moskovskaia Gazeta wrote about the exhibition Mishenwhere self-taught painters exhibited, among them four works by Pirosmani. Critics writing later in the same newspaper were impressed with his talent. In the same year an article about Pirosmani and his art was published in Georgian newspaper Temi.

The Society of Georgian Painters, founded in 1916 by Dito Shevardnadze, invited Pirosmani to its meetings and began to take him up, but his relations with the society were always uneasy. His continuing poverty, compounded by the economic problems caused by the First World War, meant that his life ended with his work effectively unrecognised. In April 1918 he died of malnutrition and liver failure. 

Georgian banknote featuring Niko Pirosmani
Interest in Pirosmani increased in 1950's after many books were published in Georgia, Russia and other countries. Biographical film and plays were created, musical compositions were composed. His paintings were exhibited in distant countries, like the Soviet Union and Western Europe. A monument to Pirosmani was installed in Tbilisi, and a museum was opened in Mirzaani. Today, the majority of his works are shown in the Art Museum of Georgia.

c1905 Giraffe oil on oilcloth 139 x 111 cm

1905 Ortachali Beauty oil on oilcloth 52 x 117 cm

c1905 Woman with a Mug of Beer oil on oilcloth

c1905 Gate Keeper oil on oilcloth 101 x 47 cm

1906 Feast with Barrel Organist Datico oil on oilcloth 106 x 198 cm

1906 A Georgian Woman with Tambourine oil on oilcloth

1906 Portrait of Alexander Garanov oil on oilcloth 109 x 90 cm

1906 Fisherman among Rocks oil on oilcloth 53 x 126 cm

1906 The Feast of Five Princes oil on oilcloth

1907 Rant oil on oilcloth 113 x 177 cm

1907 Family Feast oil on oilcloth 116 x 171 cm

1908 Fisherman in a Red Shirt oil on oilcloth 113 x 93 cm

1909 Actress Margarita oil on oilcloth 117 x 94 cm

1913 Portrait of Ilya Zdanevich oil on oilcloth

1917 She-Bear with Two Cubs

I do not have dates for the remainder of these works:

A Boy Carrying Food oil on oilcloth 82 x 48 cm

A Large Wine Jug in the Forest oil on oilcloth

A Peasant Woman with her Son oil on oilcloth 75 x 56 cm

Cold Beer (sign) oil on oilcloth

Childless Millionaire and the Poor with Children oil on oilcloth 114 x 156 cm

Cold Beer (sign) oil on oilcloth

Company Bego 66 x 102 cm

Cook oil on oilcloth 106 x 46cm

Company Bego

Feast at Gvimradze oil on oilcloth 123 x 210 cm

Father and Son

Easter Lamb oil on oilcloth

Feast in the Grape Arbor oil on oilcloth 140 x 114 cm

Feast of Four Residents

Firewood Seller oil on oilcloth

Girl with a Ball oil on cardboard 75 x 55 cm

Girl with a Balloon oil on oilcloth

Fruit Stall oil on oilcloth

Healer on a Donkey oil on oilcloth 89 x 100 cm

Little Kinko oil on oilcloth

Lamb and Easter Table with Flying Angels oil on oilcloth
Prince with a Horn of Wine oil on oilcloth

Ram oil on oilcloth 49 x 80 cm

Peasant Woman with Children Going for Water

Roe with a landscape in the background

Roe Deer by a Creek oil on oilcloth

Sow with Piglets oil on cardboard

Sister of Mercy

St. George Anchorite

Still Life oil on oilcloth

Tatar - Camel Driver oil on oilcloth

The Sister and Brother oil 120 x 102 cm

The Son of a Rich Kintos oil on oilcloth 106 x 46 cm

Threshing Yard, Evening oil on oilcloth

White Cow on a Black Background oil on oilcloth 80 x 100 cm

Wine Makers

Woman with Flowers oil on oilcloth 111 x 52 cm

Woman Carrying Eggs oil on cardboard