Pirosmani (Pirosmanashvili)

Georgia • 1862−1918
“So, I couldn’t bargain with your mercantile world!”, Says Niko Pirosmani in George Shengelaya’s biographical film Pirosmani. I could not, yes. A restless life in a crying, hopeless even not poverty - poverty. The artist, whose paintings will be exhibited in the Louvre and the Tretyakov Gallery, whose "Arsenalskaya mountain at night" in 2007, will go to Sotheby`s auction for £ 1 million, died of hunger and cold in a damp basement.

“I got stuck in my throat at this damned life”

Niko Pirosmani (Nikolai Aslanovich Pirosmanashvili) was born in the village of Mirzaani, lost in the east of Kakheti. Information about his childhood is based on stories, rumors and indirect research. Documents in which the facts would be recorded, no more. His parents died when the boy was about 8 years old. Niko took to his house Kalantarova - the owners of the estate, in which his father worked the vineyards. Soon, together with one of the sons of Kalantarovs, Niko left for Tiflis.

Pirosmani did not receive artistic education. His only teachers are wandering artists. Observing how they painted the signs of shops and ducans (taverns), Niko learned to draw.

It is today Pirosmani - one of the greatest representatives of primitivism and a man whose name is called a huge number of restaurants of Caucasian cuisine. During his lifetime he was called easier - the painter. Money literally floated away from his hands. Basically, the artist made a living by painting the walls of taverns and creating signboards, and he was fed for it and poured a glass of wine and a glass of vodka.

He tried to return to his native village, opened a grocery store in which he sold cheese, milk, yoghurt, honey. The venture failed. A proud Kakhetian could be rude to a profitable buyer and give a full basket of goods to the poor, who never know when he will return the debt without knowing why. In memory of this period remained "White cow on a black background" and "Black buffalo on a white background". These paintings served as a sign for Niko's shop.

Light black oilcloth Pirosmani

Not to mention the unusual canvases of Pirosmani. Most often he wrote on the oilcloth. According to one version - this is a common oilcloth in a tavern, on the other - a special technical oilcloth. Considering his total poverty, it is quite possible that both options took place: when some means appeared, Pirosmani bought special material, and when there was no dream about it - well, the artist would not stop the absence of the canvas. What is unique is that Pirosmani wrote most often on black oilcloth. He did not paint the light, but brightened the blackness. Many researchers believe that the reason for the discovery of this technique was the need, which did not release the artist all his life. To save on paints, he wrote on black oilcloth and left it unpainted where dark color was required.

“Looking for Queen Tamara’s cave ... At least once would look at that valley where the sun never sets,” says Niko Pirosmani in the film Shengelai. That is what he tried to do all his life, transferring paint to black oilcloth, and painting darkness with light.

Pirosmani was not able to study the history of art and get acquainted with various areas of painting. It was self-taught pure water. Perhaps the lack of academic education in his case allowed the talent to manifest itself as much as possible. His paintings are naive, and in their naivety and simplicity they are inimitable. It seems that Pirosmani has overcome the inherent fear of a clean canvas inherent in most artists. The canvas did not remain long in front of Niko Pirosmani. With childlike boldness, not touched by doubt, he approached the canvas - whether it was white canvas or black oilcloth, and wrote. Without a sketch, without sketches, without thinking through the composition and building perspectives.

Niko Pirosmani didn’t have such a thing as discarded works and crossed out drafts. And the artist could not afford to scatter precious canvases. He always wrote cleanly, whenever possible - without stopping until he finished. There was no room for reflection. As if Pirosmani did not paint pictures, but helped them, already existing, to manifest.

Almost all wall paintings of Pirosmani died. Who could have known that painting on the walls of inexpensive Tiflian ducans was worth its weight in gold? Not adapted to anything other than painting, Pirosmani always painted. According to research, he wrote about two thousand paintings. Up to now has reached less than three hundred.

“He turned his life into flowers”

Once upon a time there was an artist alone
He suffered a lot of troubles ...

The hit about the million scarlet roses known to all residents of the post-Soviet space, Voznesensky wrote about Niko Pirosmani. The artist saw the performance of the French artist of the cafe Margherita de Sevres and lost her head. It was not known whether there was a million roses, but according to rumors, poor man Pirosmani really filled up the number of the singer with flowers, and by his own birthday made her a gift by buying "a whole sea of flowers." Reciprocity to him - the thin, emaciated by hunger and passion - Margarita, who was used to secular boyfriends, did not shine. But who would know about the French pevik today, do not write the unlucky buyer of "a million scarlet roses" portrait of actress Margarita?

Opening Niko Pirosmani

The people who played the most important role in the life of Pirosmani are the artist brothers Kirill and Ilya Zdanevichi. They traveled around Georgia with Mikhail Le Dante, a Russian artist of French origin. In Tbilisi ducans, the brothers drew attention to the amazing strength of the paintings that decorated the walls of not fashionable establishments. The paintings were made in a peculiar manner. The power overflowing from these unsophisticated canvases shook the artists. Long inquiries and searches brought them to the author. Zdanevichi bought Pirosmani's paintings and purposefully searched for him.

In February 1913 from Ilya Zdanevich The world first heard about Niko Pirosmani. The article was called “The Nugget Artist” and was published in the Transcaucasian Speech newspaper. Soon the first exhibition of Pirosmani took place in Moscow, and after a while he was invited to a meeting of the Society of Artists in Tbilisi. A recognition came to Pirosmani, but he was not destined to become what is called “successful person” in everyday life. The recognition practically did not affect the financial condition of Pirosmani. Money still bypassed him; he was not able to achieve social and social success in his lifetime: there were no high fees, no home and family ... There were poverty, hunger, cold and damp basements.

All his life he had yearned for village life. There is a legend that Pirosmani bought mowed grass and fell asleep on it, trying to at least partly extinguish homesickness in this way. But the life of the artist is evaluated according to other criteria than social success. Already recognized and cared for by the public, who didn’t manage to achieve Pirosmani in his lifetime, Pablo Picasso said that he was jealous of the fate of the Georgian primitivist artist who managed to fill the black oilcloth with light.
Picasso admired Pirosmani’s paintings. One recent work of the famous cubist - portrait of a proud kakhetintsy.

Author: Alain Esaulova
Go to biography


View all publications


All exhibitions of the artist
View all artist's artworks
Whole feed