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Niko Pirosmani

Georgian Painter

Niko Pirosmani Photo

Born: May 5, 1862 - Mirzaani, Georgia

Died: April 9, 1918 - Tbilisi, Georgia

"When you have the exhibition, if you give me a room where I might work, and canvas, within a month I could paint ten to fifteen paintings, better than those that are here"

Summary of Niko Pirosmani

Posthumously celebrated Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani was a true artist's artist and a prime example of the starving artist archetype. Self-taught, he used his life in the progressive country of Georgia as fodder to create works illustrating the customs, traditions, environments, and culture of his native land. Using cheap materials and a neutral palette, he documented his world using folk art traditions to inform a unique visual aesthetic. Though his lifetime never saw monetary success or widespread fame, he managed to make enough to consistently supply him with materials from which to create a prolific body of work. He is now seen as an important contributor to the Russian avant-garde, particularly the Neo-Primitivist and Rayonist movements.

Key Ideas

The artist began his career painting signs for local businesses as advertisements for their wares, where he learned to work fast on commission. Deeply committed to remaining creative at all costs, these signs allowed Pirosmani to buy art supplies to create his fine art paintings and kept his work positioned in the public eye, leading to his status as a hometown hero.
Pirosmani's oeuvre is a remarkably precious glimpse of the Georgian lifestyle, heritage, and experience of the late 1800s and early 1900s. His paintings provide a solid, historical time capsule of the country's union of traditional rural life and its evolution into a more cosmopolitan locale. Because of this, the artist found champions in many members of the entitled classes of the time, who recognized his talent and ability to capture the period's cultural cross section of the old with the new.
Pirosmani is often coined a Naïve artist, or one who lacks a formal artistic education or training. This allowed him to birth his own signature style, which was dynamic, organic, and truly original, setting him apart from other painters of his time. Like Henri Rousseau before him, his brand of vagabond creativity would set the stage for later artists, working in the same primal fashion, eventually leading to the formation of art movements such as Art Brut and Outsider Art.
Niko Pirosmani Life and Legacy

Niko Pirosmani was born in the village of Mirzaani in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia in 1862. At the time, Georgia was on a large trade route between East and West: an interesting junction which produced a myriad culture combining elements from Christianity and mainland Europe, as well as the Mediterranean, Byzantium, and the Orient. It was also a place of folkloric tales and deeply engrained traditions and rituals.

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