Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani joins van Gogh in dual French exhibition

Niko Pirosmani, ‘Woman with a Mug of Beer’ and Vincent van Gogh, ‘L’Arlésienne’. Photos: Roberto Bigano/Galleria nazionale d’Arte moderna e contemporanea., 19 Feb 2019 - 18:27, Tbilisi,Georgia

Over two dozen works by Niko Pirosmani, Georgia’s iconic artist from the early 20th century, will join paintings by Vincent van Gogh for a dual exhibition in the south of France staring next month.

A dual exhibition celebrating the legacy of the two creatives will be hosted by the Vincent van Gogh Foundation in Arles in collaboration with the Georgian National Museum in an effort to introduce Georgia’s beloved primitivist painter to a wider audience in Europe.

Organisers will bring 29 works by Pirosmani, a self-taught artist whose work is seen as an integral part of the eastern European avant-garde, to the exposition space in Arles along with six paintings by Dutch post-impressionist van Gogh.

The two themes joining their works have been titled Niko Pirosmani – Wanderer between Worlds and Vincent van Gogh: Speed & Aplomb, with the former having been on display recently at Vienna’s Albertina Museum.

Self-taught, a wanderer, meandering between town and country, Pirosmani embodies the popular modern vision of the clear-sighted artist on the margin of society.

Far from the symbolic intermediate spaces of galleries, artists’ groups and museums [...] he distanced himself from the image of the naive painter immured in his solitude and — like Van Gogh — built up a body of work that seems to belong to everyone,” organisers noted in their preview for the show.

The Georgian painter’s works at the exhibition will present “a real and fantastical panorama, suffused with great calm, of an epoch in the midst of transition”, the summary also said.

Creations of Pirosmani and van Gogh will be displayed alongside for the first time, with the famed Dutch artist set to be represented by works he produced between 1884-1889.

Beside their paintings, the Arles display will also bring to viewers artistic work created by other celebrated artists inspired by them.

Pablo Picasso’s 1972 drypoint etching Portrait of Niko Pirosmani, presented in the Arles exhibition, speaks of the impact of the Georgian’s work on French modernist avant-garde circles,” the release by the Arles venue indicated.

On display will also be a contemporary work by architect Tadao Ando — a “monumental monolithic table” created as a tribute to Pirosmani’s lifelong wish to see fellow artists join him around a table for discourses on their field.

See the Georgian National Museum's teaser video for a recently concluded Pirosmani display at Vienna's Albertina Museum:

More tribute works will come at the event from artists Christina Forrer, Adrian Ghenie, Raphaela Vogel, Shirana Shahbazi, Yoshitomo Nara, Andro Wekua and Georg Baselitz.

The Arles exposition is a continuation of the GNM effort to introduce Pirosmani outside his native country, following the recently concluded Pirosmani show at the Albertina Museum.

The latter was called an “unprecedented success” with “record-breaking” viewer numbers by GNM Director General David Lordkipanidze.

The importance of the event was also stressed from the other side of the collaboration, with Klaus Albrecht Schröder, Director of the Albertina Museum, noting in his comments he considered Pirosmani display to be “one of the most important” for him among the museum’s shows.

Schröder also talked about the legacy of Pirosmani, noting the eastern European avant-garde school would be “unimaginable” without mentioning the Georgian painter among the already recognised names like Marc Chagall and Kazimir Malevich.

Born in the Kakheti region village Mirzaani in 1862 as Niko Pirosmanashvili, he took an early interest in painting but never received formal art training.

He later moved to Tbilisi and made a living painting shop plaques, portraits and landscapes for bar owners, however Pirosmani never managed to escape poverty during his life in Georgia's capital.

His work was discovered by prominent Georgian artists Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze and Kirill Zdanevich. Despite this recognition, he struggled to reach a wider audience and faced limited work opportunities.

Information on Pirosmani's life and artistic legacy were mostly obtained by biographers and historians and he only began to be recognised for his contribution to art after his death in 1918.

The Arles display will be on show starting 2 March.