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Discovering the Georgian Avant-garde

The Pushkin Museum presents an exhibition of Georgian art.

“Poet Galaktion Tabidze and the Blue Horses” (1919) by Lado Gudiashvili.

Georgian art of the beginning of the 20th century, perhaps with the exception of Pirosmani, is relatively unknown in Russia, not to mention the rest of the world. Influenced by the avant-garde movement, Tiflis (now Tbilisi) became a center for artistic talent and nurtured such talents as Niko Pirosmani, Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze and others. 

The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts presents an exhibition of 200 drawings, easel paintings, theatrical decorations, graphics and design – a great opportunity to acquaint yourself with this cultural scene. The exhibition, the first of such scale, occupies three floors of the museum's Private Collection Department and reflects the diversity and wealth of the Georgian avant-garde.

The third floor of the exhibition is dedicated to the work of Niko Pirosmani, a self-taught artist who spent his life in poverty taking odd jobs and painting just to get by. His naïve paintings inspired his younger colleagues as an example of pure art, free of academic conventions. Pirosmani is considered the only Georgian animalist. His fondness for nature made its way into his artwork – various animals, domesticated and wild, are frequently present in his paintings. Among those on display is “Lion and Sun” – a primitivist representation of the classical symbol based on astrological configurations. Hardly an avant-gardist, Pirosmani had little interest in artistic life and lacked recognition during his lifetime. 

Pirosmani's unconventional art was greatly appreciated by Lado Gudiashvili. His artwork, diverse but always recognizable, bears a deep connection with Georgian national tradition. Look up his symbolic “Poet Galaktion Tabidze and “The Blue Horses” at the second level of the exhibition. Gudiashivili's legacy shares the museum's second level with Kirill Zdanevich's cubist landscapes, collages and portraits.

The first level features the work of David Kakabadze – a multi-talented artist and scholar who was engaged in graphic, scenic design and cinematography. Having spent years in Paris, Kakabadze was influenced by cubism but eventually gravitated toward more abstract painting and sculpture. 

The Georgian Avant-garde: 1900-1930s. The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. Till March 12.