1862; Mirzaany, Georgia
05 May 1918; Tbilisi, Georgia
Niko Pirosmani, a Georgian primitivist painter, orphaned at a young age, was characterized by the naïve, childlike simplicity of his subject matter and technique. He taught himself to paint as a child, creating his own oil for painting, and his specialty was painting directly onto black oil cloth. He was always poor, but willing to work, and as such he held many jobs throughout his life, including a herdsman and a railroad conductor. He also created signboards, co-founded a dairy farm, and held odd-jobs like house painting or white-washing buildings. Because of his destitute situation, he had little relationship with the profession of being an artist. As an example, he joined the Society of Georgian Painter, but developed a strained relationship with the society after one of the other artists drew an offensive caricature of him.
Many of his works were either of historical figures or of everyday people living their everyday lives. In the 1910’s he did receive some recognition, when a famous Russian poet and his brother presented his works to the Moscow newspaper, which published four of his works. Although he did receive some recognition, he died of malnutrition and liver failure, destitute and without artistic recognition.
Posthumously, after WWI, his reputation grew, when his naïve style became popular in the art circles of Paris, and the first book of his work was published in 1926. A legend, which also helped cement his reputation, was that he had a romantic encounter with a French actress with whom he fell deeply in love. He thus filled the square outside of her hotel window with flowers, allegedly making himself bankrupt. His works have since been in exhibitions all around the world, and the Republic of Georgia recently put out a currency with Pirosmani’s paintings on them.