PIROSMANI (1862-1918). Georgian artist, world famous for his primitivism style of painting. Niko Pirosmanashvili, also known as Niko Pirosmani, was born into an impoverished peasant family in the village of Mirzaani in Kakheti. In 1870, his family moved to Shulaveri, where his parents and eldest brother Giorgi soon died in succession leaving Niko and his two siblings orphans. Pirosmani’s sisters Pepe and Mariam later got married while Niko was taken in by a rich merchant Ahverdi Kalantarov’s family and remained with them between 1872-1890. Pirosmani showed his artistry at an early age but he was never able to study painting and instead he experimented on his own. A gentle soul, he was unable to find his place in contemporary society and his affections for one of Kalantarov’s daughters and later with Margarita (Margot de Sevres), a singer in a small restaurant, all ended in heartbreak. In 1890, Pirosmani moved to Tbilisi, where he began working at a railway station.
After three years of hard work, Pirosmani was fired and turned to vending, selling various provisions in the streets of Tbilisi. Despite hardship and disillusion, Pirosmani pursued his passion of painting, producing numerous drawings that became a reflection of the Georgian national character and soul. His art was ‘discovered’ in 1912 and quickly earned acclaim throughout Europe. In 1916, however, Pirosmani was deeply hurt by a newspaper ridicule of his paintings and stopped all contacts with the artistic society, gradually distancing himself from society. Living in poverty in a basement, he became seriously ill and died unnoticed on 7 April 1918. His remains were buried in the section for homeless in a local cemetery but his grave has never been discovered. His fame and recognition only came years later when the full scale of his creativity and essence of his art was fully appreciated and understood.