The Georgian “naive” painter Niko Pirosmani, sometimes known as Nikala (1862–1918), is long overdue for rediscovery. Today, this autodidact, who painted his pictures of animals and people for inns and pubs, is admired as a leading representative of “naive” art, but the story of his original critical reception is remarkable. Hardly known outside of Georgia these days, his work was nevertheless displayed alongside works by Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, Kazimir Malevich and Marc Chagall in the legendary 1913 exhibition Mischén (Target) in Moscow, where he was known as the “Rousseau of the East.”
Pirosmani devised a unique visual vocabulary—black background, elementary colors of red, blue, yellow, green and white—to create his paintings of animals and portraits of merchants, shopkeepers, workmen and noblemen. This book, published for the Albertina’s major Pirosmani retrospective, examines his paintings in the context of art history.