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Happy Birthday Gigo Gabashvili (Painter and Photographer)

November 09, 2019 3 min read

Gigo Gabashvili

Born on November 9, 1862, in Tbilisi, Georgia (a part of erstwhile Russian Empire), Girogi Gigo Ivanes dze Gabashvili was the earliest proponent of Gregorian Critical Realist School. He covered a wide range of subjects including landscapes, portraits and everyday life scenes, most notably through an oriental lens. It is the last one that won him great acclaim.Bazaar in Samarkandis one of the best works that he created. Although less known in the west, his works are highly acclaimed and valued. In 2006, one of the four versions of hisBazaar in Samarkand was sold at Christie’s for $1.36 million. He also painted with Gigo Gabaev as his pseudonym. He created works both in oil and watercolors.

Early Life and career

Gigo Gabashvili was born in Tiflis, Tbilisi. In the nineteenth century, Academy of Arts at St. Petersburg held high reputation among aspiring artists. Gabashvili’s first application to enter the Academy in 1883 was turned down. He returned to Tiflis and worked as an assistant to Frants Alekseevich Raubaud who was then working on the depiction of Russian-Turkish war of 1877-78 through a series of paintings. In 1886, with the help of glowing recommendation of Frants Alekseevich Raubaud, Gabashvili finally got admission at the Academy of Arts, where he studied till 1886. He later studied at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts from 1894 to 1897. As per art historian Grigol Beradze’s accounts, in Munich Gabashvili created paintings of Samarkand and Bukhara, which earned him much praise.

In 1994, Gabashvili travelled extensively in the Middle East seeking new inspirations for art. It was in Uzbekistan that this artist created a number of paintings depicting the local culture and way of life. Gabashvili was commissioned by Charles R. Crane, a wealthy American diplomat and businessmen, whom he first met at Tbilisi, to create a series of scenes depicting life in Samarkand and Bukhara. TheBazaar in Samarkandis one of those. It depicts the then market overlooking the Sher Dor Madrasah at the Registan Square.

Stint as a photographer

It is an interesting and less known fact that apart from being a painter, Gabashvili was an excellent photographer as well. It was only in 2012 that his collection was put on public display. The photographs were taken in late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It was a time when photography and even art as a whole had to comply with Soviet ideology. Gabashivili’s works mainly included nude photographs of women, which was completely unacceptable. Perhaps that is the reason for late display of his works as a photographer.

Later life

After completing his studies at Munich, he returned to Tbilisi to become the first in his homeland to be honored with a solo exhibition. From 1900-1920, he dedicated himself to teaching at an art school of Caucasus Society for Promotion of Fine Arts. He was later promoted as Director of the same. In 1922, he co-founded the Tbilisi State academy of Arts. During 1922-1930, he served as the head of the State Academy of art studio.

Gigo Gabashvili died on October 28, 1936, at the age of 73, in Tsikhisdziri, Georgia.

His prominent works

The Three Townsmen, 1893

Sleeping Khevsur, 1898

The Drunk Khevsur, 1899

The Three Generals, 1910

The Bazaar in Samarkand 1894-1897