Fine arts. Located at the crossroad of Europe and Asia, Georgia was alternatively influenced by eastern and western civilizations; it was fostered by the advancements of the two cultures and, merging them with its own centuries-old traditions, coined its national, unparalleled culture, which included fine arts as one of its most important constituents.|
In the 19th century, Georgia became part of the Russian Empire and entered a new stage of capitalist development. The feudal conceptual and aesthetic system was replaced with new thinking and artistic requirements - medieval wall painting yielded to easel painting, which laid a foundation for the promotion of portrait painting, the only developed trend at that period. Portrait painters very often represented European and Russian schools of fine arts. This had a remarkable impact on shaping multinational artistic life of Tbilisi, traditionally regarded as the cultural center of Caucasus.
The 1830s were marked by the development of the local, national school of portrait panting in Tbilisi, while the 1880s laid a foundation for the realistic art and were distinguished for molding a new generation of Georgian painters, who had received education in Russia and in the West (R. Gvelesiani, A. Mrevlishvili, G. Gabashvili, and M. Toidze). They expanded the artistic scope and initiated many new trends and genres - portrait was complemented with landscape, still life, historical and genre painting. At the same time, in pursue of the realistic portrayal of the world, they rejected traditional means of expression and national forms - the only traditional element retained at that period was the theme: costumes, attributes and personal types. Their works were dominated by narrativity and plot.
The outset of the 20th century gave a start to an exceedingly diverse and remarkable period in Georgian art. Shortly after the establishment of the Soviet regime in Russia, Russian artists were compelled to seek a shelter in Tbilisi, where political situation was relatively stable, at least throughout several years. In fact, Tbilisi proved to be ‘fertile soil' for cultivating avant-garde culture: Bohemian life was thriving in artistic cafés, salons and taverns of Tbilisi. Convergence of cultures served as a setting for dramatic performances, literary and poetry soirees, and talks on modern painting. Tbilisi was the venue for the advanced and way-out creative insights of Georgian, Russian and Polish avant-garde artists, who painted walls in Tbilisi cafés and taverns (S. Waliszewski, S. Sudeykin, S. Sorin, L. Gudiashvili, D. Kakabadze, I. and K. Zdanevich). The outdated academic painting was offset with such fairly modern trends as Symbolism, Cubism, Dadaism, etc. Another remarkable event was the publication of multiple journals and futuristic books (the fascinating specimens of illustrative art) designed by the outstanding representative of Georgian and European avant-garde, Iliazd/Ilia Zdanevich. It was Iliazd who, after emigrating to Paris in 1921, promoted Niko Pirosmanashvili (Pirosmani), a self-sufficient phenomenon in the Georgian artistic thinking.
During 1919-1921, under the cultural programme of the independent Republic of Georgia, a group of Georgian painters (D. Kakabadze, L. Gudiashvili, E. Akhvlediani, s. Kikodze, K. Maghalashvili) were given an opportunity to continue studies in Paris, the world centre of culture. They became actively involved in the artistic life of the city and were initiated into contemporary European trends and tendencies.
Davit Kakabadze took analytical insight into contemporary art, developed abstract painting and took interest in Cubism and optical objects; Lado Gudiashvili was attracted by Expressionism; Elene Akhvlediani created a series of urban landscapes - the landmark of modernist painting. However, they could not accept the denial of traditional form; their art is ‘modern and national' at the same time.
As the 1930s started, D. Kakabadze, L. Gudiashvili, E. Akhvlediani and K. Maghalashvili came from Paris back to Georgia, which was already Soviet. However, the system of aesthetic perceptions built in the 1920s followed its own path. Georgian dramatic art enjoyed remarkable success and was accompanied with advancements in scenography. Particularly noteworthy is the stage design by Petre Otskheli and Irakli Gamrekeli, influenced by Constructivism and Futurism.
However, between 1930s and 50s, under the totalitarian regime, the whole Soviet artistic environment, including Georgia, was detached from the universal cultural context. Ideology took over art and all the areas of fine arts - painting, sculpture, graphic and poster art - became dominated by Soviet theories and concepts - ‘social realism'. A certain iconographic stereotype dictated the style for portraits and monuments to Soviet leaders. Any kind of diversion from the officially approved style was labeled as "formalism".
The relatively moderate politics at the turn of the 1960s brought important changes into Georgian lifestyle and art. First of all, the pressure upon individuals was partially reduced and artists could enjoy more freedom of self-expression. Although free will opportunities were rather modest and did not comply with the broader processes that took place in Europe, the academic, classicistic, and naturalistic norms failed to meet the requirements of forward thinking artist.
A new generation came to the stage through breaking stereotypes in every field of fine arts - painting, drawing, sculpture - and set challenging goals for reviving certain artistic properties and for enriching the language and form of art (E. Kalandadze, J. Khundadze, Z. Nizharadze, G. Kutateladze, M. Berdzenishvili, R. Tarkhan-Mouravi; later T. Mirzashvili, G. Ochiauri, D. Eristavi and others). Stage design was like wise successful (S. Virsaladzi, I. Sumbatashvili, and others).
The 1970s are distinguished for diverting from and confronting with the dominant painting style established by the painters of the previous generation (the style prevailed in the European painting at the turn of the 20th century - Impressionism, Postmodernism). The new wave of artistic style gradually diverged from the established spectral painting and approached non-figurative art - abstraction, collage (A. Bandzeladze, Avto Varazi and others).
Remarkably, the same process took place in other artistic branches (stage design - G. Meskhishvili, sculpture - G. Japaridze, G.Shkhvatsabaia, wall and easel painting - K. Ignatov), which was clearly reflected in the works of the artists.
The generation of the 1980s initiated the insight into the methods consistent with their contemporary epoch; postmodern tendencies were developed (I. Parjiani, L. Choghoshvili, G. Gugushvili, G. Bughadze and others). In search of new material and innovative forms, one group of painters (G. Edzgveradze, O. Timchenko, N. Tsetskhladze, K. Ramishvili, I. Zautashvili, K. Kutateladze and others) surpassed the limits of easel painting and sculpture and started experimenting with installations, performances and happenings.
The breakup of the Soviet Empire in the 1990s, the opening of borders, the fresh stream of information, new technologies and direct contacts with the western world shaped a new stage of Georgian painting and gave it a peculiar trait - the democratic property. Despite the post-Soviet adversities in political and economic spheres, Tbilisi plunged into a whirl of exhibitions: galleries and exhibition spaces opened, non-governmental organizations were set up; art critics and gallerists became more dynamic, and managerial and coordinative activities most vigorous. Georgians started taking part in international projects and forums. Up-to-date categories for thinking became an inherent need for Georgian artists involved in contemporary art, which abolishes boundaries between various artistic branches, and its central trends - video arts, installation, multimedia, and object.
The processes initiated in Georgian visual arts in the 1920s, which were so far highly individual and singular, enjoy mass appeal and government support in the 21st century. Promotion of Georgian art and its integration into the world cultural environment has become the priority of the nation.
Theatre. The history of Georgia theatre looks back many years. The earliest ritual festivals, dedicated to a pagan deity, contained many elements of dramatic art. The silver bowl (middle of the 2nd millennium BC), discovered in Trialeti, features mystery - a ritual, circular dance performed by the masked men; performances, mysteries and chorus songs preserve pieces of ritual dance dramas (Amirani, Abesalom da Eteri, Tavparavneli Chabuki). In the 7th century BC there was an arena in the kingdom of Colchis, nearby Cytaea, what is now Kutaisi, where theatrical performances were held.
According to the Byzantine historian Procopius of Caesarea, a theatre building and a hippodrome were to be found in the Colchian town of Apsaros. Moreover, the rock-hewn town of Uplistsikhe, dating from the 3rd-2nd century BC, preserves a theatre structure with a stage, orchestra and auditorium, which attests to the familiarity of the Georgian public with dramatic art and performance in early times. Georgian historical texts and belles-lettres from the medieval period contain fragments of old Georgian dramatic poetry, extensive accounts of pantomime performances, as well as numerous theatre terms of Georgian origin.
The proclamation of Christianity as state religion in Georgia in the 330s encouraged the formation of church theatre and drama. Popular peoples' performances such as berikaoba and keenoba emerged in parallel.
The Middle Ages saw the establishment of a court theatre, which presented performances and masked shows against the background of music. Kings Teimuraz I and Archil II created dialogues and polemical dramas (Gabaasebani) for performances.
The 1790s were marked by setting up a secular theatre at King Erekle II's court under the leadership of Giorgi Avalishvili. Apart from the Georgian plays, the theatre also staged those translated from Russian. In parallel, the court theatre continued to present performances under the leadership of Davit Machabeli. Many of the members of his company died heroically in battles against Agha Muhammad Khan.
The early 19th century was remarkable for setting up of the societies of theatre goers. In 1845 the Russian Drama Theatre was founded in Tbilisi, and in 1850 the Georgian professional theatre (1850-1856) was revived thanks to the efforts of celebrated Georgian public figures and under the leadership of Giorgi Eristavi.
Giorgi Eristavi initiated and developed realistic trend in Georgian theatre and drama. In 1851, the Tbilisi Caravanserai hosted the first opera performance. Between 1880 and 1886, a Treasury Theatre was built in Golovin Avenue, what is now Rustaveli Avenue. In 1896 it was called the Tbilisi Treasury Opera Theatre, while now it functions as Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theatre.
State Theatre Professional theatre in Tbilisi was revived in 1879 with the efforts of the renowned Georgian writers and public figures, Ilia Chavchavadze and Akaki Tsereteli, who established the so-called ‘permanent company'. This period saw the advancement of heroic-romantic and realistic-comic trends in dramatic art. In parallel, the Georgian theatre repertoire was enriched with foreign classical dramas.
The end of the 19th century was remarkable for the activity of a generation of brilliant actors and actresses affiliated with the realistic school of performance. The beginning of the 20th century was marked by the activity of professional directors.
On November 25, 1921 the Tbilisi Georgian Theatre was named after Shota Rustaveli.
The revival of Georgian theatre, and the introduction of new dramatic forms and principles of professional directing in particular, is attributed to Kote Marjanishvili and Sandro Akhmeteli, two great Georgian directors. They gave start to a new epoch in Georgian theatre, and continue to influence the course and trends of the development of dramatic art. Following attempts to introduce novelties in the Rustaveli Theatre, Kote Marjanishvili established a new theatre, which now bears his name. The masterpieces of Sandro Akhmeteli were the first plays to attract the attention of foreign theatrical elite and bring international acclaim to Georgian theatre.
D. Aleksidze, V. Tabliashvili, A. Chkhartishvili, V. Kushitashvili, G. Lortkipanidze, L. Ioseliani, S. Gatserelia, M. Kuchukhudze and G. Zhordania were among directors, who in the 20th century, together with the generation of renowned actors and actresses, created the model setting"Uriel Akosta"
The 1960s and 1970s were noteworthy for the introduction of further novelties and various theatrical-aesthetic trends by the highly reputed directors, such as Mikheil Tumanishvili, Robert Sturua and Temur Chkheidze. R. Sturua and T. Chkheidze continue to shape the image of Georgian dramatic art and contribute to its international recognition. Back in the Soviet period the Rustaveli State Drama Theatre, under the leadership of R. Sturua, toured each of the five continents with huge success.
The late 20th century saw the emergence of independent professional, chamber and experimental theatres, which soon established their own place in Georgian theatre space.
Currently Georgia has dramatic, music, pantomime, puppet and marionette theatres. A new generation of actors and actresses, directors, playwrights and stage designers work together with reputed masters.
Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani companies perform successfully alongside with Georgian theatres. International contacts are becoming more intense with many companies taking part in international projects, festivals and forums
Music. Professional music in Georgia has changed and improved remarkably over the last half century. A number of companies and institutions have emerged that have had a decisive role in shaping music in Georgia: the State Instrumental Ensemble, State Trio and State Cappella of Batumi, the State Symphony Orchestras in Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi and Sukhumi, the National Opera and Ballet Theatres in Tbilisi and Kutaisi, the Grand Concert Hall of Tbilisi (the so-called Philharmonic Hall), the Centre for Musical Culture, the Evgeni Mikeladze State Orchestra, the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra, the Iliko Sukhishvili and Nino Ramishvili Georgian National Ballet, and so on.
The Georgian Ministry of Culture has always been a driving force for the development of the music sector, one of its main objectives being to foster traditional national folk music, which was the starting point for most musical undertakings.
The Ministry of Culture makes an effort to support young, talented musicians, who are expected to respect the unique traditions of Georgian music as well as partake of the experience of other countries and acquaint themselves with classical music from the rest of the world.