Tuesday, July 27, 2010

John Berger on Pirosmani

This is an extract from the essay On the Banks of the Sava by an acclaimed art critic John Berger written in 1972. The essay appears in the collection entitled The Sense of Sight.

In Russian cities the food displayed in shop windows often consists of painted wooden models, wooden chops, chickens, eggs. From a distance they sometimes look more convincing than real food because their colours are unusually vivid and distinct. The wooden meat is either lean (red) or fat (cream-coloured). There was a painter from Georgia towards the end of the last century called Pirosmanishvili who spent most of his life going from one tavern in Tiflis to another, painting inn signs. Many of them were of food. I have never seen paintings more expressive of hunger - or rather, of the dream provoked by hunger. Tabletops like the earth and on the cheeses and joints of meat like huge buildings. Even the women he painted look edible, like Easter cakes. In Pirosmanishvili's work the Russian tradition of painting wooden models of food for shop windows found its only genius and master. Why is it that the real lamb hanging at the back of the butcher's in Obrenovac unexpectedly, without premeditations, reminds me of his painting?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear John, I understand you are ab acclaimed art critic. Any ´acclaimed´art critic would know that Pirosmani did not have any Russian influence (or any other influence, for that matter) whatsoever, since his art was completely authentic, simplistic and unique. You may as well claim that Russeau was also influenced by Russian tradition just because it reminds you of it and it shares 4 4 letters with Russia.

By the way, do you know who Russeau was?
Sincerely, Art Amateur