“Z” - Ketevan Kintsurashvili’s ART LINE

DAVID KAKABADZE

(1889-1952)

A GREAT GEORGIAN MODERNIST


Nature – the Teacher

It was nature which made David Kakabadze an artist. From childhood his mind has imprinted Imereti hills, parental house, Mother, sitting in the yard under the tree and twirling a thread on a spindle, with Father squatting beside her, smoking a long pipe. He couldn’t take his eyes off the distant mountains covered with sun rays and handmade household utensils.


D. Kakabadze. In a Kutaisi Courtyard. Circa 1913.

He saw the first original when an unknown artist drew his father’s portrait. Father – Nestor Kakabadze – operated a ferry on the Rioni and made a living with it. He was a good companion and trevellers liked his company. Father hung his portrait on the wall in the house. David tried his best to paint something similar to it. Sometimes he would drop in a dyeing shop. The dyers never refused him and gave paints, left on the bottom of casks, free of charge. He tried to learn from nature, imitate it, but was never satisfied. He knew that he had to learn much. In the gymnasium his talent was appreciated. Father helped him as much as he could.

 The first to open a private studio in Kutaisi was the Russian Krotkov, then the Pole Pajevsky. David went to both studios, but the artists did not stay long in the town. David continued to work independently. The elder brother sent him from Vienna, where he studied at the University, a text-book, and the future artist followed its guidelines, but all that was not enough. The green leaves, lighted by sun, were much more impressive in reality than the ones, he painted on his small canvas.


D. Kakabadze. Landscape. 1908–1909.

    The industrious student of the gymnasium taught to the students of lower classes, for which he received a small remuneration. With the collected money he bought a photo camera, and the first photo he took was the one of himself. Such interest already attests to his inner drive towards novelty but David had to wait long before he had a chance to learn about what was going on in the world art, what the new epoch had brought. The century of iron and industrialization had not yet arrived in his native land.


David in the first photograph taken with his own camera. 1908.

Most of all he liked to climb up to Bagrati Cathedral. From there he viewed surroundings, spellbound from admiration. It was as if he could fly over the world like a bird. He had not seen a plane yet. He walked among in some places mossy architectural fragments, straggled around the cathedral, touching complex plaiting of ornaments. He even took copies of the ornaments, as he had been taught by the visiting pedagogues. He wanted to penetrate into the mystery of those ornaments. He visualized nature and art in unity.

He did not know that somewhere in faraway Bavaria Wassily Kandinsky had already arrived at the idea that the two universes – the universe of art, on the one hand, and the universe of nature, on the other, are independent of each other, that art has its own autonomous laws, which imparted peculiar freedom to one of the founders of Abstractionism.   

 

Kakabadze begins to study from nature, but, similar to Cézanne, Kandinsky and some other artists, also unknown to him, he penetrates into nature deeper than it is possible by only visual means. This is because he is inspired by light, space, line and colour, rather than a concrete image. But for the time being he tries to balance everything with nothing but concrete images, viewed by him.


D. Kakabadze. Imeretia. 1915.

He is particularly attracted by the mystery of green – green grass, green roofs of Gelati cathedral, green trees, the green of mountains turned into the blue. The brushstrokes on his Gelati landscape (1908) are so free, that they palpitate and acquire independent life – very analogous to that what Kandinsky does simultaneously in Bavaria.