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Visual Arts

Many Georgian churches are adorned with wonderful old frescoes. The golden age of religious art in Georgia was the 11th to 13th
centuries, when Georgian painters employed the fully developed Byzantine iconographic system and also portrayed local subjects such as Georgian monarchs and saints. There were two main fresco schools: one at Davit Gareja cave monastery and the other at the monasteries of Tao-Klarjeti (now in Turkey). During the same period artists and metalsmiths were creating beautiful icons from jewels and precious metals that remain among the country’s greatest treasures today.

Perhaps the last major artist in the tra dition of fresco painting was one who painted not religious images in churches but scenes
of everyday life in restaurants and bars in Tbilisi. Self-taught, and in his lifetime largely unrecognised, Niko Pirosmani (1862–1918) expressed the essential spirit of Georgian life in a direct and enchanting way. After his death in poverty and obscurity, his work was acclaimed by the modernists, foremost among whom were Davit Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili and Shalva Kikodze. All three lived for a time in Paris in the early 20th century, influenced by the radical artistic ideas they encountered there. Their associate Elene Akhvlediani (1901–76) painted colourful scenes of old Tbilisi and Georgian historic sites that still have a lot of appeal. Today Tbilisi has a burgeoning gallery scene with much colourful though not fantastically original art.