Georgian (Georgia)English (United Kingdom)
“KIMERIONI” IN 1919-1920 - ART CAFE OF DECADENT ARTISTS OR THE TEMPLE OF “NEW ART”?

NINO CHIKHLADZE
Georgian National Museum. Museum of Fine Arts

In the early 20th century artistic café clubs and café cabarets, as the places of gathering for art leaders’ and venues of creativity events, were spread in Europe and Russia. Similar places were also available in Tbilisi
(“Fantastic Tavern”, “Imedi”, “Argonauts’ Boat”, “Peacock’s Tail”, “Friendly Consolation”, “Cup of Coffee”, etc.). Although, “Kimerioni” seemed similar at the first sight, it still differed from the others, due to its function, status and what is most important – character of decoration. Initially “Kimerioni” was considered as the first house of “Georgian Writers’ Union” founded in 1917, handed out to the Union based on the decree of Government of independent Georgia in 1919. Unlike the intimate art-cafes and cabarets, large space of “Kimerioni” consisted of several parts: central hall with a small stage for artistic performances, concerts and other events, linked to two passages interconnected with the stairs and small rooms to the right of the main south exit. These rooms were used for the literary evenings, writers’ meetings and anniversaries. The most active creative union “Tsisperkantselebi” was in charge of deciding the title, creating appropriate atmosphere and artistic design of “Kimerioni”. This very Union has invited Sergei Sudeikin, a distinguished representative of Russian Art Nouveau and a stage designer of the plays “Russian Seasons” staged in Paris, whose theatrical imaginary artistic world full of allegories was close and understandable for Symbolist poets. Other artists: David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili, Sigizmund Valishevski, Kirile Zdanevich, Mose Toidze and Irakli Toidze also worked on the mural decoration of “Kimerioni’. Understanding the whole concept of artistic decor of “Kimerioni” became possible after collating preserved painting and different sources (memoires, memos and artistic sketches). The content of compositions shows introduction of several themes that can conventionally be called: “Creator and Muse”, “Life and Culture of Old and New Georgia”, and “Imaginary Reality of Art”. The latter is mainly expressed in Sudeikin’s painting. The theme “Creator and Muse” is dedicated to the theatre in the composition of S. Sudeikin, to the writing and poetry in D. Kakabadze’s painting and to the painting – in case of I. Toidze, whose works have been completely restored, thanks to the preserved sketch. So far, only one out of three compositions (“Stepko’s Tavern”) of Lado Gudiashvili, reflecting the life and culture of old Georgia and Tbilisi has been restored. We have discovered the preparatory sketch of “Warden Fox”, painted next to abovementioned composition in “Small Album of Sudeikina Stravinski” published by J. Bowlt. Comparison of the old photo and the material had helped us in correct identification. Father and son Toidzes have undertaken the demonstration of cultural achievements of new independent Georgia. M. Toidze’s two compositions are dedicated to the opening nights (5 and 21 February, 1919) of first Georgian operas: “Legend of Shota Rustaveli” (Dimitri Arakishvili) and “Abesalom and Eter” (Zakaria Paliashvili). Accordingly, one composition displays the episode of “Eter’s
Death”, while a haloed and crowned face of King Tamar is noticeable among the remaining details of the second composition. The biggest part of Irakli Toidze’s painting seems likely to present literary novelties of that period. The attempt of artistic “debate” between the old and new Georgia is felt between the compositions of nobility bulge out of the balcony (S. Sudeikin) and Georgian artists leaning against the barrier (D. Kakabadze). The latter is preserved only in the form of a sketch. If painted, supposedly it would have been placed in the second stare section similar to the location of Sudeikin’s composition. Thus, we believe that “Kimerioni” is the first among the artistic café clubs of Tbilisi that, apart from general European tendencies, reflects the traits of the national art, which was a component part of the cultural ideology of independent Georgia and aspiration of artists of the new generation. Due to such a synthesis,
it definitely laid claim to the status of “Temple of New Art”. Although, neither independent Georgian State nor “Kimerioni” was long lasting, “Kimerioni” had significantly contributed to the development of Georgian culture.

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