Iakob Nikoladze – the first professional Georgian sculptor and founder of realistic sculpture.  A person, who had spent all his energy to study this field and then create masterpieces, as well as that, he was the one to upbring several generations of sculptors with whom he shared his knowledge.

Iakob, son of Ivan Nicoladze was born in Kutaisi in 1876. He was one of the founders of the Art Academy and its first professor. He showed early interest in painting. In 1893-1894 he was in Moscow, and then, the Odessa Art School education. The first sculptures were created by him in 1896, after he returned from Russia: portraits of Lado Alexi Meskhishvili, Akaki and Shota Rustaveli. In years 1899-1901 he went to Paris to continue his studies at the Academy of Arts in 1899-1901. He was given the fellowship by literacy community of Georgians and a well-known philanthropist, David Sarajishvili.

In 1904, Iakob returned to Paris the second time, rented a small studio and continued working. Out of works of this time, the most distinguished are: “Wind” (Stone, 1905), “the North’s Daughter” (Marble, 1906), “Dancer” (bronze, 1906), also Ghoghoberidze bust, “Girl with a Carafe”, “Unemployed”, also a famous singer’s, Nanobashvili’s portrait in bronze and more.

From year 1906, Iakob Nicoladze started working with the greatest sculptor, Auguste Rodin. He was hired, so naturally, he had hoped for a salary. Rodin was 65 years old when our young fellow first entered his workshop.Iakob was trying hard to deserve the artist’s praise, to take his remarks into account, as he remembered  what Rodin had said, “I have not yet met a sculptor who understands my principles.” The first task was “John the Baptist’s head on the hood.” Nikoladze wanted to show that he understood his teacher well. He completed his work in forty days. Rodin liked it and was gazing it for a long time, being happy and shouting: “this is the twelfth century, the twelfth century”.

Since 1905, the sculptor created works, which reveal an obvious influence of Roden. The first and most important is “Daughter of the North” – poetic. This is a blurry artistic face, in which Roden’s works’ “second manner” is clearly revealed. Composition of this sculture is simple, yet sophisticated. The turned head of the figure somehow slows down the symmetry of thesilhouette .

Artist tries different methods of working with marble: the lower part of the sculture is almost not touched and represents a postament. As for the image itself – the woman’s fine, soft bust and facial features have been attentively processed. The forms are softly shaped and creates light transitions of the shadow. The feeling of delicacy and tenderness of feeling is reached , which gives a peculiar charm to this statue. The performance of this work in a manner is close to “Bust the Corinth” (1908, marble). Here, too, the processing of facial traits, the lighting design, the effect of light and shadows are involved. Here the pedestal is again roughly treatedmarble stone. Unlike the previous work, woman’s face is sad, which responds to the statue’s purpose – it was a grave monument.

In 1908 Iacob Nicoladze created a sculptural portrait (marble) of a Georgian manufacturer and philanthropist David Sarajishvili. Simple again with frontal composition, a clear silhouette. Despite mild forms of modeling, it has a strength, stability, which serves to identify the nature of portraid person. It’s really a psychological portrait, – the model’s personal qualities are presented – energy, strength, willpower.

In this period, in addition to portraits, I. Nicoladze created compositions on various topics (eg. “Autumn”, marble, 1906-1907 yy.) In this statues as well processed marble rocks and polished forms are confronted. Especially interesting is Vakhtang Kotetishvili’s note: “Iokanaan’s head is wonderful, it represents furiosity”.

In 1908, he was on a temporary visit fromParis. Upon returning, already in Paris, he made a allegoric figure of “Sorrowful Georgia” in 1909. The monument, afterwards, was erected on Mtatsminda Pantheon, on Ilia’s cemetery.

Nikoladze’s works during the Paris period was so rich and interesting that in 1909 his statues were displayed along with other worldwide famous masterpieces in the the great palace of Shanzelize. In 1910, Iakob returned to his homecountry permanently and worked with his carving tools till the end  life. His great talent and professionalism in bronze, stone and marble gave eternal life to Shota Rustaveli, Akaki Tsereteli, Grigol Chakhrukhadze, Ilia Chavchavadze, Fine, I.Beritashvili, Ivane Javakhishvili, Constantine leselidzesa and other worthy patriots.

The founder of Georgian realistic sculpture used to say that a statue should be twice as alive as the person who is being sculpted

Iakob NiKoladze died in 1951. He is buried at Mtatsminda Pantheon.

And finally, a thrilling letter, which Niko Nikoladze wrote his mom from Paris:

“Dear mother!

First of all, I ask God for your life.
If you ask me about my story, I’m fine. I arrived to Paris today from Marseille. I left Istanbul on Wednesday – and I arrived to Marseille on Tuesday and the next day here … so I rented a room on the fourth floor for 15 francs, which is 6 rouble per month.

Lunch, dinner, coffee (tea is not available here unlike Istanbul) for 70 francs, which is 28 rouble per month. This can be expensive, but I’ll try I get a cheaper one. House rent was taken in, but I wil have to pay for the dinner at the end of the month.

I went from Istanbul to Marseille in fourth class. I gave 60 francs which is 24 roubles for the train. From Marseille already 38.5 francs, which is 23 roubles and 30 kopecks …

I will stay here for 3 years. You know, how not to forget me.. Why have not you written at least one letter…

What else can I write, I will send you some more information about situation in Paris soon.. I will say just one more thing now, it seems to be heaven.

Your obedient son Iakob

Do not worry about me. I learnt the language so well on my way and I can freely exchange information”.




Author: Nanouk Zaalishvili

English Edit: NutsaNamoradze

Used materials and photos:  www.burusi.ge  /  www.georgianart.ge  /  www.ciagi.ge






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