Follow the journey of the outstanding Georgian and European artist
The friends published the manifesto Made Pictures (Сделанные картины), which expressed the philosophy behind Kakabadze’s work – that the picture has to be created, completed and released from everything unintentional.
Natural sciences in the painter's life. After graduating from the university, in 1916, Kakabadze returned to Georgia. He taught physics and mathematics in a Tbilisi school.
On November 22, 1917, the physics and mathematics examination committee qualified David Kakabadze for a second-degree diploma in biology from the University of Petrograd (today, Saint Petersburg). Besides the subjects related to his major, he passed examinations in general physics, crystallography, chemistry, fundamentals of higher mathematics, and many other fields.
David actively partook in the 'Société des Artistes Indépendants' and other joint exhibitions in France.
During his stay in Paris, he was attracted by ‘Subject-less painting’ and worked on problems of pictorial technique, occasionally using metal, mirror glass, stained glass and other such materials in place of paints.
He soon went over to an even more ‘Leftist’ position, and paid generous tribute to cubism.
By the mid 1920s though, he had rejected his cubist-influenced style in favor of more abstract sculpture and painting.
The critics were particularly impressed with the way the artist had electrified some of the compositions. So as times connected him to the Futurists and the usage of ready-made objects and electric light suggests an affinity with the Dadaists. All these tendencies were reworked and transformed into an obvious individual style that was not similar with any associations and could not be attributed to any particular movement in art.
All David’s famous series belong to the Parisian period where he stayed until 1927: Bretagne (1921), the graphic and oil cubist series Paris (1920), Sailing Boats (1921), Abstract Forms of Blooming Gardens (1921), and collages with lenses (1924).
Artist and inventor. The artist lectured on various aspects of visual arts and developed his interest in kinetic form. He was an outstanding representative of the technical vision.
In 1923, he became one of the pioneers of three-dimensional cinema. Working on the invention was a whole separate chapter in the painter's biography.
Towards the end of 1925, however, David was forced to give up his work on the experimental stereo film camera and projector; he postponed the project indefinitely.
Worldwide recognition. In 1926, the founders of ‘Société Anonyme’ - Catherine Drier, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, with collaboration of Wassily Kandinsky and others arranged a big international exhibition of modern art at the Brooklyn Museum. For this reason, ‘Société Anonyme’ (also known as an ‘Experimental Museum’) purchased works of Davit Kakabadze, including the sculpture Z.
Katherine Dreier came to Europe specifically in order to purchase samples of the latest art and acquired the sculpture directly from the show.
Interestingly enough, Z, which is also known as Speared Fish, was reproduced on the front pages of almost all publications dedicated to the Société Anonyme Art Collection.
In 1953, the sculpture, along with the rest of Katherine Dreier 's collection, was donated to the Yale University Art Gallery in accordance with her will.
The artist, whose vision and way of thinking was thoroughly modern and who dedicated dozens of articles, books and monographs to the modern art, was allowed to create only realistic works in his homeland.
He was offered a teaching job at the Academy of Arts in Tbilisi, where he worked as a professor, Dean of the painting department and Vice-rector from 1929 till 1948. David was the author and designer of about ten films and thirty theatrical and opera performances. In 1930, he made a documentary film that was based on his own script: Monuments of Material Culture of Georgia.
However, the works of the Parisian period, as well as the whole process and way of Kakabadze’s creative search, proved unacceptable for the young republic. David Kakabadze took into consideration the general opinion of critics in Georgia and abandoned the path he had been pursuing during the eight years of his life in Paris.
He never returned to abstract art.
Despite Soviet regulations, David still managed to think out of the box. His works and sketches, created either for opera or theatre, were apparently different from that of Social Realism.
He applied paints onto wet paper which look as if they have preserved their moisture even up to now. Together with the whiteness of the paper, it is this ‘humidity’ that creates the sensation of depth and space- he wrote.
Like many of his contemporary Soviet artists, David Kakabadze had a dramatic life caused first and foremost by the restrictions the Soviet regime imposed on the freedom of expression of artists.
He was an artist and scientist who never lost his dignity, nor was he ever subservient towards those in power.
That was why he turned out to be unacceptable for the Soviet world.
Along with unbearable oppression, the order, issued in 1948, turned out to be fatal for the painter. The Tbilisi Academy of Art announced David that he ‘could not instruct students according to the socialist realism method’. He was dismissed from his position from the 1948-49 academic year with the ‘formalist’ brand of shame.
Kakabadze died on May 10, 1952.
Georgian State Museum of Theatre, Music, Cinema and Choreography - Art Palace
The narrative was created based on Ketevan Kintsurashvili's book "David Kakabadze - a 20th Century Classic"
Special thanks to the Yale University Art Gallery, The Museu Colecção Berardo and Ketevan Kintsurashvili
Find out more about the artist in our exhibit David Kakabadze: experiments with art and technology.