Oskar Schmerling Caucasians on Horseback
Caucasians on Horseback
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Oskar Schmerling ( Tbilisi 1863 - Tbilisi 1938 )

Schmerling was was born in 1863 in Tbilisi and he studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts from 1884 until 1891. At the end of the nineteenth century, with no art school hitherto established in Georgia, aspiring artists went to train in foreign, largely Russian, universities and art academies. While in St. Petersburg, Schmerling published caricatures for several Russian newspapers and was awarded a silver medal on graduating from the Academy. From 1891 to 1893 he lived in Munich where he continued his studies with the well-known battle painter Frants Alekseevich Rubo. Returning to Tbilisi in 1893 he became head of the newly established Tbilisi Art Studio, and later became director of the painting and sculpture school at the Society for Encouraging the Caucasian Decorative Arts. Several prominent Georgian artists, including Lado Gudiashvili (1896-1980), studied under him here.

Georgia was part of the Russian Empire from 1801 to 1918. Like many other Georgians at the time, Schmerling struggled with Russian control and the subjugation of local culture. From the mid-nineteenth century onwards, feelings of nationalism were prevalent and growing in Georgia. The nationalist writer Ilia Chavchavadze (1837-1907) embodied this sentiment as he sought to improve Georgian opportunities in a Russian speaking empire, as well as ensuring the preservation and study of their rich folklore. As a cartoonist and artist, Schmerling produced works that epitomised the essence of Georgian culture and tradition and it is highly likely that Caucasians on Horseback was created with this in mind. He also illustrated numerous children’s books that retold legends and stories from Georgian history and was a noted political cartoonist.