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Who is Henryk Hryniewski?

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By Gwylym Owen

Henryk Hryniewski (Georgian: ჰენრიხ ჰრინევსკი; Russian: Генрих Викторович Гриневский) (November 22nd,1869–March 4th,1937) was a Polish-Georgian painter, graphic artist, and illustrator. He was also known as a scholar and an educator of standard Georgian architecture. He was arrested and put to death during Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge. Few of his native work survive.

Hryniewski was born into a relations of an exiled Polish patriot in the western Georgian city of Kutaisi, then allowance of the Russian Empire. From 1895 to 1898, he studied art and architecture at Florence and Karlsruhe. In 1898, he settled in Tiflis (Tbilisi) where he painted and taught. He directed the Tiflis Arts School from 1918 and 1921 and helped transform it into the Georgian Academy of Fine Arts, of which he became a professor in 1922 and vice-rector in 1927.

Hryniewski was dynamic in the major cultural projects of the time; he was instrumental in organizing a museum of the history of Tbilisi and was a devotee of a special commission for protection of the city’s cultural heritage. He studied Georgian folk and church architecture and produced “Old Architecture of Georgia,” an album of aquarelles, as skillfully as a cumulative analysis of conventional Georgian ornate art and a textbook upon linear perspectives and theory of shadows. Hrynievski’s illustrations regularly appeared in the Georgian press and in editions the works of leading Georgian writers, especially those of Ilia Chavchavadze. He in addition to created an iconostasis for the Kashveti Church of St. George and coauthored the project of the Georgian Bank of Nobility office (presently the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia). He opposed a program of ideological reforms in the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts (formerly the Tbilisi Academy of Fine Arts) pushed for by the Soviet authorities. Hryniewski was arrested and shot in a 1937 repression wave. NKVD officers destroyed his studio and a large number of his works. Hryniewski’s wife Maria Perini (1873-1939), an Italian dancer and a founder of the first ballet studio in Tbilisi was rapidly exiled from Georgia after her husband’s arrest.

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