Georgians mourned Monday the death of famed scriptwriter, puppeteer and painter Rezo Gabriadze whose internationally acclaimed productions deeply marked the Caucasus nation's cultural landscape.
He died Sunday aged 84, his family told the First Channel of Georgia's public television.
A rare example of intellectual and artistic freedom in the tightly controlled Soviet empire, Gabriadze's creative work spanned cinema, theatre, painting and literature.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili led tributes to Gabriadze Monday writing on Facebook that "Georgian culture has suffered an immense loss".
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili expressed condolences to Gabriadze's family, calling him "a great artist whose huge talent produced numerous masterpieces".
"Warmth, kindness, and love have been the fulcrum of Rezo Gabriadze's creative work," he said in a statement Sunday.
Gabriadze's friend, writer and linguist Levan Berdzenishvili, Monday praised to AFP Gabriadze's "luminous and versatile talent that combined incomparable humour and melancholy".
Gabriadze wrote 35 screenplays over his decades-long career including iconic Soviet-era comic films like cult science fiction movie Kin-dza-dza and Mimino, a tale of a provincial helicopter pilot's bid to fly commercial airliners in Moscow.
Gabriadze won worldwide recognition and international acclaim touring with numerous plays he staged in Tbilisi's Puppet Theatre, which he founded in the Georgian capital in 1981 and headed until his death.
His theatrical productions included the Autumn of Our Springtime, based on his post-WW2 childhood memories in his native city of Kutaisi.
The New York Times described another production, The Battle of Stalingrad, as a "timeless elegy with the delicacy of lacework whose effect is beautiful, poignant and lingering".
Gabriadze was awarded Georgia's pre-eminent decoration in the fields of arts and literature, the Rustaveli Prize, and the French Order of Arts and Letters.
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