"Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925" at UCLA/Hammer Museum Feb. 24-May 9
The first major exhibition to explore visual arts in Persia (modern-day Iran) during the Qajar Dynasty, "Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925" focuses on extraordinary large-scale court and popular religious paintings and will be presented at UCLA at the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center from Feb. 24 through May 9, 1999. Organized by Dr. Layla S. Diba, Hagop Kevorkian Curator of Islamic Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, with Dr. Maryam Ekhtiar, Senior Research Associate, the exhibition includes more than 100 works, on loan from 36 internationally renowned private and public collections in seven countries. After its presentation at the UCLA/Hammer Museum, the exhibition will travel to the Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where it will be presented from July through September 1999.
"Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925" will be accompanied by an illustrated 296-page catalog published by The Brooklyn Museum in association with I. B. Tauris & Co., Ltd., London. This publication is the first full-length scholarly catalog on the subject of this exceptional art from a country that has been closed to the West for two decades.
The exhibition will include works that range in scale from miniature to monumental and will be presented thematically within a chronological framework. Along with court and religious paintings, which were often integral elements of decorative wall treatments, the exhibition will include a variety of works embellished with narrative scenes. The exhibition will explore the influences of the artistic traditions of the preceding dynasties and the impact of increased contact with Europe on the evolution of Qajar arts.
The major artistic achievement of the Qajar period is the flowering of a tradition of life-size figural painting. In Persia, however, life-size imagery evolved from a heritage dating back to antiquity, when a tradition of figural painting and sculpture associated with royalty first emerged. Much of this legacy had been destroyed or driven underground with the advent of Islam in A.D. 637, although the figural tradition continued in small-scale book illustration, metalwork and ceramics.
During the Qajar regime the long dormant tradition of wall painting re-emerged, and the ancient tradition of rock relief was revived. Ceremonial images were used as propaganda to promote the Qajar dynasty. Dazzling commissioned portraits of the second Qajar ruler, Fath `Ali Shah, were sent as diplomatic gifts to European and Russian rulers and to provincial centers ruled by the Shah's sons.
Two subjects that dominate Qajar court art are enthronement portraits and battle scenes. Among the exhibition's oil paintings on loan from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg are a monumental two-part battle scene that depicts an imperial military review and the Persians defeating the Russian army, as well as two remarkable portraits of Fath `Ali Shah.
This comprehensive interpretive exhibition concludes with the developments of later Qajar court painting, including strikingly expressive court portraits and democratized imagery in the form of heroic paintings of religious martyrdom and biting newspaper caricature.
"Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925" will be accompanied by a wide variety of public programs, including film, lectures, performances and storytelling at the UCLA/Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center.
"Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925" is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and by Massoumé and Fereidoun Soudavar in memory of their sons Alireza and Mohammad. Major support provided by The Hagop Kevorkian Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the family of the late Eskander Aryeh and Hashem Khosrovani. Additional support provided by the Brooklyn Museum of Art's Asian Art Council, Afsaneh Al-e Mohammad Dabashi, Mr. and Mrs. Dara Zargar, Elizabeth Ettinghausen and Patrons of The Qajar Gala. An indemnity has been granted by the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. Planning and research supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Hagop Kevorkian Fund and the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Foundation. Funds for the catalog are provided through a publications endowment created by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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