The first major exhibition to explore visual arts in Persia (modern-dayIran) during the Qajar Dynasty, "Royal Persian Paintings: The QajarEpoch 1785-1925" focuses on extraordinary large-scale court and popularreligious paintings and will be presented at UCLA at the Armand HammerMuseum of Art and Cultural Center from Feb. 24 through May 9, 1999. Organizedby Dr. Layla S. Diba, Hagop Kevorkian Curator of Islamic Art at the BrooklynMuseum of Art, with Dr. Maryam Ekhtiar, Senior Research Associate, theexhibition includes more than 100 works, on loan from 36 internationallyrenowned private and public collections in seven countries. After its presentationat the UCLA/Hammer Museum, the exhibition will travel to the Brunei Gallery,School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where itwill be presented from July through September 1999.
"Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925" willbe accompanied by an illustrated 296-page catalog published by The BrooklynMuseum in association with I. B. Tauris & Co., Ltd., London. This publicationis the first full-length scholarly catalog on the subject of this exceptionalart from a country that has been closed to the West for two decades.
The exhibition will include works that range in scale from miniatureto monumental and will be presented thematically within a chronologicalframework. Along with court and religious paintings, which were often integralelements of decorative wall treatments, the exhibition will include a varietyof works embellished with narrative scenes. The exhibition will explorethe influences of the artistic traditions of the preceding dynasties andthe impact of increased contact with Europe on the evolution of Qajar arts.
The major artistic achievement of the Qajar period is the floweringof a tradition of life-size figural painting. In Persia, however, life-sizeimagery evolved from a heritage dating back to antiquity, when a traditionof figural painting and sculpture associated with royalty first emerged.Much of this legacy had been destroyed or driven underground with the adventof Islam in A.D. 637, although the figural tradition continued in small-scalebook illustration, metalwork and ceramics.
During the Qajar regime the long dormant tradition of wall paintingre-emerged, and the ancient tradition of rock relief was revived. Ceremonialimages were used as propaganda to promote the Qajar dynasty. Dazzling commissionedportraits of the second Qajar ruler, Fath `Ali Shah, were sent as diplomaticgifts to European and Russian rulers and to provincial centers ruled bythe Shah's sons.
Two subjects that dominate Qajar court art are enthronement portraitsand battle scenes. Among the exhibition's oil paintings on loan from theState Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg are a monumental two-part battlescene that depicts an imperial military review and the Persians defeatingthe Russian army, as well as two remarkable portraits of Fath `Ali Shah.
This comprehensive interpretive exhibition concludes with the developmentsof later Qajar court painting, including strikingly expressive court portraitsand democratized imagery in the form of heroic paintings of religious martyrdomand biting newspaper caricature.
"Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925" willbe accompanied by a wide variety of public programs, including film, lectures,performances and storytelling at the UCLA/Armand Hammer Museum of Art andCultural Center.
"Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925" is madepossible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and by Massouméand Fereidoun Soudavar in memory of their sons Alireza and Mohammad. Majorsupport provided by The Hagop Kevorkian Fund, the National Endowment forthe Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the family of the late Eskander Aryehand Hashem Khosrovani. Additional support provided by the Brooklyn Museumof Art's Asian Art Council, Afsaneh Al-e Mohammad Dabashi, Mr. and Mrs.Dara Zargar, Elizabeth Ettinghausen and Patrons of The Qajar Gala. An indemnityhas been granted by the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. Planningand research supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, TheHagop Kevorkian Fund and the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Foundation. Fundsfor the catalog are provided through a publications endowment created bythe Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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