Mahshid Modares, 2012
Tavoos does not necessarily agree with all the viewpoints of the author
Art patronage in Iran in the Qajar period (1795-1925) witnessed preeminent fluctuations. Elements such as the availability of materials for painting, newly opened art schools, financial support for teaching at schools, and working for newspapers and publishers all helped artists to become more self-sufficient and solidified their positions in relationships to their patrons. Such changes increased the number and type of patrons as well. Middle-class, for example, purchased lithographed images and photographs, which were affordable for and available to the public. The result was Iranian’s interest in European realistic painting, which was regarded at that time as superior to traditional Iranian image making. By contrast, European patrons were looking for more traditional artworks and ancient artifacts. Their interest encouraged some artists to revive the traditional style of manuscript illumination and merge European figurative rendering within traditional Persian format (known as Persian miniature painting), thus creating a knew style.
Art Patronage of the Nineteenth Century Iran
The power of the art patronage in directing artists and thus in shaping the history of art in Iran in the Qajar period (1795-1925) cannot be overlooked. The best Iranian masters of art spent their lives at the courts of the monarchs. They provided commissioned works until the last decade of the nineteenth century when Kamal-al-Molk (1847-1940), the chief artist at the court of Naser-al-Din Shah (ruled 1848-1896) and Mozafer-al-Din Shah (ruled 1897-1907), left the court of Mozafar-al-Din Shah, and started painting without restraint working on noncommissioned canvases as well as commissioned ones. He was perhaps the first royal court artist to leave the court for ever and establish an independent studio.1 Elements such as the availability of materials for painting, newly opened art schools, financial support for teaching at schools, and working for newspapers and publishers all helped artists to become more self-sufficient and solidified their positions in relationships to their patrons. The main outcome was the rise of individualism among artists allied with the needs of the Iranian society and the interest of patrons.
The artists of the nineteenth century had all the necessary constituents to conduct new experiences in art. Social and cultural changes2, photography3, lithography4, the presence of European artists in Iran5, Iranian artists traveling to Europe, and patronage had a significant effect on leading visual arts toward European style realistic painting and later Realism. Artists of the second half of the nineteenth century retained the right to express themselves more freely, therefore, although patrons commissioned realistic paintings and expected to see external sameness with nature in canvases, artists went further and practiced a new style which is equivalent to European Realism.
The artists of the second half of the nineteenth century continued the investigations of the external features of nature and intended to illustrate the internal characteristics of their subject matter and their own sentiments and thoughts. Realism in the work of Iranian artists includes the representation of real events and social issues, the appreciation of a person as an individual, distinct from any class, gender, or ethnicity. They acknowledged themselves as individual artists, visible in the self-portraits, portraits of national heroes, and ordinary people in their daily life or participating in different social activities. In previous periods, most artists did not sign their works, and those who did usually signed with their first name or nickname adding words such as Kamineh, Kamtarin, or Bandeh Dargah meaning the least significant and the servant of the commissioner. Most artists of the second half of the nineteenth century started signing their canvases with their first and second name or their honorary name and the date. Yet, they still mentioned the name of the commissioner and his superiority, and used words such as Kamtarin occasionally.