Zand and Qajar School

This school refers to Later Iranian art of the Zand (1750–94) and Qajar (1779–1924) periods. The roots of paintings of this scool can be found in the style of painting that arose during the preceding Safavid empire. During this time, there was a great deal of European influence on Persian culture, especially in the arts of the royalty and noble classes. European art was undergoing a period of realism and this can be seen in the depiction of objects, especially by Qajar artists. The European influence is very well evidenced in the preeminent position and prestige of oil painting. While oil paintings had been par for the course during previous periods of Persian art, it was the influence of the European masters, like Rubens and Rembrandt, the true masters of oil portraiture that raised it to the highest level. Heavy application of paint and dark, rich, saturated colors are elements of Qajar painting that owe their influences directly to the European style. Most famous of the Qajar artworks are the portraits that were made of the various Persian Shahs. The depiction of nonroyal persons also has a very important place in the explanation and understanding of Qajar art. While naturally not commoners, the subjects of these portraits were often minor princes , the grandsons, nephews, and great-nephews of the ruling or previously ruling Shahs.

Mohammad Ghaffari, better knows as Kamal-ol-Molk, is the famous painter of this era. He had many trips to Europe and had discussions with distinguished European artists on style and technique, and copied some of Rembrandt’s works, including “Self Portrait”, “Jonah”, and “Saint Matthew”. The paintings he did in this period, which lasted up until the assassination of Nasereddin Shah, were portraits of important people, landscapes, paintings of royal camps and hunting grounds, and various parts of royal palaces. In this busiest period of Kamal-ol-Molk’s artistic life, he created over 170 paintings. The works he created in this period indicate his desire to develop his oil painting technique. He advanced so much that he even acquired laws of perspective by himself and applied them to his works. His mastery in the delicate use of a brush was as well as bright and lively colors distinguished him from his contemporaries.

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