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PAINTING


Arabs
The hostility of the orthodox theologians to all forms of representative art including painting provided only a temporary set back to its development. The Omayyad Caliphs who started a life of luxury and splendour and built magnificent palaces permitted figure paintings in private apartments specially in bath-rooms and harems, though such type of art was scrupulously excluded from public, political and religious edifices. The Omayyad Caliph, Al-Walidhad his desert palace Qasar-i-Amra (712--715 A.D.) painted with frescoes depicting figures of six royal personages including the Caliph himself, sitting on a throne. A hunting scenel depicted a lion attacking a wild ass and there were several nude figures representing dancers, musicians and buffoons. The background ornamentations consisted of draperies, foliage, vines, palm trees, cluster of fruits and desert birds.

The Abbasids who were great patrons of art, took a liberal view of the matter. -The Abbasid Caliph Mansur had set upon the dome of his palace the figure of a horseman which probably served as a weathercock. Amin had his pleasure boats fashioned like lions, eagles and dolphins. The Abbasid Caliph, Al-MutaSim, the builder of Samarra (836 A. D.) had his palace decorated with exquisite frescoes of nude female figures and hunting scenes. He had employed Christian artists for this assignment. Another Abbasid Caliph, Mutawakkil, who is said to have spent over 29,40,00,000 dirhams on beautifying Samarra, had employed Byzantine painters for the mural decoration of his palace.

The world famous Alhambra Palace of Granada (Spain) contains the figures of Moors represented as noble, knights and troubadours in roof paintings. The well-known court of lions contains exquisite statues of 12 lions carved out of marble. But the contribution of the Arabs to this art is still unknown as none of the books dealing with the history of Arabic paintings has survived.


Mughals
The Mughal emperors are distinguished as the great patrons of art and architecture. Being deeply influenced by Persian culture, the Mughal emperors afforded artists in their dominions the fullest opportunity for the pursuits of fine arts. Mughal painting, in fact is a pleasant blend of three main influences-namely Persian, Western and Indian. The Mughal art is realistic and in a way photographic and took 150 years for its full growth. Like Persian painting it is essentially an art of book painting. The first Mughal emperor, Babar who lived in the days of the celebrated Persian painter Behzad, had a critical taste for this art. His memoirs include a criticism of Behzad for being incapable of drawing beardless figures.

His gifted son, Humayun had employed Mir Sayyad Ali and Khwaja Abdul Samad, the latter being entrusted with the supervision of illustrating the tale of Ameer Hamza. About 50 painters worked on this plan and produced more than 2,000 illustrations painted on cloth.

The Mughal school of painting owes much to emperor Akbar, whose irreligiosity provided a great stimulus to all types of secular art. Artists, during his regime were free to produce on canvas and paper life in its -varied forms. He came in contact with Western art through the Portuguese Jesuits. Akbar held occasional art exhibitions in his palace and awarded prizes. The interest exhibited by the emperor for this art created a healthy competition and produced more than 100 first class artists. He commissioned some of them to decorate with exquisite paintings the walls of his newly built palace at Fatehpur Sikri.

The talented Mughal emperor, Jahangir continued the patronage of fine arts like his father and Mughal painting during his regime was developed to a high degree of perfection.


Persia
Persia, which has the-distinction of being the cradle of civilization in Asia has made lasting contributions to the development of Islamic fine arts.

The development of painting and other fine arts in Persia dates back to even before the Abbasid Caliphate. During the golden period of the Abbasid Caliphate when arts and literature flourished, the Persian influence in fine arts, especially in painting, was very strong. Except for the ornamental wall paintings, which came to light in the Palaces of Samarra during the course of excavations, no traces of Persian painting of the Sassanian period has been found.

The first extant work of Persian painting of the Saljuq period dates to the 12th century and the tendencies evident in this work continued upto the end of the 13th century A.D. The works of this period are astonishing in their refinement of colour shading and the "forcible depiction of their subjects". The witty conceits of Abu Said of Serruj are highly commendable. The 'Minai' pottery of Raghes (c 1200) which borrowed the Baghdad style of painting was also prevalent throughout Persia.


Persian-Mongol School
The Mongol conquests of-Central Asia, Persia and China enlarged the outlook on painting and introduced Chinese landscape painting into Persia. Till the beginning of the 14th century, the subject for painting in Persia generally was representation of historical events and legendary episodes. In the 14th century a new Persio-Mongol style of painting was developed which had its centre in Baghdad and Tabriz. The captions now were Persian and the art of miniature painting was Persianised. The great epics of Firdausi, Nizami and Kirmani were illustrated and translated into pictures. The heroic themes of Shah Nama and the classical stories of Shirin Farhad and Laila Majrzoon were transformed into living sketches. The selection of themes out of their national history and country side landscapes, gave the works of Persian artists a romantic touch visible in Gothic art. "It was in this period (14th century)" says a western critic of art, "That the harmony between picture and text reached the highest degree, and turning the leaves of extant manuscripts we are continually astonished at the skill with which the Persian painters filled their subjects into spaces allotted to them". Till the beginning of the 14th century, backgrounds used to be coloured red, then it changed to blue and at the end of the century a gold background was favoured. Other colours used were bright and lively. The landscape painted during the period was mostly of steppes, barren rocks,isolated trees, and a little rivulet running among stones bordered by shrubs and flowering plants.


Behzad of Herat
"An undeniable weakness of Persio-Mongol paintings" says a critic of art, "is in the diagramatical conventionalizihg of figures, the spiritless treatment of heads and absence of expression in movements". In this respect hardly any progress was visible til lthe birth of the great personality of Behzad-a genius who is rightly honoured as the greatest painter of Persia who revolutionised the Persian art of painting, Behzad who was born before 1450 A.D. and died after 1520 A.D. represents the zenith of the Persio-Mongol and the beginning of the Safavid period of Persian painting. He was head of the Herat Academy till 1506 A.D., when Shah Ismail took him to Tabriz and made him Chief of the Imperial Library. Of his early works are History of Taimur illustrated in 1467 A.D., an illustrated edition of Saadi's Bostan completed in 1487 A.D. and the illustrated story of Laila Majnoon are preserved in Leningrad. "Behzad understood how, even in his most populous compositions, to differentiate every single figure in countenance and bearing; his palette was extraordinarily' rich, specially in warm, full tones and this enabled him to individualise his portraits by the employment of numerous colour nuances for costumes and even for flesh." He reformed the painting of landscapes by making it more realistic and natural. He was the first to revolt against the dictates of the Calligraphers and chose his own line in this respect also. He left behind him a host of pupils both in Herat and Tabriz, who popularised his art and style throughout Persia, Turkistan and even in India and he was considered an authority on oriental painting till the beginning of the 18th century A. D.


The Tabriz School
The second great exponent of the Tabriz school of painting was the gifted Sultan Muhammad, who exercised much influence in the durbar of Shah Tahmspi. With the help of other artists he produced fine illustrated editions of Persian epics and he opened a new field for painters by introducing lacquer painting. Some of the best: animal and hunting trapestries of the 16th century were made in his studio. He laid great emphasis on ornamental and floral forms of painting.


The Isfahan School
Isfahan,.the great capital of the celebrated Persian monarch Shah-Abbas was the centre of the arts and literature in the latter half of the 15th century. Imad-elHusni (died in 1618 A.D.) and Ali Raza Abbasi competed in Calligraphy. Animal figures were very skilfully painted by the artists, who formed one of the most glorious periods of Persian painting. Ustad Muhammadi provided the link between the Tabriz and Isfahan schools and was the first to put his observation of nature on paper in purest ink wash technique without any reference to text. The successor of Ustad Muhammadi was the celebrated Raza Abbasi, who was one of the most remarkable artists Persia has produced. He excelled in the art of gay, sure handed colour sketches and drawings in red chalk on common subjects. He also used rich colour in paintings and his reputation as an artist rivals that of Behzad. He gave an impetusto the illustration of manuscripts and other decorative arts. His best pupil and friend was Moin, whose best extant work is the portrait of his Teacher. The style of Raza- Abbasi was kept alive by Muhamrnad Qasim, Mir Muhammad Ali and Muhammad Yusuf till the beginning of the 18th century.

During the 18th century Persian-painting was influenced by Western art and Nadir Shah brought from India the heritage of Mughal art. Lacquer painting of ordinary type gained much popularity in the first half of the 19th century and the great Persiari art became a thing of the Past.

The Iranian painting influenced and stimulated the growth of painting in the East specially those of the Mughals in India.

Copied from 'THE ISLAMIC SCHOLAR'