It is known that the development of contemporary painting in Uzbekistan occurred in a difficult environment and had an accelerated evolution. Powerful breakthrough of different trends characteristic of the 1920s (avant-guard, impressionism, realism), by mid 1930s got stuck under ideological pressure of social realism. Yellowed sheets of documents stored in archives bear evidence of enduring and complex artistic careers of painters of that time. Against this complex historical background takes place professional “maturation” of the first Uzbek artists: A. Abdullaev, L. Abdullaev, B. Hamdami, A. Siddiki, H. Mansurov, Sh. Hasanova… Their artistic individualities evolved during the years when the principles of social realism were actively promoted, and the majority of their teachers criticised, accused of “formalism”, “naturalism”, “decorativism”…
Activity of the first national artists was always under state control, therefore, artistic career of A. Abdullaev, L. Abdullaev, and Sh. Hasanova developed quite successfully. As for B. Hamdami, A. Siddiki, and H. Mansurov, their path was interrupted by the World War II. Regrettably, most of their works are hard to find, and, as a result, their art has still not been thoroughly studied.
In the transcripts of reporting meetings the young painters of that time were characterized as “talented, promising national artists who love their profession, who are searching and aspire for greater creative achievements, and are able to find new aspects of life” (1. sheet 76). Such was Bahrom Hamdami who earned recognition of fine arts amateurs. The active period in the art of this first national artist from Tashkent covered the years 1933-1942, the years of his training and personal development. More information about him can be found in monographs by art historian R. Taktash. As for the works that survived, we know from the archive data that Hamdami’s pictures, along with the works of A. Nikolaev (Usto Mumin), V. Kaidalov, N. Karahan, and A. Andullaev, were acquired by procurement committee of the Museum of Oriental People’s Culture (Moscow) (1). In Uzbekistan, the artist’s works can only be found in the State Fine Arts Museum. These ten or more works shed the light on his art and enable identifying subject-matter, genres and specificity of his artistic manner. A number of sketches and studies are the private property of his family.
Hamdami was born in 1910 in Tashkent. His father was a major land owner. In 1930s, calumniated by his community neighbours, he was imprisoned and his property confiscated. U. Tansykbaev recalled that when he visited Moscow with Hamdami, the latter wrote a petition to the Supreme Court asking to revise the decision of the Tashkent court. In that same year the court ruling was changed, his father acquitted and the land returned (2). However, the artist’s father Kosimhon could not forgive his neighbours and moved with his family to Kamolon neighbourhood.
His basic training in painting Hamdami received in 1932-1934 in Tashkent industry training workshops. In 1934 he was admitted, as a fourth year student, to decorative art department of the Tashkent vocational art school. One of his first teachers was A. Volkov. This is Hamdami’s own recollection of it: “After the exhibition, Volkov, having looked at my works, invited me to join his team where I began to work in 1935. At that time I just started to work creatively, did not communicate with any of the artists and was not member of any grouping” (3). Volkov could see that Hamdami, apart from having great interest in painting, was also gifted, and helped the evolution of the most important quality in him – zeal for life and work. Early Hamdami’s works were movie posters. Then he started copying posters by Usto Mumin, V. Rojdestvenskiy, S. Malt.
Despite the fact that Hamdami was a student of A. Volkov and then of M. Kurzin, whose views on art were linked with avant-guard concepts, he took a seemingly easier path yet richer in expressive means, the path of realism. Realistic method is considered basics school of painting, and mastering it was essential for the beginner artist. Hamdami thoroughly studied realism as such. Portraying people of rapidly changing time, he tried to present and understand events of those years (4).
Most of Hamdami’s works kept in the Fine Arts Museum are portraits of people who were close to the artist. Each of them has its own character, and each of them is unique. Russian artists who drew portraits of people of the East, tended to reproduce mainly ethnic types saturated with oriental romanticism and lyricism (“Portrait of the Tajik Man” and “Portrait of a Jewish Dyer from Bukhara” by P. Ben’kov; “Portrait of a Collective Farmer”, and “Girls with Cotton” by A. Volkov; “Portrait of a Young Uzbek Man”, and “Uygur Woman” by A. Nikolaev (Usto Mumin); and “Portrait of a Young Woman” by N. Karahan), whereas Hamdami tried to show the warmth of people’s hearts reflected in their faces, their intellect and psychological sentiment.
A whole range of portraits he created in late 1930s offers proof of the above. His works such as “Portrait of Bahodir”, “Muhitdinova, the Komsomol”, and “Brother’s Portrait” demonstrate the artist’s desire to thoroughly master the portrait genre and his search for his own artistic signature and unique style (5, 6, p. 11). In his every model Hamdami intensifies qualities that appeal to him – enduring character and commitment to the idea. Such are the “Grandfather’s Portrait” (1938), and “Mustarib, the Poet” (1940-1941). The latter is the artist’s most renowned painting, the embodiment of folk wisdom. Deep wrinkles on the poet’s face are like marks of life full of hardships. With his masterful brush the artist creates an expressive and impressive image, using chaotic, dynamic and living strokes. Through the individual character the author aspired to represent an ethnic type honed by centuries and the national character.
In the paintings “Building the Anchor”, “The Young Artists”, and “Favourite Song”, along with painting technique, one can feel the artist’s signature mood of sublimity and refined perception of surrounding reality. These works, apart from Hamdami’s aspiration to expressively cover the subject, reflect his consideration for a human being, for his dreams and hopes. For instance, in “Favourite Song” one can sense that the artists is skilled in academic drawing and tries to create a completed composition by way of working with life models and playing with chiaroscuro and colours. Each of the characters listening to a song on a gramophone record is given an individual personality. The author is trying to portray emotional state of each of them. Rather than photographic likeness, Hamdami was more interested in the mood of the event he depicted. The “Favourite Song” is painted with large brush strokes, its composition is free and precise, and its colours pure and clear. In that same year the artist created several other paintings.
A report N. Karahan presented at the 1937 Moscow exhibition of Uzbekistan artists noted that Hamdami’s pictures “Red Teahouse” (kept at the Museum of Oriental People’s Culture) and “Basic Education at Chirchikstroy”, earned particular recognition despite the fact that the latter was weaker in terms of compositional and colour solution. One should also emphasize that the presenter mentioned Hamdami’s “Red Teahouse” alongside Ben’kov’s “Crop, The Best There Is!”, Tatevosyan’s “Wedding in a Collective Farm”, Kashina’s “A Woman on a Farm Is a Great Strength”, and Ufimtsev’s “Hero Mother” – that is, among the finest achievements of Uzbekistan painting (7). From May 27 till October 20, 1938 the Artists Union of Uzbekistan ran a contest for the best sketch for a thematic composition. Hamdami participated with his sketch titled “Banishing an Idler from a Collective Farm”. Kuchis described the picture as follows: “From the standpoint of realism, the work is interesting, the theme and character are presented insightfully, and the work can draw attention”. L. Barhanov also noted its “spatial solution and peculiar treatment of colours” (7).
A special place among the artist’s surviving works is his self-portrait. Every artist depicts his own image trying to represent all his creative achievements. Self-portrait is always a cause to reflect one’s vision, experience and views. That is why self-portraits excite particular interest of art connoisseurs.
The only Hamdami’s “Self-portrait” was created in 1940. This work is notable for its academic style, with all traditions of realistic school observed. The artist paid specific attention to ethnographic features and traits, emphasizing that he was a national painter and representative of Uzbek nation. The use of classical composition, as in his other portraits, gives this work its monumental quality while emphasizing the character’s spiritual and emotional qualities.
Hamdami, when working on his canvases, tried to subdue the brightness of red and yellow in his palette. Body texture of people living in the land of the Sun is presented using a variation of reddish-brown paints. A well-known artist V. Yeremyan gave the following view about his works: “I saw many works of Uzbek painters showing Uzbek people. However, nobody could portray them with such warmth as Hamdami did in his composition” (8).
Hamdami’s works kept in the Museum’s collection show his keen interest in portraying the events of those years. Such are portraits “Komsomolets”, “Collective Farmers”, etc. The artist created both group portraits and individual, psychologically charged characters. Although Hamdami’s career in art was not very long time-wise, as the first national artist from Tashkent, he was able to communicate the atmosphere of his time and the characters of his contemporaries in his portraits and subject paintings.
1. ЦГА Уз, ф.2320, оп. 1, А.31. Дискуссия “О борьбе за социалистическое искусство” – 1937 г., л.76; оп. 6, А.4.
2. Стенографический отчет творческокго диспута за правдивое социалистическое искусство , 1937 г.
3. ЦГА Уз, ф.2320, оп. 1, А.39. Стенографический отчет заседания оргкомитета Союза художников Узбекистана. – 1937 г., л.361.
4. ЦГА Уз, ф.2320, оп.1, А.27. Протокол заседания оргкомитета Союза художников Узбекистана. -1937 г., л.36.
5. Волков В. Творчество Хамдами и формирование плеяды профессиональных узбекских художников во второй половине 30-х годов. Рукопись. Ташкент, 1959 г. 14 с.
6. Токтош Р. Бахром Хамдамий. Тошкент, 1969.
7. ЦГА Уз, ф. 2320, оп. 1, А.39. Стенографический отчет заседания оргкомитета Союза художников Узбекистана. – 1937 г.,- л. 60.
8. ЦГА Уз, ф. 2320, оп. 1, А.83. Стенограмма диспута “5-го заседания” Союза художников Узбекистана. – 1938 г. – л.48.