The evolution of a professional art criticism in Azerbaijan and studies on the history of the country’s fine arts development are closely associated with the name of Mursal Najafov, Professor of Art History, whose academic research covers virtually all kinds of pictorial art.
Najafov focused on studying problems related to art theory, art criticism, and artists’ work. His professional association with the Mustafaev Museum of Arts and later with the Artists Union of Azerbaijan determined Najafov’s choice in favour of pursuing art criticism. In his publications dedicated to the current fine arts issues the author offered critical justification for the criteria of art and ideology, with specific emphasis on creativity. One of his first articles in the domain of study and promotion of fine arts Najafov dedicated to the life and work of a talented Azerbaijani artist of the early XX century Behruz Kengerli. The article talked about the enduring life and artistic style of the painter and graphic artist.
Najafov also studied the work of stage designers. In a series of articles he examined their work, as well as the most remarkable pieces of some famous artists of Azerbaijan who engaged in theatrical stage design, identifying their strengths and weaknesses and suggesting ways to address them. His first monograph, “Azim Azimzadeh”, published in 1954 Najafov dedicated to the art of a prominent Azerbaijani artist A. Azimzadeh. The work is of considerable interest, both from an academic and artistic point of view. Najafov researched the work of Azimzadeh not only as a graphic artist who created captivating drawings, but also as a versatile master who made a worthy contribution to the development of the national stage design art. Studying costume sketches and stage character images developed by the artist for theatre productions, Najafov referred to Azimzadeh as a founder of theatrical decorative art of Azerbaijan.
Mursal Najafov was widely known in the national academic circles. The huge response was triggered by his works such as “Behruz Kengerli” (1957), “On Sculpture” (1960), “Beyukaga Mirzazade” (1962), “Pictorial Art” (1962), “Tahir Salakhov” (1964), “Vajiha Samedova” (1965), “Fuad Abdurrahmanov” (1954), “Izzet Seidova” (1965), “Maral Rahmanzade” (1969), “The Art of Soviet Azerbaijan” (1972), “The Azerbaijani Cartoonists” (1973), and “Altai Gajiev” (1974). In his papers the scholar examines and assesses the work of fine arts masters from the perspective of research into his own time. The scholar dedicated some of his research to the heritage of the world’s art masters. This included books such as “Pheidias” (1977), “Raphael” (1980), and “Rubens” (1981), as well as articles “The Wonders of the Ancient World”, “Notes on Greek Art”, “Tales of Italy”, and others, written by Najafov after his foreign journeys. His books, “The Memory of Ages” and “A Journey Into the World of Beauty” that was published several times, contain stories about art and architectural monuments and museums in different countries.
Author of more than 200 books, research papers and articles, Najafov always lived in the spirit of renewal. The work of local artists that was never analyzed before enriched the arsenal of art history and criticism and contributed significantly to the understanding of how the fine art of Azerbaijan had evolved. For several decades, local and foreign press published Najafov’s numerous articles on the history of evolution of the country’s easel painting; these articles served as a kind of methodical guides on the art of prominent painters of the country. Insightful observations of Professor Najafov are collected in his book with a symbolic title: “50 Years Among and About Artists” (1970).
Mursal Najafov, an active participant of annual national exhibitions, as well as personal, collective and thematic exhibitions, always published articles about theses events in the press. He authored nearly 30 articles for the catalogues of exhibitions of Azerbaijani artists who displayed their works in art galleries of the capital city. Talented art critic who devoted his life to studying and promoting arts and aesthetic education for young generation, for 30 years Najafov collaborated with the national television of Azerbaijan and wrote over 250 scripts on the following topics: “The Art of Azerbaijan”, “The Art of the Peoples of the USSR”, “Art of the Peoples of the World”, The World’s Museums”, “The Art of Selected Painters”, etc. He hosted many television shows dedicated to art. TV programme “Palette”, first aired in 1970 following Najafov’s initiative, still remains one of the most popular ones on the national television.
Najafov combined his research work with teaching and advanced training activity. He was director of the A. Azimzadeh Baku Art College, where he taught a course on art history, and headed a Department of Fine Arts at the Azerbaijan Institute of Civil Engineering.
The contribution of Professor Mursal Najafov, Doctor of Art History and the Honorary Artist of Azerbaijan, to the development of science and culture were highly appreciated by the state and society. He was awarded several orders and many medals and became laureate of the State Award of Azerbaijan.
1. Рзакулиев Э. Слова художника о художнике. Вступительная статья к Каталогу изданных книг, статей в журналах, сборниках и газетах, посвященному Мурсалу Наджафову. Баку, 1987.
2. Мехтиев Р. На страже изобразительного искусства // Азербайджан, 20 сентября 2008 г. (на азерб.яз.).
3. Мохбаддин Самед. Сердце, бьющееся в строках // Гобустан, 1978, №1-3 (на азерб. яз.).
4. Абдуллаев К. Живая история художественной летописи // Азербайджан, 31 июля 1993 г. (на азерб.яз.).
Parvana Alieva (Azerbaijan)