Kamoliddin Behzad – the pride of the East

Shakhnoza Kasymova,

In the second half of the XV century the cultural life of Transoxiana (Mawerannakhr) and Khorasan was represented by such well-known artists and miniaturists as Mirza Ulughbeg and Ali Kushchi, Abdurahman Jami and Alisher Navoi, Kamoliddin Behzad, and many other.
Zakhiriddin Mohammad Babur called the “Golden Age” (“asri tilloyi”) the literary and artistic environment of Herat of that time or “the Age of Sultan Husayn Bayqarah”, “the reign of Sultan Husayn Bayqarah was perfect thanks to the worthy people and incomparable society. The unequaled city of Hiriy was the center of Khorasan, where everyone was busy with his business. While due to a zeal, generosity and greed one had the only desire – to do his job perfectly” (1, p. 258).
Kamoliddin Behzad (1455 – 1537) – the pride of Iranians, Afghans, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Arabs, Azeris, Turks and other peoples of the East lived and worked in Herat and Tabriz in the second half of the XV – first half the XVI century.His wonderful works made an enormous contribution to the treasury of the world culture, leaving to posterity a priceless heritage, glorifying the miniature school of Herat.In 1480-1507, K. Behzad headed the library of Sultan Husayn Bayqarah that contributed to the development of the book art. As an artist, K. Behzad deeply understood the unique beauty of the universe.
Major role in the formation of Kamoliddin Behzad played Alisher Navoi, as well as his teacher and mentor, Mirak Nakkash.On this occasion, a scholar from Herat, Mojil Hirvi, wrote “Actually the author of “Gulistan Hunar” (Qazi Ahmad Gaffari) was right when he said that Mirak Nakkash, undoubtedly is a mentor of K. Behzad. All of the contemporaries of Behzad, including Hondamir, affirm that Mirak Nakkash was the teacher of Behzad” (2, p. 6).
In the first phase of his work, K. Behzad acted as the author of the complex multi-figure works, in which one can see the clarity of forms and colors, and a sharp contrast in compositions.During that period, the artist painted the beautiful illustrations to “Zafarnama” by Sharafiddin Ali Yazdi (Walters Gallery, Baltimore), “Buston” by Saadi (1488; Egyptian Library, Cairo), characterized by a fine, lyrical quality.
Lyrics and romantic spirit, characteristic of the artist’s work, are most clearly apparent in the illustrations to “Khamsa” by Nizami (end of the XV century; British Museum) and “Layli and Majnun” by Amir Khusraw Dehlavi (Saltykov-Shedrin Library, St. Petersburg)(3, p. 12-13).
Rare talent of Kamoliddin Behzad is evident in his works painted in the genre of portraiture. Just so, in the portraits of Husayn Bayqarah and Shaybanikhan the compositional structure is done by the artist in the Oriental style, in traditional two-dimensional representation, although at that time, the European artists already painted the three-dimensional portraits, showing space.The portraits painted by the European artists can be called psychological ones. In contrast, the portraits of the Eastern artists there is no clarity on the anatomical and psychological traits, facial expressions of a depicted character, and this function is performed by the portrayed surrounding subjects and flowers.
In the portrait of Husayn Bayqarah, K. Behzad addresses this task using the halftones, fine lines, through which the nature of the character is brightlydepicted. As in the portrait of Shaybanikhan, his inner world is revealed through the depicted everyday objects.
During the initial period of his work, K. Behzad created many pieces in the genre of portraiture, where the characters are depicted in the wild. The portraits are distinguished by their complex compositionaldesign.While in the portraits created by this artist in Herat, unlike in the previous ones, K. Behzad does not use the images of nature and unnecessary items, the main focus he pays on the external appearance of his characters.
Henri Matisse – one of the greatest artists of the XX century had said that for him the unexpected news always come from the East(4). He believed K. Behzad was his teacher. Whereas the “father” of the abstract art – V. Kandinsky, immensely impressed by the exhibition of “Islamic Art” held in Munich in 1903-1910, wrote, “the miniatures by Behzad … I cannot believe they were created by human hands! It seems I am in front of the heaven sent creature… In the works of Behzad there is simplicity, causing a feeling of amazement. Their complexity is also amazing. Gracefulness of the miniatures plunges oneself in dreams…”(4).
At the beginning of the XX century, the famous artist A. Matisse and other European artists began to use in their painting and the plastics the colors and features of the thin lines of the miniatures by Kamoliddin Behzad. Like the artists of the East, they got closer to the nature, following the natural convention of art. In the manner of the European artists the fine lines typical of the Eastern artists have appeared that have contributed to the emergence of a unique attitude towards nature.
Many of the European artists of the XIX – XX centuries, taking advantage of the mysterious features of the fine arts of the East, have developed the art of “imagination” that replaced the art of “imitation”.
The creative work of the great Kamoliddin Behzad had an impact on the rich, constantly modifying itself the art of the XX century. It should be noted that dramatic changes in the creativity of such painters as Modigliani, Braque, Picasso, Derain, Vlaminck were influenced by the Oriental fine arts, in particular the one of K. Behzad.
Their broad popularity the works of Behzad in Europe have acquired in the early XX century. During that period, in particular, appeared such publications as “The miniature painting and painters of Iran, India and Turkey” published by F. Martin in London (1912), “Islamic painting” by Arnold (Oxford, 1928), “Painting in Timurid manuscripts” by I. Shchukin (Paris, 1954), “The Miniatures of Iran” by Robinson (London, 1957).
Such scholars as V. Bartold, A. Yakuboskiy, E. Bertels, B. Gafurov, V. Zahidov, I. Sultanov, A. Hayitmetov have emphasized an unprecedented growth of literature, historiography, philosophy, logic, ethics and other fields of culture in the second half of the XV century. Aybek, A. Semenov, G. Pugachenkova, L. Rempel, H. Sulaymanov, N. Norkulov, and A. Umarov have studied the creative work of K. Behzad, devoted a number of books, articles and pamphlets to the study of the creativity of the great artist and his place in the history of art of the Oriental miniature (5, p. 8).
K. Behzad died in 1537 in Herat. The poet – Amir Doust Hashimi took close to the heart the death of Kamoliddin Behzad, and in poetic form expressed his feelings, “The only one in a century, Behzad was a great man, such people are born rarely. The death has completed his life path and has rendered his body to earth”.(6).
1. За?ириддин Мухаммад Бобур. Асарлар, учжилдлик, II жилд. Тошкент, 1965.
2. Мойил ?еравий. Шогирдонваустодони Бе?зод аз ниго?и со?иби «Гулистони?унар» //Ориёна, 2-сон.
3. ПугаченковаГ. А.КамалиддинБехзад – грани творчества. К 525-летию со дня рождения. Материалы научной конференции. Ташкент, 1984.
4. Аполлон, 1913, №10 (Германия).
5. М. Хайруллаев. Камалиддин Бехзад. (1455 – 1537). К 525-летию со дня рождения. Материалы научной конференции. Ташкент, 1984.
6. Устод Абдул ?афур. Ниго?и батори хи?унар?оизебои Аф?онистон. //Ориёна, 1969, 2-сон.

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