Behzad Portrayed in Painting and Sculpture of Uzbekistan

Issue #1 • 1708

An unsurpassed master in the art of miniature painting, Kamaliddin Behzad was born in 1455 in the city of Herat in the family of a poor craftsman. He was orphaned early and raised by a well-known artist Mirak Naqqosh, the head of the court library of Hussein Baikara. Young Behzad learned the secrets of pictorial art also from Pir Sayed Ahmed Tebrizi, who used to be the student of the Bukhara master Jahongir. Behzad was soon recognized not only by artists, but also poets, namely Jami, Lutfi, and Alisher Navoi.

Kamaliddin Behzad’s early life is depicted in the work of a famous artist Javlon Umarbekov, “Miniaturist Mirak Naqqosh with Students”, where master Naqqosh is pictured with his apprentices in the season of awakening life and flowering plants. Holding a flower in his hand, the teacher explains to Kamaliddin that flower is part of nature, the image of purity, tenderness and harmony, and the symbol of life. The student heeds every word the teacher says. After the conversation with his teacher, Kamaliddin experiences wonderful feelings and communicates through his works his all-embracing love of life, every moment of which teaches him to appreciate the beauty of nature, harmonious with the soul. In the foreground of one of his paintings there is a flowering branch with many small blossoms. A song bird on the branch symbolizes connection between man and nature. The picture’s background shows galloping horses, representing the flight of creative thought, evolution, and irreversible progress towards the triumph of human spirit.

The picture is painted in warm golden shades. Its composition and colour solution are well-considered; characters’ clothing and vegetation details are in the same key. In a very refined manner, skilfully and competently, the artist was able to bring together the visual languages of Oriental miniature and West European art school, which testifies to the author’s ability to convert his thoughts and feelings into paints and put them on canvas with his brush.

Behzad at the age of twelve is portrayed by Aziza Mamatova in her work “Young Kamaliddin Behzad”. In the translucent, shimmering air, Behzad’s image appears as a graceful silhouette against the sky. His gaze is young and noble; his dress is made of emerald green fabric with patches of scarlet. The look in his eyes shows what’s on his heart. The vast expanse of sky envelops the world of the youth, like a shimmering veil of water and air breathing in unison; symbols around him seem to shine from within, speaking of universal human values. Phoenix arising from ashes, the symbol of life, reminds of its constant flow. Pegasus, the white winged horse, symbolizes inspiration and creativity for artists, musicians and poets. Silvery-white trout represents purity, clarity of mind and noble pursuits. Crescent moon comes from the culture of a country where Behzad grew and developed as an artist, absorbing its heritage and enriching the world with his art. Mamatova has found a harmonious sky-blue shade that contains turquoise, azure and aquamarine. In this image of the young master, the woman-artist has been able to fully implement her conception.

The name of the great artist Mani has reached us from Zoroastrian era. Behzad’s contemporaries called him “another Mani”, while Europeans referred to him as “Raphael of the East”, or “rare among few”.

The art of Kamaliddin Behzad developed during the reign of Hussein Baikara (1438-1506), when culture flourished through the efforts of its patron, the great poet and enlightener Alisher Navoi. As it happened for many gifted writers and artists in the 15th century Herat, meeting the genius poet played a crucial role in Behzad’s evolution as an artist, and the two men had some shared beliefs. One such encounter with Alisher Navoi is pictured in Timur Sagdullaev’s painting “Poet Alisher Navoi and Miniaturist Kamaliddin Behzad Engaged in a Dialogue”. Alisher Navoi’s portrait is painted from a miniature by artist Mahmud Muzzahib, the student of Kamaliddin Behzad. The poet stands, leaning on his staff. His delicate face glows with intelligence, and his eyes are fixed on the artist who is holding a folder with his works in one hand; in his other hand there is a finished book he presents to the poet.

The piece is monochrome, and its amber shades are masterfully solved. The apparent simplicity of the composition comes primarily from the subtle harmony of colour and line. Nothing is out of tune or field of the artist’s vision. Through the characters’ facial expression, the look of their eyes and movement of hands, the viewer can judge about their feelings and get an insight into the world of spiritual people. Dropping sleeves covering Navoi’s hands symbolize long and productive life. The book is a collection of knowledge and wisdom, and the blossoming tree in spring represents unity of souls of the poet and the artist.

…Kamaliddin Behzad lived in Herat until 1510. Having moved to Tebriz, he was appointed head of the Sefevid Shah’s library. Behzad was the founder of the Herat school of miniature painting. His students Mahmud Muzahhib, Sultan Muhammad and Ali Qasim developed into great masters of the art.

The school of Kamaliddin Behzad strongly influenced training and development of miniature artists and evolution of painting in Central Asia, Azerbaijan, and Iran.

Sculptors, too, dedicated their works to Kamaliddin Behzad. A sculpture wrought by Ravshan Mirtojiev (“Kamaliddin Behzad”) is installed next to the memorial garden named after the outstanding master of medieval miniature. The sculpture was created in 2011. Its slightly elongated proportions – one hand with a brush is raised in a graceful motion, the other is holding a sheet of paper – express the essence of his artistic personality and refined character. The numerous spots of flowing light and shade, rhythm variations, contrasting depressions and convexes are modeled as shades of inspired and moving matter. At the same time, the sculptor’s piece is not showing just an instant; it communicates a long continuity of time, an austere, crystalline architectonics, as well as broad, mature and developed system of notions about Kamaliddin Behzad. The piece combines classical purity and austerity of style with unique originality.

The works of D. Umarbekov, A. Mamatova, T. Sagdullaev and R. Mirtojiev clearly show trends toward harmonious mastering of artistic experience of the previous generations and maintained continuity of past and present.

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