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Photographer's Note

Tomb of the great Persian painter, Kamaalolmolk.

A great man and artist, Mohammad Ghaffari Kashani, known as Kamalolmolk, was born into a talented family in Kashan in 1849. His interest in painting began in childhood. Because of the position of his father's uncle (Mirza Abol-Hassan Khan Ghaffari, called Sani-al-Molk) in the Qajar royal court of Nasser-eddin Shah, also found his way to court, where within a short time he started to work Nagghash-Bashi, or "Master of Painters." As a result of his enormous talent, he was soon named Kamalolmolk, which means the "most valuable worthiness of the country's art". Kamalolmolk's works from this early court period were largely portraits of kings, princes and courtiers and pictures of government buildings. Of his many paintings from this period, "The Reflecting Pool of Sahebgharanieh Palace," "The Hall of Mirrors" and a self-portrait were his own personal favorites. During the nineteenth century Iranian traditional miniature painting continued, but the influence of Western painting was growing. A number of Iranian artists began to travel to Europe. After Nasser-eddin Shah's assassination in 1896, Kamalolmolk also went to Europe. During his several years in Italy and France, he became acquainted with a large number of important works by such famous European artists as Raphael, Rembrandt, da Vinci, Titian and Rubens. He was especially charmed by the works of Rembrandt, who was interested in Oriental painting.

During his European sojourn, Kamalolmolk learnt the rules and principles of realistic art, and began copying works by famous artists. The copies have been called indistinguishable from the originals apart from their colors, which were described as truer and more pure. The paintings that followed his exposure to European art differed greatly from those completed before his journey, both in style and in subject matter. Some of the more famous are "The Fortune Teller" and "The Goldsmith from Baghdad."
After returning to his homeland, Kamalolmolk founded Iran?s first art school, The School of Fine Arts, in Tehran. This school played an important role in the education of Iranian modern artists. In fact, Kamalolmolk can be described as the last span of the bridge passing from traditional to contemporary painting in Iran, or the first step onto the shores of contemporary painting. In Iran he is known as the founder of Iranian classic painting. His last years were spent in self-chosen exile at his small property in Hossein Abad in Neyshabour. There, having lost one eye and ceased to paint, he died a lonely death in August of 1940.

Kamalolmolk remains one of the greatest and most highly revered artists in Iran's history. The representational and miniature art communities will forever remain indebted to the legacy of this man's genius, and its expression through a life of prolific, stunning artistic output.
Kamalolmolk's art reflects not only the cultural and political atmosphere of his time (a period of instability and ideological decline within Iranian society and government) but also a deep, personal desire to escape the constraints of that time. To the degree that any artist can subvert the repressive limitations of his era, community or tradition, Kamalolmolk's work has done so.
His earliest connection with art was through his father, Agha Mirza Bozorge Ghaffari Kashani, an artist at the royal court of the Qajar. Some of Agha Mirza's own work was included in manuscripts of the historian Hakimolmolk's widely-read Safar Nameh, a chronicle of Nasreddin Shah's journey to Mashhad.
With his father's encouragement, Kamalolmolk entered the higher education institute of Darolfonoun in Tehran, the most prestigious of its time. Recognized as a prodigy from an early age, he undertook the simultaneous studies of art, French language, medicine and history. His teacher and lifelong mentor, Mozayanoddoleh Nazari, trained Kamalolmolk in the study of art history and technique, and it was at Darolfonoun that the young Kamalolmolk first honed his craft.

In the twilight of his accomplished life, Kamalolmolk, now a nationally-revered figure, became a recluse, passing his remaining years in the remote Hosseinabad region, in the tiny village of Naishabour. Having lived through the deaths of his children, colleagues and friends, Kamalolmolk remained a staunchly independent free artist to the end.

آرامگاه كمال الملك، نيشابور

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Additional Photos by Akbar Shafiee (Leo71538) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 174 W: 49 N: 168] (555)
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