About fine arts

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The most ancient samples of material culture of Karabakh region, which is the ancient land of Azerbaijan, dates back to the VIII millennium BC. Ancient megalith monuments, caves, protected buildings, burial mounds, metal tools, pottery, jewelry art have been typical for Azerbaijani settlement. At monumental rock culture the aesthetic imagination of the people expressed in pictures. Azykh cave near Fuzuli city proves that Azerbaijan is one of the most ancient sites in the world. Among the most ancient examples of fine art pictures of the beginning of the Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC) in Parichınqıl and Ayıchınqıl mountains around Zalkha lake of Kalbajar regions can be shown. The decorative art in the Middle Ages made a integrity with decorative applied art in Nagorno-Karabakh. Among the oldest examples of fine art are pottery, stone and metal products decorating decorative patterns, drawings, qabartma (landscape drawings), which are the most important monuments. Of these, two-headed round deer figure (in Khojavand region, Dolanlar village) is distinguished with its elegance and artistic maturity (VIII-VII centuries BC). During this period, various types and forms of artistic glass products – decorative plates, piyalas, and women’s accessories were available in Karabakh. Engraving and sculpture samples are widely spread in Albanian (Caucasian) period. The plastic forms are often found in compilation of some art metal products (torevtika). In the samples of circular and raised sculpture (bronze and stone) in this period human and animal pictures, life, scenes of hunting and religious rites are dominant.

In connection with spreading of Islam since the VII century, architectural complexes, palaces, castle, mosques and tombs were built in Karabakh. In the decorative design of the buildings calligraphy inscription, ornaments, tiles, and wide range of raised elements were used.
The fine art traditions of Karabakh having deep roots back to ancient times had stored artistic experience of many generations. It includes petroglyphs, tools with a rich decoration and household objects, of carpet weaving, jewelry, etc. unique in its beauty and diversity of the art in Kalbajar, Aghdam, Lachin regions. It is not possible to remind about architectural monuments like mosques, mausoleums, palaces, and glazed tile patterns also distinguished by its elegance and fineness. All of these created a special “gene pool” of artistic culture of the people of Azerbaijan”, forms its rich heritage.
Decorative art of the Middle Ages-Karabakh was in the organic relations with decorative application art, as well as architecture. Monumental wall paintings in town of Shusha reached our days are closely connected with the traditions of folk art. In the works of Russian painters of the XIX century V.V.Vereshagin and G.G.Gagarin who visited Azerbaijan in XIX century a description of the architectural monuments of the Shusha town can be seen.
Further qualitative changes in description art of Karabakh, took place in the in XX century (especially at the beginning of the century): in the same period the process of the emergence in the development of this new kind of art, genres and forms, especially democratic satirical graphics and easel painting can be observed.
This heritage was enriched with new trends from the middle of the 19th century. In this period, under the influence of growing Russian-Azerbaijani arts and cultural relations, Karabakh arts gradually underwent qualitative changes, resulting in new realist features appearing in national arts. The talented painter, Mohsun Navvab, the poetess and painter, Natavan, and many others are the main representatives of this period. In the process of artistic creation, the works of the Karabakh painters, Mir Mohsun Navvab and Khurshidbanu Natavan, are a unique historical event.

About school of painting

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Karabakh is also the cradle of our national culture and arts. Karabakh visual arts formed at the time when the new Karabakh Khanate was established and developed in the 18th-19th centuries, differed for its own style and artistic ways of painting and started to develop in several cities.
The masterpieces created by Karabakh artists in such fields of decorative visual arts as carpet-weaving, jewellery and embroidery still retain their beauty and artistic value. Karabakh carpets and fine jewels which decorate world museums astonish art lovers and those who value true beauty.
Painting is a leading branch of decorative art in Karabagh. Kh. Natavan, N.Navvab etc had exclusive roles in the creation of this painting school

According to available information, Khurshidbanu Natavan Mehdiqulu khan qizi (1832-1897) received her first education and love for arts from her aunt Govhar. It is known that Khurshidbanu Natavan was constantly engaged in painting. Studies show that even when she visited her son Mehdiqulu khan in Tiflis, she spent her free time on the bank of the Kura River and created still pictures of flowers and scenery on location. Her contemporaries highly valued the works of the khan’s daughter.

As a progressive person who sincerely loved her people, Natavan was a poetess who had a special position in the history of Azerbaijani literature and an emotional painter. The “Book of Flowers” written in 1886 and kept at the Institute of Manuscripts of the National Academy of Sciences is the fruit of Khurshidbanu Natavan’s strenuous efforts. Along with pictures of flowers, birds and patterns painted by Natavan at various times, her album contains several pictures of scenery.
Natavan gave one of such pieces of embroidery, decorated with beads, to the famous French writer, Alexander Dumas, who visited Baku in 1858. Astonished by the fineness of the handicraft, Dumas called it the “most valuable gift”.
Natavan’s handicrafts were displayed at exhibitions held in various cities of Russia at the time. Among the works of art displayed at the Caucasus section of the All-Russian Exhibition in 1882, works sewn by the khan’s daughter (Natavan) with gold and silver thread on broadcloth drew special attention. They differed for their correct and serious pictures and unity of colours.

Mir Mohsun Navvab (1833-1919) lived and worked in the city of Shusha, which was regarded as the centre of the Karabakh Khanate. According to available information, Shusha was one of the most famous centres of our culture and arts at the time. Prominent poets, music critics, painters, jewellers, craftsmen engaged in artistic embroidery and others lives here, creating high-level pieces of arts. Most of these works now adorn world museums.
One of the most interesting particularities of artists who lived and worked in Shusha was that most of them knew perfectly well not just one type of art, but several of them. The best example of this is Mir Mohsun Navvab.
A prominent 19th century scientist, poet and painter, Navvab created numerous masterpieces that are of special importance in Azerbaijani visual arts.
He drew the wall paintings in his home himself, and after these paintings were restored, Navvab’s home museum was established in 1991.
Navvab was an intellectual and artist who had comprehensive knowledge and arts. A calligrapher, painter, poet and music critic, Navvab also drew ornamental wall paintings, provided illustrations for his fine manuscripts and his books printed with a lithographic method at his private printing house and created pictures of flowers and birds and portraits

Scenes of fighting and hunting, fairytales and plants dominate pictures in the houses of Karimbay Mehmandarov, Haji Mammadov, Iskandar Rustamov and Safibayov, which were decorated by Usta Qanbar Qarabagli.
Beginning from the early 20th century, Azerbaijani visual arts entered a totally new stage in its development.
Amir Hajiyev, who worked in the sphere of book graphics for many years, the prominent sculptor Jalal Qaryagdioglu, world famous painter Isa Ibrahimov, Altay Hajiyev, Nadir Abdurrahmanov, Elturan Avalov, Agali Ibrahimov, Elshan Hajizada, Rovshan Bayramov, Zaur Mirzayev, Valeh Mammadov played a special role in Azerbaijani visual arts.

Miniature art

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Although Islamic commandments dominated the Middle Ages, Azerbaijan had wonderful traditions of portraying people in various types of painting (dyeing, “black pen”, etc.). This is clearly proved by the rapid development of miniature arts in the Karabakh region at the time.
Karabakh’s miniature arts play a special role in the history of Azerbaijani art, which is an interesting and great part of the arts of Middle Eastern peoples. However, there is no doubt that the Tabriz miniature school played a leading role in Azerbaijan’s miniature arts and was a reference point for other schools, including the Karabakh miniature school. Although miniature arts were also well-developed in Shamakhi, Baku, Ganja and Ardabil, unlike the Tabriz school, these schools did not have a great influence. For this reason, the changes that occurred in the Karabakh miniature school heavily depended on the Tabriz miniature school.
The history of the formation of Karabakh miniature arts, which took shape in the form of book illustrations, has not been established accurately. However, the idea that this history began in the early 13th century seems more realistic.

Machine miniatures, which were very rare in Karabakh miniature school until the 16th century, started to develop from the middle of the century and quickly turned into a special genre. Unlike book illustrations, such separate miniatures often described ordinary events such as hunting and fighting scenes, parties and music gatherings, shows in palaces, portraits of shahs and the nobility and rarely, poetic plots from classical literature.
In the middle of the 16th century, Karabakh painters created a series of miniature portraits. Such portraits were quite similar to each other in terms of regularity, images and ethnography.
In the second half and at the end of the 16th century, miniatures depicting real-life events and ordinary household scenes were more common in Karabakh than book illustrations.
Karabakh miniature arts continued until the late 19th century. However, miniature pictures drawn in manuscripts and stone print books in the 18th-19th centuries had a plain, schematic and sometimes primitive “cheap” nature in terms of composition, images and colours.
In the Soviet period, Karabakh miniature arts started making creative use of the rich traditions of classical miniature arts and their artistic and stylistic particularities. The use of the stylistic particularities of Karabakh miniature arts became even more widespread, and the creative efforts of a number of Karabakh painters in the sphere of dyeing, graphics and book illustrations resulted in successful pieces of art.