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  • 6/24/2009

Kamal-ol-Molk’s experience abroad


Visit to Europe

Following Nasereddin Shah"s death, Kamal-ol-Molk found it impossible to work under Mozaffareddin Shah. Therefore, he set out for Europe at the age of 47 to improve his art. The West opened a new horizon before the curious eyes of the artist.

Discussions with distinguished European artists gave him the opportunity to know the ins and outs of their style and improve his own technique.

Kamal-ol-Molk copied some of Rembrandt"s works. He recreated Rembrandt"s famous ‘Self Portrait’, ‘Jonah’, and ‘Saint Matthew’. These copies were so splendid, so enchanting that those who compared them with the originals were unable to tell them apart.

Kamal-ol-Molk visited most of Europe"s museums and closely studied the works of some well-known artists such as Raphael, Titian, and DaVinci and copied some of their works.

He stayed in Europe for about four years during which he never spent a single moment in vain. He experienced, created and learned. In 1898, he returned to Iran.

Migration to Iraq

The increasing pressure on Kamal-ol-Molk, originating in Mozaffareddin Shah"s court, left him no option but to leave his country for Iraq, in spite of all the affection he felt for Iran.

The visits he made to the holy cities in Iraq opened a new window to his creative spirit and great talent. The golden domes, turquoise minarets, mosques, holy tombs, long lines of pligrims walking round the holy shrines were all sources of inspiration for the artist.


‘Karbala-ye-Moalla Square’ and ‘Baghdad Jewish Fortune Tellers’ are two of his most magnificent works of this period.

With the advent of the Constitutional Movement, after a two-year stay in Iraq, Kamal-ol-Molk returned to Iran and joined the Constitutionalists because of the hatred he had developed towards Mozaffareddin Shah"s government. Portraits like ‘Commander Asa"d Bakhtiari’ and ‘Azad-ol-Molk’ signify this period.

Kamal-ol-Molk Art School

The post-Constitutional Movement era brought about a new atmosphere for the artist. The Constitutionalists were cultured and appreciated art more than did their predecessors, thus respect for Kamal-ol-Molk and his work increased.

The master established Sanaye Mostazrafeh Art School, better known as Kamal-ol- Molk’s Art School, pursued his artistic career and steadied the new style in Iranian art.

The School"s goal was to find new talents and educate them in the best possible way.

baghdad jewish fortune tellers, painted by kamal-ol-molk

Kamal-ol-Molk did not confine himself to painting. Rather  he introduced other arts and crafts such as carpet weaving, mosaic designing, and woodwork to his school in order to revive the dying fine arts.

In addition to teaching art, through his kind behavior he also taught students love, morals and humanity. He even allotted a portion of his monthly payment to poor students. 

In a relatively short time, Kamal-ol-Molk trained competent students, who became famous artists later on. The achievements of these artists received much attention both in Iran and Europe. Among them are Hussein Ali Khan Vaziri, Esmaeel Ashtiani, Ali Mohammad Heidarian, Mahmoud Olia, Nemat-ol-Lah Moshiri, Ali Akbar Yasami, and Mohsen Soheili.


 With the 1920 coup and Reza Khan"s seizure of poer, Kamal-ol-Molk learned that the Pahlavi Dynasty was no different from the corrupt government of Qajar and refused to cooperate with Reza Khan Pahlavi.

Whenever Reza Khan encountered Kamal-ol-Molk, he tried to turn his attention to the court, but due to Kamal-ol-Molk"s uncompromising stand on Reza Khan"s government, he never succeeded. The nearer Reza Khan came, the farther Kama-ol-Molk moved away. When Reza Khan learned that he could not persuade Kamal-ol-Molk to cooperate with his government, he cut out his monthly payment and school expenses to force him to resign.

In Ordibehesht 1928, following his resignation, the great artist was exiled to Neishaboor and stayed in Hussein Abad, a village he had selected to do farming in. The man who had spent his entire life reviving the Iranian art and promoting the Iranian culture was exiled for the crime of love of freedom and independence.

Of the most important and unfortunate events in this period is that he lost an eye, the why of which is unknown to us. That is why, during the years he spent in exile, he never did any painting.

kamal-ol-molks tomb in neishaboor

In 1940, Kamal-ol-Molk, the distingushed artist whose love of his country knew no boundary, died in Neishaboor. Mournful people marched his body to Sheik Attar"s tomb where he would rest in peace.

Other links:

Master Ali Asghar Tajvidi

Mohammad Reza Atashzad

Freydoon Rassouli

Aliakbar Sanati

Hamid Ajami

Master Mohammad Baqer Aqamiri

Mahmoud Farshchian

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