Behruz Kangarli's life and creativity

Bahruz Kangarli, a prominent representative of the Azerbaijani art of the twentieth century, was born on January 22, 1892 in the city of Nakhchivan, one of the oldest cultural centers of Azerbaijan. Bahruz's father, Shirali bey, was considered to be the progressive, skilful man of his time. He graduated from the gymnasium and worked as a translator at city court. Knowing Russian and Persian languages, Shirali Bey was closely acquainted with East, Russian and Western European literature.

 Since Bahruz   lost his mother very early, her step-mother Shirin was engaged in the upbringing of  Bahruz. In his early ages Behruz  suffered from typhus, although, this serious disease was recovered, he lost his hearing ability. Thus, Bahruz's education at the Russian-Tatar school was not completed and left school and Shirali Bey himself began to engage with the education of Bahruz. Little Bahruz benefited from the picture-books and magazines that his father brought home, especially the “Molla Nasraddin” magazine, which Shirali bey subscribed, he was interested in painting from his early age, he was engaged in copying pictures, trying to improve his level of knowledge by learning Russian. Bahruz  spent  all his time painting,  lapsing into his imagination world. The artistic ability of Bahruz attracted the attention of the people around him, and with the advice of close relatives of the family, as well as the well-known intellectual Eynali bey Sultanov, his father sent him to the School of Painting and Sculpture at “The Caucasian Arts Promotion Society” in Tbilisi. Adil Gaziyev, an art critic who wrote about those years, writes that "Bahruz Kangarli was acquainted with Mirza Jalil, the editor of the Molla Nasraddin magazine through Eynali bey Sultanov in his studies in Tbilisi. Bahruz read copies of the "Molla Nasraddin" magazine and copied the pictures. Mirza Jalil and his colleagues, Eynali bey Sultanov, and Aligulu Gemkusar, had a good influence on the young artist's tendency to evaluate social life events democratically ”.

Thus, Bahruz successfully completed his education in Tbilisi and returned to Nakhchivan.

A young artist who loved painting art passionately, propagandized it, promoted interest in art among his countrymen, was able to arrange his exhibition in Nakhchivan when he was a student. The first personal exhibition of Bahruz was opened in 1914. The researchers note that the people of  Nakhchivan, especially the leading intellectuals met Bahruz  bey  Kangarli's exhibition with great pleasure and highly appreciated the works of the artist. Because, in his works,  the beautiful landscapes of his land, scenes taken from the life of his people were described in a simple, natural, realistic way, as well as with  great love. That's why the leading intellectuals had a great hope for the future of the artist and were proud of his creativity. About the exhibition, "Kaspi" newspaper (17 June 1914), "Tarjuman" newspaper (24 June 1914) and a few days ago, on June 16, the 679th issue of the “Igbal” newspaper published praiseworthy articles. The correspondent of the “Igbal” named “Haman” wrote: "The young artist will definitely be our proud in the  future. The pictures produced by the artist are national paintings taken from our lives”. When   these desires were written down, Bahruz was only 22 years old. Years passed, and Bahruz bey Kangarli was truly the pride of our nation. The second exhibition of  Bahruz  Kangarli was held in 1919. Mammad Jafar Jafarov’s book "The Romanticism of life" deals with it: “Bahruz Kangarli arranged an exhibition on the roadside in Pushkin Street in Nakhchivan and called the passers- by to come and to look at the exhibition of his works".

 The last exhibition of the painter was in Nakhchivan during the Soviet era. The exhibition, which took place in 1921, featured about 500 works of the artist. Bahruz bey Kangarli donated some of his income to the orphanage in Nakhchivan.

Bahruz bey Kangarli graduated from painting school in Tbilisi and started his independent creative activity after returning to Nakhchivan. Bahruz Kangarli's creativity was broad and comprehensive in terms of subject and genre. The painter produced his works with water-color, oil paint, ink, pencil and coal. He produced many of his works in several foreshortenings, various drawing techniques. InBahruz bey Kangarli's works lines do not play crucial role, but freely and courageously direct colors. The plasticity of the form, linear and weather perspective and spatial depth, shadow-light and color transitions, means of expression that form the basis of realistic painting, such as subtle color nuances were brought to the Azerbaijani art by Bahruz Kangarli for the first time. That is why Bahruz bey Kangarli's creativity is considered a new event in the history of Azerbaijan art, and the artist himself   as a true innovator artist. According to Rafael Huseynov, Bahruz Kangarli and East-West united new Azerbaijan painting is beginning. 

There was nobody to portray his  own  portrait until Bahruz Kangarli in Azerbaijan art. The self-portrait, an interesting branch of the portrait genre, is one of the innovations brought to the art of Azerbaijan by Bahruz bey Kangarli.

  Bahruz Kangarli's works in portrait genre play a special role in his artistic heritage. The artist's portrait works are of realistic characteristic for their artistic form, image resolution, creative method and expression style. Bahruz Kangarli, who   mastered the basic features of realistic portrait art, succeeded in raising the portrait to the level of artistic image. Kangarli's contemporaries, the Nakhchivan intellectuals, ordered him to portray their portraits. In addition to drawing portraits from nature, he sometimes engaged in to portray portraits from photos for earning purposes. Among his heroes, it is possible to come across mainly his contemporaries, including people of different ages and people with a different fate. Bahruz Kangarli managed to express the moral feelings and senses of the people to the audience that he portrayed. "Portrait of Shirin Khanim" (1915-1920), "Nazli Khanim Tahirova (Najafova)" (1916), “Portrait of Asad Aga Kengerli” (1916), “Portrait of Russian teacher Mirza Mahammad Zamanbayov” (1917), “Portrait of a woman" (1913-1917), "The old man" (1914), "The portrait of Mirza Heydar Nasirbeyov" (1918) and  tens of other valuable portraits of the artist enriched Azerbaijani art. The professional artist was able to create the great examples of children portraits. In the pictures included in the "Sleeping Child" series, Bahruz Kangarli described the purity and innocence of the children. The total number of the works included in this series is about 30.

The artist's works in portrait genre included in the series of "Refugees", which reflect painful moments of history are of particular importance. The “Refugees” series is composed of  up to 30 paintings painted in water-colour. Bahruz Kangarli is a true patriot painter who conveyed the realities of his time to the present, decently fulfilled his civic duty to his people. Bahruz Kangarli, with his works included in the series of "Refugees", which reflect the injustices that our nation   suffered, proves to be a genuine nationalist artist of his nation.

National leader Heydar Aliyev said: “His works are very valuable. First, according to his painting skill and the colors he used. The second, the images he created, I mean human images, specially, he described hard times of our people in 1918-1919-1920 in his works”. 

Historically, Armenians have committed genocide against our people, they have deported our compatriots from their homeland. Bahruz Kangarli's "Refugees" series is important as a historical fact. The patriotic painter created a live and visual chronicle of that historical period. As it is known from the memories of his contemporaries, Bahruz Kangarli tried to give a hand to the refugees. He invited   orphans to his home, gave them food, clothes, shoes, and drew their pictures. “The refugee woman” (1919), “The sitting refugee boy” (1920), “Refugee boy from Janfada village” (1920), “Refugee Imran”(1921),  “Refugees” (1920-1921) and in other works Bahruz Kangarli  described skillfully psychological shocks of the refugees. The artist portrayed signs of fear, torture and pain in these faces in a heart pain. The artist gained eternity by creating "Refugees" series.

Bahruz Kangarli's works "The abandoned house" (1921), "The Nakhchivan devastations", "The ruins in Nakhchivan" (1921) and the "Destroyed gate in Eylabad village" (1921) reflecting ruins in Nakhchivan are of special importance. The ruins are traces of the atrocities of the Dashnak military, rather than the fact that these buildings did not escape from the harsh trials of time. “The mosque with the destroyed minaret”, which is one of the works of the artist with special importance, is another proof of the Armenian atrocity. It is a historical fact that the Armenians   did not only have a particular desire for our land but also had a wild attitude to our culture and material - cultural monuments.

The majority of the works included in the artistic heritage of Bahruz Kangarli are landscapes.  Bahruz Kangarli was an artist who constantly searched, trying to understand nature's magical beauty and expressed it through colors. Bahruz bey Kangarli was one of the real artists possessing national spirit. The talented artist lovingly described the nature of Nakhchivan in his works in the genre of landscape. Nakhchivan's unique coloring, flora, willow trees, high majestic mountains, wide horizons are the themes of Bahruz brush. “Autumn landscape Ashabi-Kahf mountain” (1921),“The top of the mountain (1918), “Landscape” (various years), “Snowy mountains Aghri mountain” (1916), “Road to Yamkhana village (1921) and other works created in the genre of landscape, as well as the works of the artist dedicated to the architectural monuments are very valuable. The artist created valuable works of art by describing the architectural monuments of the Middle Ages, which is an indication of the ancient history of Azerbaijan, its magnificent statehood. . "The Atabeylar Tomb in Nakhchivan" (1915-1920), "The Monument in Nakhchivan" (1921), "The Tomb of Momine Khatin" (1920), "Nakhchivan Mosque" (1919), "The Tomb of Imamzadeh" (1919) and others are especially important.

In the creativity of the artist, the work "Noah's Tomb" draws attention. The painter appealed to this subject six times. These works also played an important role in the identification and restoration of Noah's grave.

As it is known, since there were no professional artists in Nakhchivan Theatre in 1883-1913, stage designs were arranged by amateur artists, so these designs were very simple and primitive. Bahruz Kangarli, who started to work in Nakhchivan Theater since 1912, made valuable contributions to the development of theater art in Nakhchivan, prepared decorations and curtains that reflect the spirit of the performances. Thus, Bahruz bey Kangarli's creativity as the first professional theater artist of Azerbaijan began in Nakhchivan Theater, scene designs of Jalil Mammadguluzade's "The dead", Abdurrahim bey Hagverdiev's “Pari Jadu” (Nymph Magic), Mirza Fatali Akhundzadeh's "Haji Kara" works, as well as costumes and decor sketches are connected with the name of Bahruz Kangarli.

The painter died on February 7, 1922. The grave of the painter is located near the Imamzadeh Monument Complex in Nakhchivan. The artist's grave monument has been erected here. The author of the monument is the people’s artist Huseyngulu Aliyev.

Bahruz Kangarli, who had outstanding services in the development of Azerbaijani art, gained eternal life in spite of   his short-lived creativity. As the national leader Heydar Aliyev noted: “The works of Bahruz Kangarli are the national wealth of the Azerbaijani state”.

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Date: 29-11-2020