Abolhassan Khan Sadighi
Publication Centre of the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO-IRAN
By: Hadi Seyf,
Translated/revised by: Jonathan Abolhassan Sadighi
Young Abolhassan Khan Sadighi
The prominent Iranian painter and sculptor Master Abolhassan Khan Sadighi was born in the Odlaydjan area of Tehran in 1894. At the age of seven he went to the Aghdassieh School which was established by Sa'id al-Olamai Laridjani, one of the founders of the modern schools in Iran. Influenced by his family's encouragement, he entered the Alliance school after finishing his primary education. There, while learning various subjects, he instinctly was attracted to painting and drawing without any teacher or guidance. Though still unskilled and without experience, his first paintings and drawings awed the school officials, his parents, and his relatives.
His love for painting and drawing was so strong that, in the last year of his education at the Alliance school, he went away to Master Kamal-ol-Molk Ghaffari and attended his class in the School of Delicate Crafts. Due to his untiring efforts in founding the mystery of creation and benefiting from the guidance and teachings of the most unique painter of the time, he became one of the most remarkable art students of the school. During his next three years in that school, he succeeded in getting a high degree diploma in painting. It was at the end of this educational time in the School of Delicate Crafts that Master Kamal-ol-Molk, seeing his talent and efficiency, appointed him as a teacher of painting and drawing to that school.
Shortly after becoming a teacher, he started to find himself with a secret attraction towards sculpture. Without adequate means, he ventured to create his first stucco bust of a child and offered it to his great Master, Kamal-ol-Molk. At that time, sculpture was unknown and without precedent not only in the School of Delicate Crafts, but in all of Iran. Therefore, Master Abolhassan Khan Sadighi's innovative first sculpture was the beginning of a new movement in the field in Iran.
Master Abolhassan Khan Sadighi
After numerous experiences in creating plaster sculptures, he made his first stone sculpture on a stucco model of Venus de Milo. The sculpture received so much credit and praise that Kamal-ol-Molk took his apprentice and the Venus sculpture to the Court, and introduced him to Ahmad Shah of the Qajar dynasty. Then, after that meeting, he was offered a monthly salary from the order of Ahmad Shah and then became the director of the School of Delicate Crafts. Upon this honor, he totally devoted himself to sculpture and made sculptures from both plaster and stone. These sculptures, such as the bust Ferdowssi on the Eagle's Wings, the full statue of Amir Kabir, and the most memorable of all, Hadji Moqbel the Black Flute Player, remained the most glorious artistic achievements of the School of Delicate Crafts. Hadji Moqbel the Black Flute Player would also be forever highly appraised by art experts around the World.
Sadly, 1928 was the year of the exile of Kamal-ol-Molk to Hosseinabad of Nishabour and the dispertion of intimate pupils and friends of the school. It was so hard for Master Abolhassan to endure that, with a tiny amount of money that he had saved throughout the years, he went to Europe. In Europe he visited many countries, and for four years he studied sculpture at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in France. His teacher was Ange Albert, the skillful master of sculpture in Beaux-Arts.
Surprisingly, in Beaux-Arts he managed to prove himself more talented in competition with other art students at Ecole. During his stay in Europe, he created, in addition to sculptures, some works in oil and watercolour which showed the influenced he got from the new European art movements of the time.
In 1932, after returning to Iran, he accepted a request, in obedience, from his exiled Master Kamal-al-Molk to re-open the School of Delicate Crafts and be its director. Once again, the school became a center for the talented art students, many of whom were to play important roles in the development of sculpture in Iran.
Profile of Abu Ali Sina Pen on Paper, 35 x 48 cm, 1949
The School of Delicate Crafts lasted almost to the death of Master Kamal-al-Molk, and then was closed forever for unknown reasons. However, sometime later another art school was established, called the School of Fine Arts. It was associated with the Ministry of Culture. After spending many years in seclusion and starting a family, Master Abolhassan Khan Sadighi did not accept the initial invitation for teaching at the new school. After a lot of persistence by those involved in the school and responsible for art, he inevitably accepted to teach sculpture in the School of Fine Arts.
A few years after the school was established, it joined as a part of Tehran University. It then became known as the Faculty of Fine Arts and had various art branches, including a department for sculpture under the supervision of Master Abolhassan Khan Sadighi. In those active years, he taught and trained many talented young people, many of whom became sculptors later on. After spending years of hard work on teaching, training, and creating, he retired from Tehran University in 1967.
In addition to teaching sculpture to numerous art students and creating many artistically valuable oil and watercolour paintings, Master Abolhassan Khan Sadighi showed his artistic genius by making the huge and monumental stone statue of The Angel of Justice, which was 2.70 meters high and which was commissioned by the Ministry of Justice. This statue is undoubtedly one of the masterpieces of sculpture not only in Iran, but throughout the entire World.
In 1950, Master Abolhassan Khan Sadighi accepted a membership into the National Art Works Society and entered the most creative period of his life. He mad many lasting statues of celebrated men of literature and science of Iran such as Sheikh Sa'di of Shiraz, Ferdowsi of Tus, the great philosopher and physician Abu Ali Sina (Avicenna), and the bronze statue of Nader Shah Accompanied by His Horseman, which was cast in Milan, Italy. The most important of his works during that period was the monumental and magnificent Statue of Ferdowsi, which was set up in Villa Borghese Square of Rome and made the sculptor well known to European art societies.
The career of Master Abolhassan Khan Sadighi as a sculptor ended, in fact, by making busts and statues of the Iranian poet and philosopher Khayyam. He then isolated himself from the art world almost entirely, and spent time raising his family, including my father, Farhad.
Alas, this unique old Master and forerunner of plastic arts in Iran has never said much about his past or revealed many mysteries hidden beneath his genuine creations. Had he spoken of himself or about his long life, the story of nearly one hundred years of painting and sculpture in Iran would have been more revealed to the public. When he did speak, he would only describe his paintings as some dust on paper and canvas and his sculptures as a waste heap of stone and plaster. Now it is indeed up to the future generations to evaluate Master Abolhassan Khan Sadighi's achievements and his contributions to the development of painting and sculpture in Iran and the rest of the World.
Ferdowsi in Ferdowsi Square - Tehran Carrara Marble, Height: 300 cm, 1971
Khayyam in Laleh Park - Tehran Carrara Marble, Height: 185 cm, 1975