The landscape that Abolhassan Sadighi painted of a village near Florence, Italy is one of the first noteworthy examples of modernism in Iranian art. Even though he had studied under Kamal-ol-Molk, he was quickly attracted to the new trends in painting and sculpture. Master Sadighi is known for his large sculptures of Ferdowsi, Khayyam and Nader Shah in Tehran’s large squares, yet it is said that these well-known sculptures “kept his achievements as a modernistic painter in the shadows.”
As you can see in this piece, Sadighi kept his distance from the detailing of classical craftsmanship and for the first time broke free from Kamal-ol-Molk’s realistic school of thought. He is the first of Kamal-ol-Molk’s students to experiment with the impressionistic style of brushwork in a series of paintings. In the late 1920’s many of Kamal-ol-Molk’s students went to Europe and saw firsthand the achievements of modern art in the Western museums and academies. Yet it seems as if, from this group, only Abolhassan Sadighi attained a complete understanding of these new styles of painting.
This painting, which is done in the style of impressionism or ‘free-brush’ as the old-school painters called it, is the result of an important period in Abolhassan Sadighi’s life when, in order to complete his art studies, he traveled to Europe. He embarked on his travels in 1928 after graduating from the College of Industrial Arts. His trip coincided with the time that Kamal-ol-Molk temporarily shut down his classes, moved to Nishapour, yet encouraged Sadighi to travel to Europe. Sidighi went on to study at the University of Fine Arts in Paris for four years under the tutelage of the sculptor Jean-Antoine Injalbert. During this era he created over a hundred drawings, watercolors and oil paintings. These works, like the one on display, were done in the style of ‘free-brush’ work which, although they show an attention to detail, lack a classical technique. Many of Sadighi’s landscapes of Paris, Marseilles, Rome, Venice and Florence are considered to be the first modern Iranian paintings. A few that were painted contemporaneously with the one on view here are: Notre Dame of Paris (1928), Piazza San Marco of Venice from a Distance (1930), A View of the River Seine (1930), and A View of Florence (1931).
Majabi, Javad. The Beginnings of Modern Art, 2014, p. 145