Abbas Rassam Arjangi (1892-1975)

Painting of a battle

Abbass Rassam Arjangi:

a poet and a painter

Abbas Rassam Arjangi (1892-1975) says about his ancestors: "Since hundreds of years ago all my ancestors were painters and/or sculptors and almost all of them had some talent for poetry.

"Most of the Iranian biographers have mentioned them here and there and have quoted some of their poems in their books. My father's poems were not gathered to be preserved. So, they are all lost except some that are remembered by his children"

Arjangi began to write poems when the Russian army occupied Azarbaijan in support of Mohammad Shah who wanted to rule as a despot and ignored the Constitution and there was, therefore, an uprising against him. Arjangi said a few poems against the invaders.

Arjangi was born in the "midst of paints and paintings and brushes and ink pens". Early in his life he began to draw pictures using "chalk and coal", on walls and doors.

When he was 20 years old he went to Moscow to study arts and paintings. He spent eight years in Moscow and Tbilisi to learn and gain experience. In 1917, the last year of the WWI, he returned to Azarbaijan Province and soon after moved to Tehran. He tried to join the Ministry of Culture but the great master, Kamalolmolk, declined him "without even seeing any of my work". So, he decided to set up a training school himself which he called "Arjangi Gallery".

In 1928 he organized an exhibition of his paintings comprising of 200 of his finest works. The exhibition was inaugurated by the then Minister of Culture who made recommendations with respect to his work to the relevant authorities but Arjangi only faced harsher conditions and more serious problems. At this time he sent 17 of his paintings to the Anvers Exhibition in Belgium all of which were purchased by visitors and he also received a First Class Medal for Arts from the Belgian government. Soon after, an English author wrote to him saying that he was writing a book on Hafez and requested a number of Arjangi's paintings that would be suitable for this book. Another similar request came from the USA for a book on Khayyam. All these events were sources of great encouragement to Arjangi.

Paintings Abbas Rassam was so intensely in love with his homeland that when the act on family names had been enforced he chose his name from Mani's book, Mani being the famous ancient Iranian prophet/painter. Besides, most of his paintings and poems deal with the glories of Iranian history.

When he was in Moscow he acted as host receiving Iranian poets who visited Moscow or musicians who came to Moscow to record music. He painted portraits of these poets and musicians. Back in Iran he continued to prepare portraits of the most famous Iranian scholars, poets, writers, mathematicians etc. He also made sculptures of many of these personalities.

For a time he was appointed and was working as the Principal of Tabriz Vocational School. There he made changes turning the School into a flourishing center for teaching not only painting, and carpet designs and other fine arts, but ironworks, turnery, woodwork etc. Later he was appointed as the Head of the National Art Museums which task he continued until 1939. But in 1940 one of his two sons drowned bringing him great sorrow and misery. But he continued various official state jobs till 1958 when he resigned from all state duties. But the death of his second son in 1961 was the last blow.

He left Tehran to find refuge in a small estate in a remote part of Karaj, till he died in 1975 aged about 84. He has left behind numerous paintings, many poems printed in three volumes and six worthy daughters: Irandokht (calligrapher), Poorandokht (archeologist and painter), Mahindokht (physicist and author), Paridokht (obstetrician and painter), Azarmidokht (electromechanical engineer), and Homa (holder of a university degree in English literature, and poet). One of his sons, Farhad, brought back to Iran from Afghanistan the robab, an ancient string musical instrument long forgotten in Iran but still used till then in Afghanistan.

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