The arts of Iran are one of the richest art heritages in world history and encompasses many traditional disciplines including architecture, painting, literature, music, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and stonemasonry. There is also a very vibrant Iranian modern and contemporary art scene, as well as cinema and photography. For a history of Persian visual art up to the early 20th century, see Persian art, and also Iranian architecture.
The Persian rug
The art of rug weaving in has its roots in the culture and customs of its people and their instinctive feelings. Weavers mix elegant patterns with a myriad of colors. The Iranian carpet is similar to the Persian garden: full of florae, birds, and beasts.
The colors are usually made from wild flowers, and are rich in colors such as burgundy, navy blue, and accents of ivory. The proto-fabric is often washed in tea to soften the texture, giving it a unique quality. Depending on where the rug is made, patterns and designs vary. And some rugs, such as Gabbeh, and Gelim have a variations in their textures and number of knots as well. Out of about 2 million Iranians who work in the trade, 1.2 million are weavers producing the largest amount of hand woven aritistic carpets in the world. exported $517 million worth of carpets in 2002.
Painting and miniature
Oriental historian Basil Gray believes ” has offered a particularly unique [sic] art to the world which is excellent in its kind”.
Caves in Iran’s Lorestan province exhibit painted imagery of animals and hunting scenes. Some such as those in Fars Province and Sialk are at least 5,000 years old.
Painting in Iran is thought to have reached a climax during the Tamerlane era when outstanding masters such as Kamaleddin Behzad gave birth to a new style of painting.
Paintings of the Qajar period, are a combination of European influences and Safavid miniature schools of painting such as those introduced by Reza Abbasi. Masters such as Kamal-ol-molk, further pushed forward the European influence in Iran. It was during the Qajar era when “Coffee House painting” emerged. Subjects of this style were often religious in nature depicting scenes from Shia epics and the like.
Pottery and ceramics
Prominent archeologist Roman Ghirshman believes “the taste and talent of this people [Iranians] can be seen through the designs of their earthen wares”.
Of the thousands of archeological sites and historic ruins of Iran, almost every single one can be found to have been filled, at some point, with earthenware of exceptional quality. Thousands of unique vessels alone were found in Sialk and Jiroft sites.
The occupation of the potter (“kuzeh gar”) has a special place in Persian literature.
During the course of Iran’s recorded history, a unique distinctive music developed accompanied by numerous musical instruments, several of which came to be the first prototypes of some modern musical instruments of today.
The earliest references to musicians in Iran are found in Susa and Elam in the 3rd millennium BC. Reliefs, sculptures, and mosaics such as those in Bishapur from periods of antiquity depict a vibrant musical culture.
Persian music in its contemporary form has its inception in the Naseri era, who ordered the opening of a “House of Crafts,” where all master craftsmen would gather for designing instruments and practicing their art.
Persian literature is by far the most stalwart expression of the Iranian genius. While there are interesting works in prose, it is poetry where the Iranian literature shines at its most. Flourishing over a period of more than a millennium, it was esteemed and imitated well beyond the confines of the Iranian homeland. The literature of Iran’s direct and recently lost territories in the Caucasus (most notably Azerbaijan), as well as Turkey and indirectly the Mughal Empire developed under its influence.
Some notable Iranian poets are: Ferdowsi, Khayyam, Hafiz, Attar, Sa’di, Nizami, Sanai, Rudaki, Rumi, Jami, and Shahriar.
The architecture of Iran is one with an exceedingly ancient Persian tradition and heritage. As Arthur Pope put it, “the meaningful Impact of Persian architecture is versatile. Not overwhelming but dignified, magnificent and impressive”.
The tradition and style in the garden design of Persian gardens (Persian باغ ایرانی) has influenced the design of gardens from Andalusia to India and beyond. The gardens of the Alhambra show the influence of Persian Paradise garden philosophy and style in a Moorish Palace scale from the era of Al-Andalus in Spain. The Taj Mahal is one of the largest Persian Garden interpretations in the world, from the era of the Mughal Empire in India.
Says writer Will Durant: “Ancient Iranians with an alphabet of 36 letters, used skins and pen to write, Instead of ear-then tablets”. Such was the creativity spent on the art of writing. The significance of the art of calligraphy in works of pottery, metallic vessels, and historic buildings is such that they are deemed lacking without the adorning decorative calligraphy.
Illuminations, and especially the Quran and works such as the Shahnameh, Divan Hafez, Golestan, Bostan et al. are recognized as highly invaluable because of their delicate calligraphy alone. Vast quantities of these are scattered and preserved in museums and private collections worldwide, such as the Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg and Washington’s Freer Gallery of Art among many others.
The tilework is a unique feature of the blue mosques of . In the old days, Kashan (kash + an which literally means “land of tiles”) and Tabriz were the two famous centers of Iranian mosaic and tile industry.
With 300 international awards in the past 25 years, films from Iran continue to be celebrated worldwide. Few of the best known directors are Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and Majid Majidi.