Afghanistan Art History

Afghan Artist meeting

Afghanistan art history is a movement that is less than 100 years old in the modern era.

However, with the recent destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, scientists have recently been made re-aware of the ancient paintings found on the ceilings of caves near to the Buddhas.

Below are two ancient samples found at the Afghanistan National Museum of the types of frescoes, although these are found in a different area in Afghanistan and not above where the Bamiyan buddhas stood.

It is possible that these paintings place Afghanistan in the forefront of the art world with some of the oldest known oil paintings in the world.

The master artists of Afghanistan met together on Friday, July 31, 2009, for a historic meeting. They met to discuss how they want to describe their art and tell the story of fine art in Afghanistan. Several of the men are professors, one is the top Islamic Calligraphy artist in Afghanistan!.

All of these men have been trained through Kabul University's Fine Art Department, and are recognized experts in their style.

I can summarize what I have learned about Afghanistan art history from the artists by interviewing many of them, asking questions and listening to their very intense dialogue this past year.

According to Mr. Zhakfar, there was not oil painting in Afghanistan until Mr. Ghulam and Mr. Bhrezhna graduated from a German art school in 1919 and returned to Afghanistan. It seems King Amanullah was interested in art and modernization. He sent young Afghan teenagers there to learn the European art styles.

Before Ghulam, there was only calligraphy and Islamic miniature, the only two art forms allowed by Islam. Ghulam built the first School of Arts to train more Afghans. In the early part of the 20th century, there were only three Afghan Fine Art Masters: Ghulam Mohd. Maimangee, Abdullaraqgar Brezhna, and Abdul Aziz.

Learn more about how modern art was protected through the Taliban times here:

Fine Art in Afghanistan is characterized mainly in the style of Realism. Mr. Kabuli describes Realism as a philosophy, an ideology, and painting in this style has only one meaning - it is exactly what is represented.

Impressionism Art is acceptable in the Afghan culture and examples of this are found from the time of Brezhna in the 1920's. Modern art flourishes in societies where things are constantly new and changing.

According to the bulk of Afghanistan's society, Modern Art is not really appreciated nor acceptable - it is not Islamic.. However, many of the artists work in this style on the side. but do not always find outlets to sell modern works.

The Afghan artists have repeatedly said they are unable to sell their Modern Art inside of Afghanistan - the only way to make a living is to sell what the people buy - Realism Art.

However, despite setbacks, lack of support both from society, government, and their religion, young people are clamoring for new ways. Mr. Zhakfar said that more than 200 young people, boys and girls applied for 10-12 spots in his recent training class!

The artists have piles of works they do not display - some out of fear of being killed, others pieces they know they simply cannot sell inside of Afghanistan.

This article about Afghanistan art history is not intended to be comprehensive - we will be adding more information as it becomes available. This short summary is intended to describe the current state of disarray in the art world in Afghanistan, and to let others know there are numerous ways for art professionals to get involved in rebuilding Afghanistan's culture.


Afghanistan National Art Gallery

Afghanistan Art

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