The coffeehouse painting, a school of oil color narrative painting, was formed in the late Qajar government during the constitution movement by untrained artists in coffeehouses with martial, artistic and religious themes. With the suppression of people’s liberty by such tyrannical government, the constitution revolution led to people’s movement in coffee houses where was made as one of the most important societies in the Qajar era playing a major role in shaping this movement. In the following article, it has been attempted to establish the coffee house as an institution with social and cultural functions in order to strengthen the national and religious spirit of the individuals. The research methodology includes library and field study based on the research of coffeehouse painting, the constitution revolution, and the study of Qajar coffeehouse atmospheres. After having analyzed and adapted the data, the following results are presented: the process of coffeehouse painting in coffee houses during the constitution Revolution was an anti-authoritarian and a critical movement against the Qajar government. Also, the content of the discourse in coffeehouses during the noted regime affected the themes of the paintings with a significant influence on the constitution revolution.
Keywords: Coffee House Painting, Coffee House, Qajar Autocracy, Constitution.
Due to the need and demand of people and the respect for their beliefs, coffeehouse painting is a kind of oil color narrative painting that was emerged by untrained artists with martial, religious, and artistic themes during the constitution movement, based on the traditions of folk and religious art. Although the basis for this painting was an ancient tradition of storytelling and sorrow expressing in Iran, conditions for the growth of this popular art in coffee houses were provided during the Qajar era, and some painters in this school came up with a procedure that was beyond the domain of that time art (Saif, 2011). During this period (Nasser al-Din Shah’s long reign from 1848 to 1896 B.C, 1264-1313 A.H), with the emergence of foreign wars and the internal problems, the internal legitimacy crisis appeared by which influential religious and social heavals were created. This circumstance expresses the transformation of social forces and anti-authoritarian movements against the government of the time and the constitution revolution, which was the foundation of these radical changes, created profound and great social transformations that remarkably affected the strengthening of public institutions. Therefore, the coffeehouse, which was more important and long-lasting than the other institutions, became a place for attending these communities and as a strong and active social institution, played a very significant role in appearing public movement and had an undeniable effect on coffeehouse painting. With the assumption that the coffeehouses were the main factor of shaping the coffeehouse painting during the constitutional period regarding the social governing conditions, the influence of this public institution in its era on coffeehouse painting is reviewed, considering the atmosphere of coffeehouses during the constitution revolution and the Qajar dynasty.
The Influence of Constitution on Art and Culture Changes
Coffeehouse painting is a style of Iranian painting that reached its peak in the late Qajar era simultaneous with the constitution movement (Saif, 2011).
In the trend of the formation of constitution movement and the general awakening of the people and their awareness of the condition in the country, all the urban classes participated in the revolution, and there was not even one social class entered the scene against the revolution. Accordingly, a coalition of different groups of cities and various classes participated in the movement of constitution, and such a revolution was a public, democratic, mass and urban movement, instead of a bourgeoisie one (Yazdkhasti & Esmaili, 2008: 108).
In the field of culture and art, new conditions came to the fore. The Iranian people were involved in a new world-wide view by observing the new situation and suppressing the liberationist movements while facing their state and religious leaders who were involved into the battle. The Persians were witnessing new colonial intrigues on the one hand and the pressures of domestic tyranny every day on the other hand. Those who were not hopeful for the improvement and the destruction of seven-headed colonial and tyrannical dragons by observing the chaos and hypocrites in their real life were subconsciously attracted to the mythical and historical heroes and revived them (Saif, 2011). The constitution revolution, if not the turning point, was a breakthrough in Iran’s social transformation. It deeply changed Iran’s social and intellectual history. In this regard, two important issues should be mentioned:
1. In such a movement, people dared to present their social rights for the first time. It is very important for the people to have the right to think and to comment rightfully.
2. The society of Iran at that time focused on the main obstacle of the community improvement, and that was the terrible domination of despotism. In the view of Constitutionalists, the autocracy dried out sapling of thought and human growth, disclosed the liberation of the thought and the act of humans. This was the center of attention of the warriors and intellectuals (Nazari, 2007: 33).
In the definitions given to the coffee house, it was a place where attention was paid to the political, social and cultural considerations of the Qajar dynasties, and the presence of painters in this space, due to its simultaneity with the constitution movement, is a reason for their reconciliation with the atmosphere of the coffeehouse against the tyranny of the government. Just as the political revolutions originate from the lower and middle classes of the society and are based on the structure of the people’s organization, such as the workers and religious revolutions that rise against the autocracy and insurrection, the coffeehouse painting is formed from the lower layers of the society, and painters, who generally had a career other than painting, have shown a kind of intellectual awakening in their work, without being trained in a particular school.
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