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 Bahman Mohasses  (1931 - 2010)

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Lived/Active: Iran, Islamic Republic of/Italy      Known for: abstract painting, sculpture, theatre directing

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Bahman Mohasses, perhaps is one of  the most significant and controversial artists of modern Iranian art.  He was born in Rasht, Iran the capital of Iranian northern province near the Caspian sea in 1931. At age fourteen to learn the basics of painting, he started attending the shop of Mohammed Habib Mohammadi, a painter who had studied at the Moscow Art Academy.

Having moved to Tehran with his family, Bahman Mohasses enrolled in the Tehran Fine Art Academy in 1950 but never attended. At this time he contributed a few articles to the Iranian magazine, Fighting Cock, which represented the Iranian artistic and literary vanguard and was founded by Jaleel Ziyapour, an Iranian artist. Later Mohasses collaborated with another weekly magazine, Rooster's Claw.

With the founding of Tudeh, the communist party in Iran under the false slogan of 'Freedom and Democracy', many of the intellectuals of Iran in 1940s and 1950s were attracted to this party and to Communist, socialist ideas.  Perhaps it became a vogue among them. As a youth Mohasses was attracted to this party and perhaps remained a socialist all of his life, although many of his future Iranian clients and collectors in 1960's and 1970's were from upper classes of Iranian society. These differences did not matter to him.

After the downfall of Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, which had started the nationalization of Iranian oil from Britain, Bahman Mohasses in 1954 moved to Italy to pursue his art studies. He attended the Rome Arts Academy, and for a few months attended the art studio of Ferruccio Ferrazzi. He participated in various collective shows in Italy and abroad, among them the Bienniale of Venice; and exhibitions in Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Paris, France. He also had a series of one-man shows. His works in style ranged from Abstract Expressionism early on and then to Expressive Figurative.  He also did sculpture.

In 1964, Mohasses returned to his home country, Iran, hoping to create a stimulating and creative art environment in Iran, one following the European Art movements and scene.

He gained fame rapidly in Iran due to the new art that he was advocating, to his literary translations from Italian and French literature, and to the character that he had developed for himself. 

Moving to Tehran, he started an intense cultural and artistic activity. At this time he had an interview with Arash magazine in Iran, which was headed by its first editor Cyrus Tahbaz, a prominent writer and art critic. He became the best friend of the artist throughout his life.  In this interview with Arash magazine, he clearly laid out his ideas and direction of the art that he was to follow for the remainder of his artistic career. Beside his art work, he translated the works of Pirandello, Malaparte, Calvino and Pavese from Italian to Persian, and from French, he translated the works of Jonesco and Jenet.

In his first solo exhibition in Tehran in 1964, he presented his favorite art work titled Fifi Screams from Happiness, a strong Expressive figure of a woman, which he kept all his life and refused to sell. Although he was a homosexual, this figure of the female with thick-red impasto color was perhaps one of his strongest subjects, and was his "Mona Lisa", as he called it himself. This painting became the title of his documentary film from his last two months of his life in Rome- Italy. The movie was directed by Mitra Farahni.

Under the patronage of Empress Farah Pahlavi in 1960's and 70's and as the result of her cultural interests, many artists flourished in Iran. Bahman Mohasses' first encounter with Empress Farah Pahlavi was at a biennial organized by the Ministry of Culture in Iran. Later on Farah Pahlav commissioned his sculpture Flute Player for the City Theatre in Tehran and commissioned a fountain for the mausoleum of Reza Shah Pahlavi. Farah Pahlavi was one of avid collectors of his works and has few of his sculptures in her residence in Paris.

Perhaps the best creative era of Bahman Mohasses was between 1964-1968, while he was residing in Iran, after the  Iranian revolution of 1979. A majority of his work was destroyed by the Islamic Republic or was destroyed by himself. Mohasses left Iran in 1969 only to return periodically to Iran.

Some of his most creative artwork was inspired by human disasters such as the Chernobyl atomic accident.  He also did still life. He was very much influenced by modern western art of the  post-war period and by western mythology, which gave rise to his singular creativity. As one writer has written about his art in Canvas magazine, "The power of his work rests on the essential, and to achieve the expressive eloquence of his subject he laid bare all insignificant detail."

Bahaman Mohasses died in Rome, Italy on July 28, 2010.  He had a reclusive personality and also had a desire to destroy many of his art works. Although his art was very much influenced by European post war art, his impact on contemporary Iranian art is unparalleled .

Written and submitted by Dr. Mehrdad Noorani
August /26/2014

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