World of Dreams and Color
by Gunduz Alizade
AZgallery.org for more works of Togrul Narimanbeyov
I would never have thought that one day I would get the chance
to share my memories of one of the brightest pearls of Azerbaijan's
fine arts - Togrul Narimanbeyov. I can't really remember when
I first learned about him. I just remember that our family had
an old photo album and a picture of his famous painting of three
musicians called "Mugam" [pronounced moo-GAHM] (1965)
was at the top of one of the pages of this album. This work is
now 35 years old.
Togrul as Instructor
I personally became acquainted with Togrul in 1979. I was a second-year
student at the Azerbaijan State Art Institute at the time. I
remember the situation as clearly as if it were yesterday. We
were in class and everyone was very busy. Suddenly, the door
opened and the dean walked in with Togrul Muallim (Teacher Togrul).
The dean addressed us, "Fellows, from now on, Togrul Muallim
will be giving you drawing lessons."
I was so surprised that the brush slipped out of my hand. I didn't
realize what had happened until I saw everyone looking at me.
When I bent down to pick it up, I accidentally bumped the palette
in front of me and it fell down, too. Everyone burst out laughing,
including Togrul Muallim. And thus our first acquaintance became
deeply embedded in my memory. Afterwards, every time that I met
or stumbled into him, we couldn't help laughing about the incident.
The Mugam Composition
Togrul had his own way
of teaching by entertaining the class with stories about art.
He would point out mistakes to the students, correcting them
one by one. One of his main features was his ability to sense
the inner states of other people-perhaps, a type of telepathy.
Once Togrul was having tea with one of his close friends. Another
man entered the tea room and ordered tea for himself. Togrul
inquired of his friend, "Do you know who that guy is, sitting
Togrul Narimanbeyov, "Mugam", 184 x 215 cm, oil
on canvas, 1965.
His friend shrugged his shoulders and said nothing. Shortly afterwards,
the stranger got up and left and Togrul felt sorry that he left.
"He reminded me of Jabbar* [a famous Azerbaijani mugam singer].
I don't know who this guy is, but somehow I think he must be
a singer. I think he must have a strong voice."
His friend figured that Togrul was somehow
absorbed in his own world and didn't want to discuss the matter
further. After awhile, they also got up and left the tea room.
Outside, they began hearing wedding music and a wonderful voice.
A wedding celebration was going on nearby. Togrul and his friend
got interested and decided to drop in and see what was happening.
When they entered the banquet room, they couldn't believe their
eyes. The singer turned out to be the same guy who had been sitting
in the tea room earlier. Togrul was very satisfied that his perception
had once again proved right. It was after that incident that
he created his famous work "Mugam". Against a rich
deep blue background, three musicians with tar, kamanche and
the singer with his daf improvise on a modal tune. In the lower
left-hand corner, a small child offers up a deep red pomegranate
as a gift.
Togrul Narimanbeyov, "Sleeping Asmar", 120 x 100
cm, oil on canvas, 1963. Asmar is a girl's name.
Togrul's fondness for nature gave life to many works, such as
"The Panorama of Old Nakhchivan," "In the Summer
Pasture," "The Way Leading to Zagatala" and "In
Goychay Gardens." He also created design sets for ballets
like Faraj Garayev's "Gobustan Shadows," Gara Garayev's
"Seven Beauties" and Fikrat Amirov's "Nasimi,"
and "Arabian Nights." He also worked on both the film
(1975) and book (1988) for "Dada Gorgud", a national
epic whose materials date back at least to the 7th century. His
most famous murals grace the walls of the National Baku Puppet
Theater on Neftchilar Avenue.
Secret of Great
"Mama", 120 x 80 cm, oil on canvas, 1963.
more memory that stands out so vividly in my mind when I think
of Togrul. Once he gave me some advice that turned out to be
of tremendous value. It happened when I was in my last year of
school. Togrul had a way of standing behind us and watching while
we worked. It was autumn and we were working on a still life-an
arrangement abundant with fruit. He was standing behind us and
watching us work with a sense of gratification. I could feel
his eyes concentrated on me. And then he came up to me and put
his hand on my shoulder. I sensed both pleasure and concern in
"Look here," he told me. "Everything is precisely
right and correct about the execution of your work. There's no
need to speak about your competence, you know what I think about
it. But there's something lacking in your work. Do you know what
I looked at him with questioning eyes.
"It's love. Love is lacking in your work," he told
me earnestly. "Gunduz, it doesn't matter if the object you
are painting is animate or not, you have to imagine it before
you-not as a canvas but rather as a beautiful woman. And you
have to love this canvas and these colors with passion and intensity,
just as you would love that woman. Only then can you create a
real work of art." His words are still ringing in my ears.
Togrul Narimanbeyov lives in Paris and frequently visits Baku.
Gunduz Alizade, who shared his impressions, studied under Togrul
and is now a political cartoonist whose works have been featured
in Azerbaijan International in Autumn 1998 (AI 6.3) and Spring
1999 (AI 7.1).
© Azerbaijan International 1999. All rights reserved.
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