ZIAPOUR, JALIL (Jalil Żiāʾpur, b. Anzali, 5 Ordibehešt 1299 Š./25 April 1920; d. Tehran 30 Āḏar 1378 Š./21 December 1999; Figure 1), painter and scholar.

Ziapour was the eldest child of eight born to Shaikh Ḥasan Ziapour, a shoemaker from Bandar Anzali. Upon graduating from high school, Jalil moved to Tehran to pursue an education in art. In 1938, he gained admittance into the Honarestān-e Musiqi, which was under the directorship of Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Minbāšiān, and studied composition with the Belgian instructors (Ziapour, 1989, p. 76). However, soon after the famed musician ʿAli-Naqi Vaziri took over the school administration and instituted a new curriculum, Ziapour abandoned his music studies and joined the newly established Tehran University’s School of Fine Arts (Honarkada-ye Honarhā-ye Zibā; Diba, p. 50), at a time when the resident French instructors’ impressionist precepts had already begun to emphasize the necessity of avoiding constraints set by classic realistic art (Pākbāz, p. 14). It was there that Ziapour produced his first expressionist painting titled Qiām-e Kāva-ye ahangar (Kaveh’s uprising; Daftari, 2013, p. 41, n. 16) and came to believe that traditional Iranian fine arts had become sterile and reached a dead-end, and their mindless reproduction for market had created a retrogressive environment of decadence (Ziapour, 1989, p. 78). In 1945, he graduated from the university summa cum laude. A recipient of Iran’s first-degree medal of cultural honor upon graduation, he was sent by the Ministry of Culture to France to pursue a graduate degree at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts (Ziapour, 1989, p. 77).

In 1948, upon returning to Tehran, Ziapour opened his own atelier on Taḵt-e Jamšid Avenue. In 1949, along with a group of like-minded artists, which included the writer Qolām-Ḥosayn Qarib, the playwright Ḥasan Širvāni, and musician Morteżā Ḥannāneh, he co-founded Ḵorus Jangi (The fighting cock), a literary and art society. The society’s name was suggested by Qolām-Ḥosayn Qarib, and its logo of a Cubist-style rooster (Figure 2) was designed by Ziapour himself (Ṭāhbāz, p. 4). Chosen for its natural aesthetics along with valor in fight, the fighting cock perfectly symbolized the society’s stated mission to “fight against obscurantism and traditionalism detached from the realities of present-day” (Ṣāber Tehrāni, pp. 54-55). With the principal goal of searching for a new language in art and literature (Šams-e Langarudi, I, pp. 452-59, 553), the society was the first of its kind to host gatherings, exhibitions, and presentations by avant-garde artists, and it campaigned in favor of modern arts in Iran (Keshmirshekan, p. 57)

Weekly meetings in Ziapour’s atelier were a backdrop for regular heated discussions on modern perspectives versus traditional styles and attracted numerous artists, such as painter Bahman Moḥaṣṣeṣṣ, novelist Sadeq Hedayat, and poet Manuchehr Sheybani. Ḵorus Jangi also published an eponymous journal, with Sheybani as its first poetry editor. The first issue of the journal aptly included “Ḵorus miḵˇānad” (The rooster sings), a poem by Nima Youshij, the generally acclaimed founder of “new poetry” whose battle against classical poetry went side by side with modernist painters’ efforts (Ziapour, 1989, pp. 80-82; see also ART IN IRAN xi. POST-QAJAR). Although the avant-garde practices of the first generation of modernists were often condemned and belittled by official academic painters (Āḡdāšlu, p. 69), theoretical discussions on modern arts by Ziapour and his colleagues further advanced their influence in the country’s cultural circles. Although some of Ziapour’s theoretical discussions—including his analogy of traditional use of geometric patterns in Perso-Islamic decorative and tile-making arts to that of modern Cubist styles—proved contentious and were generally disregarded by critics in Iran (Boqrāṭi, 2006, p. 69), his main influence was in his achievement of bringing art discussions out of closed intellectual circles into the public arena by setting the trend of writing art criticism in magazines and newspapers, and by his pioneering of live-broadcasted radio talk shows on visual arts (Boqrāṭi, 2013, p. 11).

Between 1948 and 1949, five issues of Ḵorus jangi were published, but opposition from traditionalists in art and poetry circles resulted in the questioning of the Minister of Culture before a parliamentary hearing, and a subsequent official interrogation of Ziapour himself (Ṣāber Tehrāni, p. 59). With Ḵorus jangi shut down, Ziapour started another magazine, Kavir, followed by Panja ḵorus, both of which were short-lived (Pākbāz, pp. 14-16). In 1951, when Ḵorus jangi was once again allowed to publish, Ziapour left its editorial staff following disagreements with the radical poet Hushang Irani (Ṭāhbāz, p. 7).

Despite being extremely influential in advocating a modern approach to art, Ziapour’s own works lacked a discernible artistic technique and failed in creating a solid connection to the known Cubist styles (Boqrāṭi, 2006, p. 66). Figurative images of villagers in traditional clothing, hybridized with ceramic, tile-like square compartments appeared as a recurrent motif in his paintings (Figure 3; for this example, titled Doḵtar-e Lor, cf. CLOTHING xxv. Clothing of the Baḵtīārīs and other Lori speaking tribes). It is only after 1990s and in his later years that Ziapour’s works shifted towards a more geometrically abstract representation (Figure 4), while still keeping his signature tile-comprised composition (Daftari, 2002, p. 47). Although Ziapour consistently emphasized the avoidance of merely imitating Western modern art and the importance of the adoption of national identity in the works of modern artist (Mojābi, p. 43), in Karim Emami’s words, he unsuccessfully “clung to Cubist and Expressionist painting techniques while trying to make them Iranian” (Emami, 1997, p. 17). Ziapour himself addressed criticisms of the incongruity of his style with European Cubism and claimed that his intention was never to bring Cubism to Iran in the exact form practiced in Europe (Ziapour, 1978, p. 7). In 1956, he was sent to Italy to represent Iran at the International Venice Biennale, and in 1960, his painting Zan-e Kord-e Qučāni (Figure 5) won him the first prize at Tehran’s Second Biennale (Ḥosayni, p. 4).

As the decades-old struggle between modernists and traditionalist came to an end in favor of the latter (Ziapour, 1976, p. 35), Ziapour’s influence as a consequential artist came to a end, and he primarily focused on his work at the Anthropology Museum in Abyaẓ Palace, Tehran, and his anthropological studies on Iranian nomadic tribes, villagers, and folkloric culture, specifically the garments and clothing used in rural areas. In 1999, he passed away of heart failure at the age of 79 in Tehran, and was buried in Behešt-e Zahrā cemetery, artists’ division. In his lifetime, he wrote 28 books on Iranian history and contemporary art, including 11 books on Iranian traditional garments and folk costumes (Mir-ʿEmādi, p. 120).



Āidin Āḡdāšlu, “Naqqāši āyena-ist bāztābanda-ye farhang-e moāʾṣer-e Irān,” interview with Honar o meʿmāri, no. 5, 1999, pp. 60-79.

Fāʾeqa Boqrāṭi, “Moruri bar tāriḵča-ye naqd-e honari dar Irān,” Tandis, no. 267, 2013.

Idem, “Żiāʾpur va naqqāši-e nowgarā-ye Irān,” Ḥerfa: ḥonarmand, no. 18, 2006, pp. 64-72.

F. Daftari and L. S. Diba, eds., Iran Modern, New York, 2013.

Leyla S. Diba, “The Formation of Modern Iranian Art: From Kamal-al-Molk to Zenderoudi,” in Daftari and Diba, eds., 2013, pp. 45-66.

Fereshteh Daftari, “Redefining Modernism: Pluralist Art before the 1979 Revolution,” in Daftari and Diba, eds., 2013, pp. 25-44.

Idem, “Another Modernism: An Iranian Perspective,” in Picturing Iran: Art, Society and Revolution, ed. Shiva Balaghi and L. Gumpert, 1st ed., New York, 2002, pp. 39-88.

Karim Emami, “Saqqa khaneh School Revisited,” in The Saqqa khaneh TMoCA Exhibition Catalogue, Tehran, 1977, pp. 17-18.

Mehdi Ḥosayni, “Hargez namirad ān ke delaš zenda šod be ʿešq,” Tandis, no. 65, 2005, pp. 4-5.

Hamid Keshmirshekan, “Historiography of Modern Iranian Art,” in Daftari and Diba, eds., 2013, pp. 17-24.

Maniža Mir-ʿEmādi, “Jalil Ziapour: 1920-1999,” Tavoos, no. 2, 2000, pp. 119-20.

Javād Mojābi, Sarāmadān-e honar-e now, Tehran, 2014.

Rueen Pākbāz, Naqqāši-e Irān az dirbāz tā emruz, Tehran, 2004.

Šāhin Ṣāber Tehrāni, Majmuʿa-ye soḵanrānihā-ye honari- taḥqiqi-e zenda-yād Ostād Jalil Żiāʾpur, Tehran, 2003.

Sirus Ṭāhbāz, Ḵorus Jangi-e bi-mānand: Darbāra-ye zendegi va honar-e Hušang-e Irāni, Tehran, 2001.

Jalil Żiāʾpur, “Soḵan now ār ke now rā ḥalāvati-st degar,” Honar, no. 17, 1989, pp. 76-93.

Idem, “Nehżat-e Ḵorus Jangi va taḥavvol dar honar,” Rastāḵiz, no. 1356, 1978, p. 7.

Idem, “Negareši now dar honar-e jadid-e Irān,” Honar o meʿmāri, no. 27, 1976, pp. 31-35.

(Nojan Medinei)

Originally Published: June 29, 2016

Last Updated: June 29, 2016

Cite this entry:

Nojan Medinei, “ZIAPOUR, JALIL,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ziapour-jalil (accessed on 29 June 2016).