Lot 10
  • 10

Ashraf Murad

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  • Ashraf Murad
  • Napoleon
  • signed, titled and variously inscribed on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 120.5 by 100cm.; 47 3/8 by 39 3/8 in.
  • Executed in 1978.


Farkhad Akhmedov Family Collection, Baku


Baku, House of Artists Exhibition Hall, Ashraf Murad, 1984



Sara Oguz-Nazirova, Ashraf Muradoglu, Baku (undated), p. 14, illustrated in colour
Grigoriy Anisimov, Ashraf Murad: Magical Realism, Moscow 2008, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

This work has been part of the Permanent Collection display at the Nar Gallery, Baku, from 2009 to 2012.

Ashraf Murad is considered to be one of the key figures of the so-called Absheron School of Colourists. Despite having graduated from the prestigious Repin Institute of Art and Architecture in Leningrad in 1954, Murad’s style differed dramatically from the accepted norms of Socialist Realism. Although drawn to portraiture, Murad rarely accepted commissions, prefering to remain free in his choice of subject. His bold, almost geometrical and often grotesque portraits stood in sharp contrast to meticulously painted, highly realistic imagery of the art valued at the time. As a result, he was never officially recognised during his lifetime, and his first exhibition was held almost five years after his untimely passing.

Murad often drew on political themes for subject matter. The glorified figures of Soviet propoganda appear menacing and almost sinister on his canvases; the dark palette, almost indistinguishable features, nuanced impastos that can pass unnoticed, such as the red on Lenin’s fingers in Lenin in Smolny, all masterfully add to the effect.  Napoleon (1978) can be attributed to the artist’s preoccupation with public figures. Albeit the subject hardly belongs to confines of Soviet history, the depicted figure presents a universal image of military and physical power. Significantly Murad often inscribed his paintings on the reverse. The writing in the back of Napoleon (1978) in broken Cyrillic lists Admiral Fedor Ushakov (1745-1817), with a wrong first name Alexander, next to General Admiral Napoleon Bonaparte, and ends in the announcement of the latter’s birth in Paris. Overall an incomprehensible statement acts as a satirical commentary on the honorary titles and orders that lay beyond the simple life of the artist.  Marginalised as he was, Murad never abandoned painting as he found it to be '...the best way to know the world'.

Ashraf Murad’s work, albeit only widely accepted posthumously, opened an important source of inspiration for the younger generation of artists. His unique compositions reveal a philosophy that was completely his own. Coupled with his original painting style developed throughout his short but rich career, they set him aside as one of the most illuminating figures in the history of Azerbaijani contemporary art.