Coffee Shop (Coffee House) painting was a new
phenomenon in this nation's art history. While preserving all the
logical, religious and traditional style, it flourished as a sign of
respect for popular beliefs. People needed images of their saints
and their heroes.
In such an era, humble artists sat alone in Coffee Shops (coffee
and mosques, hanging on the tales of narrators and interpreting
every word into images. They were messengers of light and impossible
For this reason, their magical brushes broke the common artistic
rules, seemingly forsaking the background altogether.
This was not due to ignorance or importance, but the painter
followed the spiritual traditions of his native land, focused only
on his inspirations, trying to bring out his innermost feelings,
while presenting the outer beauty.
In the time of "Constitutional Movement" in Iran,
alongside with the awake of public ideas, and by improvement and
elevation of liberalism thoughts, "Public Art" suddenly
gained new life and noble. Culture promoting and traditional bases
of the country gained new credit and respect by the support of
In opposition of official painters of that time, some painters
raised among the common people and by changing the theme of
paintings brought it from the exclusivity of the owners of money and
power and presented it to the people.
Coffee Shop painting has a completely Iranian Characteristics and
it is directly originated from the mind of the painter, without
using external themes, and with its special techniques that is not
paying exact attention to anatomy and perspective. In this method,
the painter paints the pictures which are completely created by his
thought and his imagination. Time is not mentioned in this style of
For this reason, some characteristics in different paintings,
painted by different painters, have different forms and each painter
paints a face according to his own understanding.
Coffee Shop Painting
Coffee Shop Painting is an old style on Iranian Narrative Painting. Story-telling is the main source of this art, which was created centuries before. Ceremonies, parties, wars… were painted on paper and on the walls and ceilings of the courts and houses of the Khans. The stories of Shahnameh were one of the main themes of this painting.
Due to the Shiite Religion in Safavid era, Iranian Religious Imam’s have found a new position in Iranian Narrative Painting, and “Ashura” became one of the main subjects. With the foundation and improvement of “Coffee
Shops” in this period, due to the interests of Safavid’s Shahs, and with the improvement of “Tazie” (religious plays) and “Marsie” (religious mourning),
Coffee Shop Painting improved. It became an art, which reflects a mixed of Iranian religious and national myths. Since then, the main themes became “The stories of Shahnameh” and “Ashura”.
Coffee Shops were a place to rest and entertain. As Story-Telling guys started to narrate at
Coffee Shops, Ceramic Painters, who painted for the ceramic used for the buildings, started to paint these stories on Canvas, to improve the
Coffee Shop’s Story-Telling. These paintings were based on Iranian ceremonies, parties, wars and religion. Religious-Painting was started then, with the huge paintings of “Karbala”. At the same time, Dervishes put a very big painting of 12-Imam at the streets and told their stories, prayed the audience, earning money.
Arts and literature were always supported by the courts and Khan’s mansions during Iranian history. Nasereddin Shah Qajar, the painter, was the first Iranian amateur photographer himself. Art and literature abandoned their safe place with the improvement of the relations between Iran and Europe, and with the improvement of enlightened and democratic thoughts at the end of Qajar era, and great writers as Aref and Iraj Mirza were flourished. Painting and photography has gone to the public as well. Iranian Miniature Painting improved to Realism and moved to Modern European Painting in less than a century, as other changes.
Narrative Painting went on its way. This art flourished at the end of Qajar era, especially at the Constitution Movement, which enlightened the public. Artists of the
Coffee Shop School, who did not have academic knowledge of painting, have painted the epic stories of Shahnameh (Ferdowsi) as well as the national and religious movements. They painted at the Tea-Shops, Hoseinehs, Tekyehs and mostly at the
coffee shops, and this is the main reason of what it was called. A story was painted with oil-paint on canvas at the
coffee shop, where the narrator tells its story.
Modern artists of 1940’s and 1950’s were attracted to this style, and it was improved. It is not a pure religious or epic… story since then; we can see some paintings including both or more. Some of the painters have painted even Surrealism
Coffee Shop paintings.
Lots of narrative paintings are found on the walls and ceilings of the Old Iranian buildings, but the oldest
Coffee Shop painting on canvas belongs to eighteenth century; it is kept at Meshed Museum at Khorasan Province. The newer paintings are at Reza Abbasi Museum and Sad-abad Cultural Center in Tehran.
Coffee Shop Painters were among the public; they had another job and painted at the evenings in
Coffee Shops due to their personal interest. They did not know anything on design, illustration and perspective. “Time” had no meanings in their works, and they called themselves as “Imaginary Painters” or “Vulgar Painters”. Hossein Qollar Aghasi (born in Tehran, 1902) and Mohammad Modabber were frontiers of
Coffee Shop Painting style.
Coffee Shop, the place they worked and showed their works, belonged to the public. They painted on glass, wood, walls and ceramic, but mostly on Canvas. Paints were mostly herb or mineral powders, which were mixed with oil, mostly 3 main colors or max 6. Soft colors were used to paint good people, while warm colors were used for devil and bad people.
Coffee Shop Painting, Traditional Art
With the improvement of home narrative systems, radio and TV, as well as movies, and modern restaurants and coffee shops… traditional
coffee shops became vanished gradually in big cities in 1970’s.
Coffee Shop Painting went down with establishment of art faculties and improvement of artistic knowledge of the artists, and the improvement of Modern Art as well. Temporary
Coffee Shop Painters, who are just a few, paint at their studios and workshops. Among them,
Ali Akbar Sadeghi, temporary artist, graphic designer, film maker and
Coffee Shop painter has created Surrealism Coffee Shop Painting.
200 Coffee Shop Paintings by 12 artists were exhibited at “Contemporary Arts Museum” in Tehran in the winter 2009-10.
Caroun Art Gallery (CAG) exhibits 12 works of 5 artists at North Vancouver, BC, Canada on August 2010.
Alireza Abbasi Isfahani, Kasra Kiaei, Negar Kashian, Salar Ahmadian and
Zarrin Naghsh Isfahani. Two of them live in Vancouver.
Some of Iranian contemporary Coffee Shop painters are
(English & Farsi):
Blouki-far, born in Tehran 1924, with more than 30
exhibition in Iran and abroad and 50 years work in this style,
Ahmad Khalili, born in Qazvin 1943, works in traditional Azari
Coffee Shop, Tehran
Larni, born in 1946
Fathollah Qollar Aqasi
Hassan Ismail-zadeh (Chalipa), born in Zanjan 1922
Hossein Hamadani, Born in Hamadan 1927, 50 years work in this
style, especially in Dervish School
(Ali Reza, Naqash-Bashi) master in this style, born in Tehran 1903, deceased
Aghili, born in Meshed 1937, civil engineer, 25 years
work in this style
Mohammad Farahani, named Mohammad Dervish, expert in big
paintings of Dervish School
Mohammad Hamidi (Mohammad Barbar), born in Meshed, teacher in
Qollar Aghasi School, with more
than 30 years experience in this style, especially in Dervish School,
Mohammad Modabber, studied painting in Alireza Qollar
- Esmail Kiani, Mohammad Rahmani, Hajji Reza Abbasi, Enayatollah Roghan Chi, Mirza Hassan, Yadollah Hedayat Jou, Mirza Eskandar, Amir Hossein Ghaem Maghami, Ghadir Ali, Mehdi AbdolSalehi, Mohammad Sanei, Hossein Monfaredi
Khalili are among the Iranian Coffee Shop painters too.