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2024  N1-2(227-228)
The image of Magtymguly attracted attention of the country’s leading painters throughout the history of Turkmen fine art. All their paintings are grounded in a genuine interest in the poet’s personality. His image is reflected in dozens of thematic compositions. Yet, only the best examples of realization of the theme were included in the golden fund of Turkmen painting that are currently kept in the funds of the State Museum of Fine Arts.
These are the works such as “Portrait of Magtymguly” by Byashim Nurali; “Magtymguly”, “Magtymguly among the people”, “Magtymguly in a jewellery workshop” by Aykhan Khadzhiev; “Young Magtymguly reads his poems to Father Azadi” by Chary Amangeldiyev; “Magtymguly” by Ivan Ilyin; “Magtymguly Fraghi” by Yarly Bayramov; “Magtymguly” by Toymamed Esenmammedov; “Magtymguly Fraghi” by Atabaly Kichikulov; “Magtymguly in Shirgazi” by Khally Annacharyev; “Magtymguly” by Saparmaed Meredov.
So, by definition, lifetime images of Magtymguly did not exist. The masters of brush, who took on the difficult task of creating the image of a universally revered classic, shouldered an almost impossible task. And yet they managed it.
A portrait of Magtymguly by People’s Artist of Turkmenistan Aykhan Khadzhiev has been exhibited in one of the museum’s halls for many years now. This portrait is recognized as one of the canonical images of the great poet. In the minds of many people, the image of the great master of words remains exactly that way. The painter was only 23 years old at that time. In 1947, when Aykhan Khadzhiev was a third-year student at the Moscow Art Institute named after Vasily Surikov, a contest on creation of the canonical image of Magtymguly was announced in Ashgabat, and Aykhan decided to take part in it.
The idea of creating a portrait of Magtymguly came to the author long before the contest. While still a student at the art school in Ashgabat, he hatched the idea of creating the image of a master of words. He travelled to Magtymguly’s homeland in a mountain village in the valley of the Atrek River to meet the distant descendants of the poet’s relatives. The artist tried to discern typical features in their faces and looked for an optimal prototype. The village elders recounted to him oral legends about the poet’s appearance, character and habits. Aykhan Khadzhiev also studied the archival historical and literary materials and consulted with poets and writers.
In the end, a special commission recognized the completed portrait of Magtymguly as the winner of the contest. Painters, literary critics and other representatives of the art intelligentsia highly rated the young painter’s work. For the first time, the viewer received a highly artistic image of the legendary literary genius.
The artist depicted the moment of Magtymguly’s creative inspiration and spiritual illumination. The poet is portrayed sitting on the dark red Teke carpet, at the low oriental table. He seemed to be momentarily distracted from the manuscript and froze in reflection. Yet, the sparkle of clear-flashing eyes looking into the distance, a large, beautiful forehead speak of his inner emotions. Hidden feelings are seen in the very calmness of the face, in the turn of the head, in the stillness of the shoulders, in the hands. The painter managed to reflect that state of the poet’s soul when beautiful poetic lines are born in it that are destined to live for centuries. The colours of the picture, namely the noble golden-terracotta tints help to present the image in full.
After the contest, the portrait was handed to the Turkmen State Museum of Fine Arts for storage. When an earthquake hit in October 1948, the main hall of the art gallery suffered minor damages. The frame of the portrait of Magtymguly cracked, but the canvas remained undamaged.
The further development of the topic and deep rethinking of the image of Magtymguly gave impetus to new works by the author. This is how two paintings were created – “Magtymguly the Jeweller” and “Unbent.” Magtymguly’s word, like a magic key, opened any heart. This can be seen in the first picture that depicts jeweller Magtymguly and his apprentices sitting in his workshop as if spellbound. What is Magtymguly telling them? Perhaps he is revealing the secrets of jewellery making, and perhaps, he is reading his poems to them at the request of his fellow villagers. The painting “Unbent” reflects a tragic moment – one of the enemy raids on the Turkmen tribe. The enemies destroyed the poet’s manuscripts but could not break his spirit. That is why the poet called for unity of the Turkmen tribes. This is what Aykhan Khadzhiev’s painting “As One Family” is about.
Byashim Nurali is the people’s artist, a man who became a legend during his lifetime. He was the first Turkmen to master a pencil and brushes when he was already about 30 years old. His works reflect the innocence and sincerity, cheerfulness and ingenuousness of the people. He painted some images from life and others from memory and imagination. The portrait of Magtymguly painted by him is distinguished by the subtlety of colour. It conveys a sense of optimism and the joy of life. The human portrait image is endowed with the features of folk melody. Traditional metaphors of the classical poetry of the East, in the style of which the Turkmen classic so beloved by Byashim Nurali wrote, seem to naturally come to mind.
People’s Artist of Turkmenistan Yarly Bayramov is a recognized master of painting and graphics. Images of many historical figures of the Turkmen people came to life in his works. One of the striking examples of this kind is the work dedicated to Magtymguly. The painting is a plot-based one, using easel technique, depicting the moment when Magtymguly Fraghi reads his imperishable verses to his fellow villagers. Yarly Bayramov paintings are noted for the bright, original technique that uses colours characteristic only of the colours of the Turkmen land. Thanks to this individual technique he was able to create unique, lively, memorable paintings. The attentive and sensitive artist managed to ensure unmistakable recognition and typicality of the images. His worldview left a bright mark on the national fine arts of Turkmenistan.
Chary Amangeldiyev is the people’s artist of Turkmenistan. His works are distinguished by action-packed and rhythmic compositions, but at the same time, the artist strives to convey the emotional atmosphere of an event or phenomenon, and persistently tries to comprehend the enduring values of folk life. Chary Amangeldiyev’s painting “Young Magtymguly reads his poems to Father Azadi” testifies to the excellent knowledge of folk traditions and the author’s deep penetration into the national character of Turkmens. Poetry helped the author to reveal the character of the personalities – restrained and courageous. This painting became the first great success of the artist, who received unconditional recognition as a master of colour. The overall colour solution of the painting is determined by the colours of the Turkmen national carpet with different variations of transitions from red to brown-golden tones.
The image of the greatest classic of Turkmen poetry, Magtymguly, is also embodied in the painting by the Honoured Cultural Worker of Turkmenistan, Saparmamed Meredov. The honoured cultural figure of Turkmenistan, painter Khally Annacharyev, inspired by Magtymguly Fraghi’s poem “Farewell Shirgazi”, created the painting “Magtymguly in Shirgazi”.
Honoured Cultural Worker of Turkmenistan Ivan Ilyin, unsurpassed master of historical painting, also took on the task of creating the image of Magtymguly. His works are distinguished by that special intonation that allows the viewer to plunge into what is happening in the painting. His canvas required a Herculean effort to paint. The artist attached special importance to drawing the characters of the personalities in the picture. He studied literature and historical sources, and he was also extremely responsible in selecting the type of each personality in the everyday scene, where the main character Magtymguly Fraghi is surrounded by fellow villagers who listen to him in fascination.
A poet and philosopher, a teacher, a prophet and the soul of the people – this is how the Turkmen Magtymguly Fraghi, who lived and wrote poetry in the 18th century, was preserved in the colourful works and memory. New generations of Turkmen painters continue tirelessly to comprehend the depth of Magtymguly’s philosophical thought. They read the lyrical poetic lines of the great Fraghi, full of emotions about the fate of the people. The poet’s unshakable faith in the bright future of the Turkmen people inspires painters for creation of new memorable works. And the poetry of a genius comes to life on framed canvases...


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005