- Also known as
primary name: Mohasses, Ardeshir
- individual; painter/draughtsman; Iranian; Male
- Life dates
- Eminent cartoonist, illustrator, graphic satirist, and painter, who played a major role in the development of satirical cartoon in Iran (http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/mohassess-ardeshir). Ardeshir Mohasses (b. Rasht, 1938 - d. 2008, New York), completed his primary education at ʿOnṣory School in Rasht and continued his secondary education at various schools, including Firuz Bahram in Tehran.
His mother, an educator and the principal of the first school for girls in Rasht, was a poet and literary figure in her own right, and a close acquaintance of the noted contemporary Persian poet, Parvin Eteṣami (http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/mohassess-ardeshir).
In his own words, “it has been much easier for me to express my thoughts in my drawings than in any other form” (Ali Banauazizi, “Ardeshir Mohasses and His Images Of Revolution,” Iranian Studies 17/ 2-3, Spring-Summer 1984, pp. 279-83, 1989, p. 17).
In 1951, while still at Firuz Bahram, he was encouraged by a classmate to submit his work to Towfiq, the leading satirical journal of the period with high circulation, which along with Baba Shamal and Chelengar, a leftist weekly founded in 1949 by Moḥammad ʿAli Afrashta, played instrumental roles in the flourishing of politically laden comic illustration in Iran. Most noted among the cartoonists who cooperated with the journals and achieved international acclaim were Ardeshir Mohassess and Kambiz Derambaksh (Morteżā Momayyez, “GRAPHIC ARTS: IN THE QAJAR AND PAHLAVI PERIOD,” in Encyclopaedia Iranica XI, 2003, pp. 189-93). The cooperation of Mohassess with Towfiq lasted eight years. During these years he followed Towfiq’s style of illustration, creating pictorial commentaries on Iranian daily life and satiric editorials on political figures. Exaggeration of face and body was the essence of the magazine’s visual style. (http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/mohassess-ardeshir)
Mohasses never formally studied art, instead opting to study political science at The Faculty of Law, Tehran University in 1962, quitting after a year to pursue an artistic career. His first solo exhibition was held at Qandriz Gallery, Tehran in 1967.
In 1963 Ahmad Shamlu (1925-1999), the noted modernist poet and the editor of the weekly magazine Ketab-e hafteh (Book of the week), published an issue featuring a series of works by Ardeshir, named Shir Dokhtaran (Brave daughters). The publication of his drawings at Kayhan, a newspaper with mass daily circulation, introduced his unique visual language to a much larger audience and established his fame as a satirist with a unique personal style (Hamid Dabashi, “Ardeshir Mohasses, Etcetera,” in Ardeshir Mohasses: Art and Satire in Iran, ed. Shirin Neshat and Nicky Nodjoumi, New York, 2008, p. 19).
On his style, the journalist Phong Bui says: “The clarity and his emphatic use of lines make no apologies for their references toward Western artists, including Daumier and Jacques Callot, particularly Callot’s famous 18 etchings called Miseries and Misfortunes of War, which undoubtedly influenced Goya in his own version during the Napoleonic war. There is also a presence of James Ensor as much as Mohassess’s interest and admiration of Persian miniature and primitive arts, particularly Rousseau” (The Brooklyn Rail, November 2010). His work also drew upon Persian folk art, miniatures (particularly those of the Shahnameh), and 19th-century lithographic illustrations.
A collection of his drawings in this period, acquired by the Library of Congress, was published in Washington D.C. by Mage publication as Life in Iran: The Library of Congress Drawings in 1994. The compositional intricacy of these drawings illustrates a new phase in his artistic career. What is striking about these drawings is the depth of realism and craftsmanship unmatched even by his earlier work (Bernard F. Reilly, Jr., “Introduction,” Life in Iran, 1994, pp. 5-8, p. 6). The drawings are simple outlines and are executed with a cool detachment. Some drawings refer to and reflect on actual incidents that took place in the time leading to and during the 1979 Revolution—events such as the Rex Cinema fire in Abadan and the massacre that took place in Shiraz. The drawings, as noted by Mohassess, picture the Iranian culture and socio-political life through the eye of an artist-reporter (Esmail Khoi, “A Conversation with Ardeshir Mohasses,” in Ardeshir Mohasses: Art and Satire in Iran, ed. Shirin Neshat and Nicky Nodjoumi, New York, 2008, pp. 31-38.). The individual pieces, however, are stylistically different from each other: some are heavily stroked, some are minimal in their treatment, and some are curvilinear drawings reminiscent of drawings by the famous 16th-century Persian miniature artist Reza Abbasi (1565-1635).
Mohasses’s career spanned over fifty years. He seemed, as held by a critic and friend “so consumed by his work and oblivious to all that took place around him that one wondered how he could possibly manage the day-to-day chores of his life alone” (Banuazizi, 1984, p. 279).