Lesson 9: Islamic Art

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What You Will Learn:

  • Explore All Art Movements and Periods

    You will learn about all the leading art movements and periods, such as primitive art, ancient Greek art, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modernism, and contemporary art. There is also a lot of attention to non-Western art, such as Islamic Art, Hindu Art, Chinese Art, Oceanic Art and African Art, and the globalization of the art world.

  • All Famous Artists and Their Masterpieces

    The course covers important artists like Sultan Muhammad, Fan Kuan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Utagawa Hiroshige, Vincent van Gogh, Ilya Repin, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Banksy and many more, and discusses their most influential works.

  • Art Theory and Criticism

    You will learn how to analyze and interpret artworks, including the principles of design, color theory, and the context in which art is created and viewed.

  • Cultural and Historical Context

    Our courses also focus on the study of the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts in which artworks are created.

  • Various Media and Techniques

    You will explore different art forms and techniques, such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and digital art.

Introduction to this course:

 

Where does Islamic art come from, and where does it originate? In the year 622 AD, the Prophet Muhammad proclaimed his teachings, which we now know as Islam. This world religion spread across a large part of the world, extending from Morocco in the west to as far east as Indonesia, which is now the country with the largest Muslim population.

Een eeuwenoude kasbah in het zuidoosten van Marokko.Image: An ancient kasbah in the southeast of Morocco. They resemble castles and served a similar purpose: to protect a family or a group of the same tribe from hostile tribes and wandering desert thieves. The kasbahs are constructed from stone, clay, pebbles, and earth. The doors and entrance gates are made of wood, while the ceilings rest on sturdy palm wood beams.
Location: This kasbah is representative of the original kasbahs in the southeast of Morocco. ©Ronnie Rokebrand.

Islamic art, therefore, originates from a widely distributed region with an already long artistic tradition, drawing from various sources, including the Persian art tradition.

Oud-Perzische tekst in goud gehamerd op een gedenkplaat uit de 4de eeuw voor Chr.
Image: An ancient Persian text from the 4th century BC, during the Achaemenid period, on a gold-hammered memorial plate.
Location: This ancient Persian text is in the possession of the Cincinnati Art Museum, an art museum located in Eden Park in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

Islam

On this webpage, we establish a connection between the religion of Islam and its associated art forms. In such cases, it is essential to understand the background of this religion to gain insight into why artists from specific religious groups create art objects based on their faith. Islam is a typical monotheistic religion with Allah as the sole God. There are no saints or others worshiped by Muslims. Everyone must individually answer to Allah. Even the clerics have a regular, human status. The Prophet Muhammad preached that all people are of equal value and should be treated equally. The book of Allah, known as the Quran, is central to the religion we know as Islam. The Quran is written based on visions that Muhammad received during his lifetime through the archangel Gabriel. These divine values are described in the Quran (the “recitation” or “recital”). They provide guidance for people’s behavior during their lives and also serve as the constitution, known as sharia, for the Islamic state. The Quran is a comprehensive book, consisting of no less than 114 surahs (chapters). These surahs are further divided into 6,226 ayat (verses). All these surahs in the Quran start with Bismillah ar-Rahmaan ar-Raheem, which is literally translated as “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.” Allah is the one and all-powerful God, and Muhammad is His prophet.

Koran uit de 18de, begin 19de eeuw.
Image: A Quran from the 18th to early 19th century. The manuscript pages are inscribed and illuminated with ink, gold, and lapis lazuli, a sacred stone.
Location: This Quran has been in the possession of the Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Acquisition Fund for Islamic Art since 2009. You can view it at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). This renowned art museum is located on the east side of Central Park in Manhattan, New York City, USA.

Another text of great importance to many Muslims is the Hadith. It contains the traditions and posthumous sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and was put to paper in the 8th or 9th century. Over time, numerous variations of the Hadith emerged. Like Christianity and Buddhism, Islam is a world religion that can largely be traced back to a historical founder, in this case, the Prophet Muhammad (the Praised One). Muhammad, a merchant, was born around 569 AD in Mecca.

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