Photographic Images, Distanced Realism, and the State of Being Modern in the Works of Mohammad Ghaffari and Otto Dix

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In this study, I investigate the works of two painters, Otto Dix (1891-1969, Germany) and Mohammad Ghaffari (known as Kamal-al-Molk, 1848-1940, Iran), whose turn to a distanced realism reflects ruptures and transformations in their respective socio-historical contexts mutually inflected by a rapid proliferation of photographic realism. I examine the distanced mode of realism in their works, mainly in the use of linear perspective and a mechanically descriptive mode of representation to point out the impact of photographic cameras on the formation of realism in the works of these artists. Juxtaposing two painters from two distinct cultures is an adaptation of a novel comparative methodology, collage, to construct a non-hierarchical and inclusive concept of modern art. Therefore, by scrutinizing the impact of photography on the advent of realism in the works of Ghaffari and Dix, I elucidate the relation between realism and modernism. While stereo-typically modern art refers to moving away from the illusionistic representation of the external reality, I argue that the emergence of realism in the cases under study embodies new levels of integration of the camera and its particular mode of depiction within modern aesthetics in a cross-cultural scope.

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photographic realism, distanced vision, modern art, historical rupture, global modernism