Christie's is proud to present in this sale two delicate still-lives by the Iranian artist Leyly Matine-Daftary. A significant figure in the artistic history of the Middle-East and one of the most sought-after female painters of Iran, Matine- Daftary is recognised for her personal interpretation of modernism and her graceful combination of figurative painting and minimalist representation. Moving away from the traditional canons of art and the arts education inherited from Kamal Al-Molk, she stands at the forefront of a generation of artists who distanced themselves from the classical styles of painting, leading the way to an era of artistic innovation.
Born in Tehran in January 1937, Leyly Matine-Daftary grew up at the heart of Tehran's social, political and cultural elite and aristocracy, as the daughter of a former Prime Minister and the granddaughter of the legendary Prime Minister Mossadegh. After completing her elementary education in the Iranian capital, she was sent to the United Kingdom where she later received a degree in Fine Arts from the Slade School in London. When she returned to her homeland in the 1950s, she taught sculpture at the Fine Arts Faculty of Tehran University and was actively involved in the flourishing local art scene. She did in fact participated to the Tehran Biennales on several occasions and to the Shiraz Arts Festival, for which she created many posters and designed costumes. After her marriage to Kaveh Farman-farmaian with whom she had two children, she moved to France a few years before the Islamic Revolution and settled there for the rest of her life.
As can be seen in both paintings in the present sale, Leyly Matine-Daftary's style is defined by grace, serenity and a soothing sense of balance. She painted mainly portraits and still-lives (teapots, plants and fruits). While her earlier paintings revealed a use of thick impastos, defined brushstrokes and planes of colour next to one another, her later works were somehow more subtle with delicate lines and curves, which were not only the result of her own calm and quiet state of mind, but also linked to her new technique and growing attention to details. She painted many fish, a great number of nasturtiums, stephanotis plants as can be seen in her larger work in the sale, but also kakis also called persimmons - which are very popular amongst Iranians - and still lives combining plants, chairs and other common objects that surrounded her. The two works in this sale are delicate examples of her artistic exploration and are both perfect incarnations of her signature style. The kakis on one hand (lot 75), a recurrent theme in Leyly's body of works, reveal her appreciation of minimalist compositions. Her larger still-life depicting stephanotis plants (lot 74), a species derived from jasmine, depicts a scenery that the artist has painted in variations on several occasions and that reflects on her peaceful and agreeable surroundings as well as on her own sensibility.
Leyly Matine-Daftary painted abundantly, she painted what she saw, what she liked and what she had in her mind and never considered the financial outcome of her work as a painter. She was however much appreciated in the art scene since the 1970s and participated in several exhibitions in Iran and abroad.
After battling cancer for two years, Leyly Matine-Daftary passed away in Paris in April 2007. Her legacy of modernism has left an indelible mark on the younger generation of Middle-Eastern artists today. Her works are now part of important private and public collections including the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.