Azim Azimzade was an Azerbaijani-born cartoonist and artist who created a niche for himself in the area of satirical drawings and graphics through his exceptional caricatures and compositions. He didn’t receive any formal education in fine arts, yet he managed to perfect himself in cartoon drawings and satiric graphics through self-education, upon encouragement from renowned Russian artist, Durov. Inspired by the traditions and customs of Azerbaijan, he chose to depict his country’s culture revolving around everyday events such as poverty and misery, women’s rights, and societal issues. He published his cartoons in the ‘Molla Nasraddin’ newspaper, where he became the chief artist after a while. Besides, his works were published in various other Azeri magazines such as ‘Baraban’, ‘Babayi-Amir’, ‘Mezeli’, and ‘Kelniyyet’. During his entire career expanding 35 years, he created over 3,000 artworks, comprising of caricatures, murals, drawings, illustrations, stage sets, costume designs, and posters. Some of his best-known works were ‘Tight-Rope Walker’, ‘Dog Fight’, ‘Kos-Kosa’, ‘Old Baku’, ‘Division of Property’, ‘Husband Beating his Wife’, ‘A Daughter is Born’, ‘Trumped Cards’, ‘Face of Fascism’, ‘Watchdogs of Imperialism’, ‘Lion and Kitten’, ‘Wolf to Wolf’, and anthology ‘Hop-hop Name’. He is the first artist to be awarded the prestigious ‘People’s Artist of the Azerbaijan SSR’ title
Childhood & Early Life
Azimzade was born as Azim Aslan oglu Azimzade on May 7, 1880, in Novkhani village, Absheron peninsula, close to Baku, in a Karbalayi Aslan family.
His father, Aslan, was a stone cutter and farmer, but switched to oil industry after it started booming.
He was admitted into a madrasa, a local Muslim school, at the age of eight, but he started making drawings instead of reciting his Quran lessons, which is considered a sinful deed, and hence was beaten up by his father.
He was enrolled into a Russian-Tatar school, with the support of his grandmother. However, due to his father’s pressure of pursuing a job, he only completed primary education and did not study further.
At the age of 15, he went to work in a mill, owned by Aghabala Guliyev, where he came across Russian painter Durov, who encouraged him to study fine arts. But due to lack of money, he failed to get any formal education in arts.
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He took up freelancing to pursue a career in arts and sent his drawing ‘Irshad’s Client’ to the newly-launched, Molla Nasraddin, by writer-democrat Jalil Mammadguluzadeh, in 1906. The drawing was published in the magazine.
He contributed regularly to the magazine and also started sending his compositions to other magazines in Baku - some being Baraban (Drum), Bij (Trickster), Mezeli (Funny), Kelniyyet, and Babayi-Amir.
He focused mainly on caricatures and satirical drawings inspired from everyday events, but later expanded in other areas of fine arts, namely, book illustrations, stage design, and newspaper and magazine graphics during 1920s and 1930s.
His major breakthrough came in 1920 when he was appointed as head of the art department at the Republic’s Education Commissariat. Thereafter, he became the chief artist of Communist, the most popular Azeri newspaper, in 1922.
From 1922 onwards, Molla Nasraddin magazine’s edition was a renewed and that led to a productive collaboration of Mammadguluzadeh and Azimzade. Eventually, he became the magazine’s chief artist.
In 1923, he was appointed as chief artist of State Theater during the 50th Jubilee celebrations of Dramatic Works and began organizing set designs of various legendary works, like ‘Othello’, ‘Nadir Shah’, ‘Haji Gara’, and ‘Leyli and Majnun’.
During the 1930s, he started exhibiting the religious traditions and old customs of Azerbaijan on the canvas, which became his most profitable period. His notable works were ‘Tight-Rope Walker’, ‘Dog Fight’, ‘Kos-Kosa’, and ‘Old Baku’.
His cartoons were a representation of culture, poverty, and societal issues faced by men and women, which included ‘Wealthy Wedding’ and ‘Poor Wedding’ in 1931 and ‘Ramazan of the Rich’ and ‘Ramazan of the Poor’ in 1938.
He composed drawings on the themes of women’s lives and their rights, such as ‘Division of Property’ (1935), ‘The Old Wife and the New One’ (1935), ‘Husband Beating his Wife’ (1937), and ‘A Daughter is Born’ (1937).
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In 1937, he composed the ‘100 Type’ series, as a compilation of 10 horizontal drawings each containing 10 images, depicting the common man he encountered on streets, markets, and offices in Baku.
He held his first exhibition in Baku, in 1940, and displayed around 1200 works, created over a period of 35 years. Thereafter, he organized exhibitions in Yerevan and Moscow as well.
Some of his outstanding drawings included ‘Trumped Cards’, ‘Trophies of Fuhrer’, ‘Shadows of Barbarians’, ‘Face of Fascism’, ‘Watchdogs of Imperialism’, ‘Lion and Kitten’, and ‘Wolf to Wolf’.
His 56 colored illustrations for the anthologies of Azerbaijani poet, Mirza Alakbar Sabir, titled ‘Hop-hop Name’ for the 1915 and 1922 editions, became one of his most memorable works.
Awards & Achievements
In 1927, he became the first artist to receive the honorary title of ‘People’s Artist of the Azerbaijan SSR’.
Personal Life & Career
After his son, Latif, died during the World War II in February 1943, he broke down and wasn’t able to recover. Thereafter, he suffered a heart attack and died four months later on June 15, 1943, in Baku.
The Azerbaijan State Art School in Baku, which he directed during 1932-37, was named after him.
A street in Baku bears his name, while the first house museum opened in Azerbaijan, at Dilara Aliyeva Street, is dedicated to his life and works.
Famous sculptor, Omar Eldarov, created his monument in 2002 which stands near Heydar Aliyev Palace, in Icheri Sheher, Baku.
Some of his famous students were Sattar Bahlulzadeh, Maral Rahmanzadeh, Alekber Rzaguliyev, and Mikayil Abdullayev