Ali Karimi - Biography   

Master in Persian Miniature   


Ali Karimi (1913-1997) is a well-known contemporary master of Persian miniature. He started his art education at the age of fourteen, graduated at twenty-two and went on to become professor at and later director of the Academy of Iranian Arts.

Karimi produced more than 500 Paintings, both traditional and modern miniatures. His most significant works are displayed in Iranian museums and international exhibitions. He obtained several awards in recognition of his work.

In addition to his artistic work, Karimi was also a leading art curator and administrator. In these functions, he made a dedicated contribution to promoting the Iranian national arts.

Early Life

Ali Karimi was born in 1913 in Tehran. His enthusiasm for drawing emerged in his early childhood, with his natural talent manifesting itself on the margins of books as well as on the doors and walls of his father’s house. Ali's parents encouraged his early interest in art.

At the age of ten, Karimi's father introduced him to Hossein Behzad, a well-known contemporary miniaturist. At Behzad's workshop, Karimi worked for a few months where he became familiar with the art of sketching.   

It was the beginning of a long lasting friendship between the two artists who later painted together the masterpiece "Rostam and the White Monster" - a scene of Ferdowsi's Shah-nameh (Book of Kings), the national epic of Iran. 

Art Education  

Having finished primary school, Ali Karimi continued his education at secondary school. However, due to his passion for arts, he abandoned conventional schooling after two years. In that time, he was particularly interested in the only one Art School in Tehran and its founder Kamal-ol-Molk, undoubtedly one of the most eminent artists in Iran.

At the age of fourteen, Karimi began his art studies under Kamal-ol-Molk, paying particular attention to the art of portraying. Esmail Ashtiani, another art professor, introduced him to the principles of oil painting, perspective and naturalism. Until the age of eighteen, Karimi worked with the two masters. Thereafter, he went on to major in miniatures at the Academy of Iranian Arts under Hadi Tajvidi, one of the miniature masters of this period. At the age of twenty-two, Ali Karimi graduated with honors and went on to become assistant professor at the academy. He later rose to the title of professor and five years later became director of the academy.  

At that time, Kamal-ol-Molk lost an eye and died a short time later. Karimi painted a portrait of him to honor a great master of Persian art. This art work is displayed in the National Arts Museum of Iran in Tehran.  

Artistic Accomplishments

In 1943, when Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met in Tehran, Karimi drew miniature portraits of the three politicians. These tableaux were presented to them as a gift from the then Iranian government. The British and former Soviet Governments then invited Karimi to their countries. This was his first trip to Europe and he got the opportunity to visit art museums in London and Moscow. His own paintings also became recognized through several exhibitions in these countries. In Moscow, he met the famous Russian artist Sergey Grassimov, who painted a portrait of him.       

In Iran, Karimi's artwork became quite well-known. During a number of decades his paintings were exhibited in most major Asian and European cities. Arrived in the mature years of his artistic life, Karimi turned to a new art direction: Without leaving the classical style of miniature, he developed a new form of contemporary realism and  illustration of his mystical ideas which represents artist's inspiration.     

Karimi was the recipient of a number of national and international awards in recognition of his work. Among his most important exhibitions were: 


  • Exhibition of Asian Art,  Delhi 1954  
  • World Exhibition, Brussels 1958  
  • Iranian Handicraft Exhibition, Paris 1971 
  • World Exhibition, Madrid 1981
  • Asian Exhibition, Tokyo 1986 


Karimi produced more than 500 Paintings, excluding unfinished works. His most important Paintings are preserved in Iranian and international museums. But a considerable number of his paintings is part of private collections worldwide. 

Cultural Activities  

Not only an artist, Karimi was also concerned with a number of cultural and art administration tasks. Some of his other duties included:  


  • Curator of National Art Museum of Iran
  • Inspector of the Bureau of  Fine Arts
  • Director of the National  Arts Office 
  • Director of the Iranian Art  School 
  • Vice President of the Jury of World Exhibition in Brussels 1958
  • Chief Advisor of the Iranian Handicraft Center  


In 1962, Karimi moved to Europe and settled down in Geneva. There, he continued his work as an artist, becoming increasingly involved in European art. In this period, the artist met Picasso, exchanging letters with him as well as with Salvador Dali.   

Having received an invitation from the Iranian government, he returned to Tehran in 1964 to support the Ministry in building up an Iranian handicraft center. Karimi served there for several years as chief adviser, thus contributing to the long lasting prosperity of Iranian handicrafts. Research about the styles and epochs of Iranian and Islamic arts formed a part of his other, scientific activities.   

Ali Karimi died on September 23rd, 1997 after a long illness.