A significant figure in the artistic history of the Middle East, Leyly Matine-Daftary was amongst the few artists who changed the historically stolid dictates of traditionalism prevalent in the region. In addition to establishing a personal style of modernism, she helped promulgate the movement, now so firmly evident in Iran and in the Arab world, which produced a great number of exceptional and internationally renowned female artists.
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Leyly Matine-Daftary was born in Tehran, Iran, on January 18, 1937. After completing her elementary education in Tehran, she attended Cheltenham Ladies College and continued her education at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London, from which she received a degree in Fine Arts. She returned to Tehran in the late 1950s and began a career as a professional artist and also as an educator, becoming a lecturer on sculpture and sculpting at the Fine Arts Faculty of Tehran University. In 1961 she married Kaveh Farman-Farmaian with whom she had two children, Kamran and Mansureh.
Matine-Daftary was at the forefront of the arts in the Middle East, with great involvement in the Tehran Biennials - the genesis of the current direction of contemporary arts in the region – and in the Shiraz Arts Festival, for which Matine-Daftary created the public aesthetic through her iconic design of posters, costumes and various attendant identifying material.
Her quiet brand of warm grace made her one of the most liked and admired personalities in the regions’ art world, highlighting her belief that nobility was a product of integrity and dignity and not simply an exigency of birth. That even though Matine-Daftary was always at the heart of Iran’s social, political and cultural elite. The daughter of a Prime Minister and of a formidable aristocrat, and a granddaughter of a legendary Prime Minister who graced the cover of Time Magazine on three separate occasions including its Man of the Year issue, Matine–Daftary possessed the genuine humility of the truly noble.
After a two year battle with brain cancer, she passed away in Paris on April 17, 2007.
Leyly Matine-Daftary’s legacy of modernism and minimalism will continue to be one of the most significant influences in the development of the contemporary arts in the Middle East.
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