Blending realism, impressionism
and fantasy, Bob Pejman's paintings offer a modern look at
the ancient ruins of the Mediterranean and Middle East. Fragments
of stone temples, majestic villas and overgrown gardens, some
of which no longer exist, are painted in direct, clear-cut
detail. Pejman relies upon his vivid imagination to rebuild
these relics showing the impact centuries of wind, nature and
man's own destruction have had upon them. Using bright, contemporary
luminescent colors viewers are welcomed into such lush yet
forgotten places as Persepolis, Babylon and Pompeii.
Pejman spent his early childhood
in England and Vienna before settling in the United States
in 1976. Pejman received a bachelors of arts degree from Rutgers
College and later attended the New York Art Students League.
He also studied art and painting with renowned Russian artist
Anatoly Ivanov. Looking at the past, Pejman's work, is always
thought the eyes of the present. As in "Spring Time in
Persepolis", a gray-stone ruined palace with worn, yet
richly detailed carvings is contrasted with a vivid still life
in the foreground. Dew specked flowers, ripe fruit and a colorful
bird perched on a grape vine coax viewers in to relax and savor
the architectural detailing and rich craftsmanship that has
been neglected, just like the great structures themselves.
Since his first gallery show in
1994, Pejman has received national and international attention. "Spring
time in Persepolis" was chosen to be made into a jacquard
loom tapestry in France and is available by catalog through
Design Toscano, Chicago. Wall-sized murals are being published
by ScanDecor, in Sweden and Modern Art Editions, Nyack, NY
is publishing a series of graphics. Pejman's originals and
limited editions are available through Pejman Gallery, Short
Hills, NJ and Richard Danskin Galleries, Palm Beach, Florida.
In the following interview, Pejman offer readers of Heritage
Magazine insights into his distinctive style and inspiration.
How do you describe your style?
What artists have influenced you?
I would describe my style as "Romantic
Realism." I try to create a romantic mood in my paintings
by showing beauty and solitude. The essence of my style is
to portray an imaginary setting that a viewer would love to
visit, with every spec of its detail. I purposely, refrain
from putting people in my paintings. If no one is there, you
are free to imagine yourself within the painting. I also deliberately
heighten the colors and details of the scenes to make the experience
I am influenced by European artists
of the 16th to 19th Centuries. My art is based on a return
to the standards set by these artists which demand the knowledge
of composition, perspective, color, three dimensional form,
and anatomy. But more specifically, artists such as Alma Ta
Dema, Maxfield Parish and Van Huysem have had strong influences
on my style. Also, even though I paint in a realistic style,
when it comes to the choice of colors to paint the effects
and light, shade and atmosphere, I am deeply influenced by
impressionistic artists in general.
Have you actually been to many
of the places that you paint or do you prefer just keeping
the subjects you paint a distant fantasy?
Most of my paintings to this point
have been based on imaginary scenes and setting. A few exceptions
are when I use an existing place such as Persepolis as a back
drop for a painting. A place such as Babylon, for instance,
does not even exist any more. Therefore, to paint the subject
matter as I do, being on location is not always an option.
Also, part of my aim in painting is to design or create scenery
- not merely copy it. I think that a lot of artists can go
to historic places, set up their easel and paint. With that
kind of approach, all that can be achieved is a rendering of
scenery which to me is empty and unimaginative. I am trying
to go a step beyond that.
Are your paintings of Persepolis
partly based on your own nostalgia or Persepolis or based on
your interest in the history?
My paintings of Persepolis are
based on my nostalgic view of Persepolis. Mainly because the
ruins remind us of one of the world's greatest civilizations,
before that of the Roman empire, which now happens to be neglected
in terms of its significance in history. I have talked to many
cultured world-travelers recently who all know of such architectural
sites as the Acropolis, but think that Persepolis is in Greece
also. They are surprised to hear that it is situated in ancient
Persia. So part of my nostalgia for Persepolis has to do with
now neglected and forgotten this monumental site is today.
In my painting "Spring time in Persepolis" I try
to portray this feeling.
Your scenes and stylistic influences
are very European. What, if any, influences does Persian art
have on your paintings?
I paint in a classical European
style because I feel that this style enables me best in expressing
myself by manipulating a two dimensional surface to create
the illusion of three dimensions. But I think that my exposure
to Persian art throughout my life has influenced my designs
and choice of colors. I use a great deal of jewel tones in
my paintings, especially in my still life paintings. So, while
y style may be 17th to 19th Century European, the colors I
use are more representative of the ones you find in a Persian
What are the artistic roots in
your family? Did you grow up around art, and what inspired
you as a kid?
Both of my parents are musicians.
When I was growing up as a kid, my father was composing ballets,
operas and motion picture soundtracks and my mother played
the harp in the Vienna Philharmonic. So, I was surrounded by Classical music while growing up. That
exposure inspired me to be creative both in art and music.
When I was in High School, I composed a few orchestral pieces
that were performed by the school orchestra and marching band
and produced a record. But eventually I came to the realization
that my painting skills and talents far outweighed by musical
abilities. So I decided to stick with playing the piano just
for relaxation while concentrating my remaining efforts on
the art business and painting.
When did you start painting and
when did you discover your talent?
I started to paint when I was seven
years old. Even the I used a great deal of detail in my painting.
In high school I produced a number of significant paintings
on canvas and won a few awards. But despite my art instructor's
advice, I decided not to enter the art field. Instead, I pursued
an education and a career in business and computer software.
So, for a period of nine years after graduating from high school
I did not touch a paint brush. But some how faith led me to
open up an art gallery as a family business which in turn sparked
my interest in painting again. Since them, I have attended
the New York Art Students League on a part-time basis and studied
with two world renowned Russian artists: Anatoly Ivanov and
You say your paintings are often
based on history. What do like about the past?
Everything that we see today is
based on the past. The Greek, Persian and Roman civilizations
created architectural designs that we use today for virtually
every site we build. Also, in terms of fine arts, the Europeans
developed the art of painting, sculpture and music to perfection
in the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries. I believe that
the combination of technical ability and aesthetic awareness
enjoyed by the artists of that era has not and will never be
equaled. So, everything that is to come from now on is a derivative
of the past, this making it very difficult to create a truly
unique style today. That is why so many Twentieth Century artists
are celebrated, not on the quality of their work, but for their
Do you also find beauty in the
present and what is modern?
Of course. I very much enjoy living
in the modern world. I actually mankind has never had it this
good. Most people take for granted how technology and modern
medicine have made our lives more enjoyable than ever before.
I also admire certain modern architecture and furniture. However,
when it comes to the fine arts, with certain exceptions, I
think that there is a great deal of junk that is referred to
as art today. I believe that even if you want to be an abstract
painter today, you still have to study the basics and be able
to paint a classical composition before you start splashing
paint on the canvas. When you study the careers of artists
like Picasso or DeKooning, you will find that their early works
were very classical. Later, they decided to break away from
the technical boundaries, and that is what gives merit to their
Your paintings allow us to travel
in time and space. Are they also a way for you to escape to
those places? Do you personally dream of living another place
In some way, my paintings do allow
me to escape to these places. Another way of putting it is
that my paintings reflect my dreams of the ideal places for
me to visit. But the key words here are "escape" and "visit." I
prefer living in the present.
Your art work shows that you have
a very romantic nature, sensitivity to detail and nature, and
a poetic imagination that borders as mystical and yet you also
have a very pragmatic business side that allows you to sell
your work. Have both of these very different sides always been
a part of your personality?
I think that I have always possessed
these two different sides. In my paintings I try to focus on
the positive and show my appreciation for the beauty in the
world by being poetic and sensitive. But, I still have to be
able to sell my work. I don't think of these two different
sides as opposing, but rather complimentary. Today, in the
midst of fierce competition in the art market, it is very difficult
to stand out and be successful. As an artist you have to know
exactly what the market wants, and be able to produce works
that fall in the mainstream while maintaining uniqueness and
originality. My aim in painting is to produce works that are
unique, artistic, sophisticated and in the meantime appealing
to the public.
But wouldn't that make your work
"Commercial" is a tricky
word! Would you think of Monet's work as commercial? Probably
not. After all, they are in major museums and sell in auctions
for millions of dollars. However, today, in the commercial
poster market, Monet's posters outsell any other artist's.
Does that make his work commercial? There is a misconception
out there today that if you are a commercial artist, meaning
that you paint for the market, then you are not a true artist.
That is partially because there is so much junk commercial
art in the market today. But if you go back in history, some
of the greatest art works were commissioned. Michaelangelo,
for instance, was commissioned by the Medici family while Boucher
was commissioned by the French aristocracy. As a matter of
fact, most of the world's masterpieces in the history of art
were created by artists who were supported by and painted for
the wealthy. So, I think it is very hard to separate art and
the art market. But, you don't have to sacrifice the quality
and artistic nature of your work when you paint commercially.
It is very difficult but possible.
Now let's look at the flip side
of this: An artist paints what his heart desires without giving
any thought to its demand. If no one likes his art enough to
buy it...then, what value do you put on the art besides self
appreciation for the artist crates works for other people to
enjoy. If he is not able to move the viewer or stir some emotion,
then he hasn't done his job.
You mentioned uniqueness. What
do you think makes your art unique?
When you look at the individual
elements in my works, you find nothing unique. But, yet the
overall works are very recognizable and are not mistaken for
any other artist. I believe that I achieve uniqueness by the
way I combine these different elements in conjunction with
my use of color. For example, I use floral and fruit still
lifes in my paintings which have a great deal of 17th Century
Dutch Flemish influence. But if you look at the Dutch Flemish
works, you find that a floral still life composition is only
about the still life and is usually in a very dark and morbid
setting. In my paintings I make use of these highly developed
Dutch still lifes, but put them in a sunny and architectural
setting. Also, in terms of the use of light and shadow, I employ
colors of a completely different style and era: Impressionism.
So even though the elements are very classical, the paintings
look somewhat contemporary.
As we approach the third millennium,
do you see any trends developing that may effect the acceptability
of your work?
Looking at the last two decades
of the Twentieth Century, it is very interesting to see how
the popularity and rise of abstract art cam to a screeching
halt by the end of the 80s. The 90s marked a return to Classical,
traditional and representational art. I am not saying that
abstract art is out but I do believe that it has and will continue
to lose ground to Classical art for some time to come. Take
the prominent Victorian artist Alma Tadema, whose works were
selling for up to 30,000 British Pounds in the late Nineteenth
Century. In the 1960s, when abstract was thought to have replaced
Classical art permanently, galleries were dumping his masterpieces
in the $price range. However, recently, two of his pieces
fetched $2.7 million and $2.5 million at Sotheby's and Christie's
There is a revival or renaissance
of classical art and architecture which is well underway and
I find it interesting that as we are approaching the year 2000,
in the information age, we have made a full circle back to
the classics. And as for my paintings, I feel that the timing
couldn't be any better.