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“One day in Mongolia”: a masterpiece by Marzan Sharav

One day in Mongolia- mineral pigments in cotton. 1905-1913: Three hundred characters engaged in common activities from birth to death that people living in Mongolia in the 20th century.

When the mother of a 4-year-old boy was pouring tea into the pot, some dripped on the cowhide rug on the floor, the boy observed the hot tea that is making an interesting pattern. Since then, cowhide became his eternal board. As he was growing up, one day, he visited a party in a nobleman’s house and he was watching the scene and how the adults were acting. He drew on the sand what he saw. Drunken people fall off their horses and vomit, some of them got drunk and some chase after a woman. It is believed all the scenes that he saw there, were later to become one of the most famous paintings depicting Mongolian life called “One day in Mongolia”.

Early life

Balduugiin "Marzan" Sharav (1869–1939; marzan-humorous), was a Mongolian painter. In this Mongolian name, the given name is Sharav. Balduugiin is a patronymic, not a family name. He lived at the turn of the XIX-XX century. Sharav’s road to becoming a famous artist is his uncle’s influence. His uncle, who was not only a monk but also had advanced artistic skills painting deities in “Ariin khuree “monastery. At the age of 5, Sharav went to the monastery to be with his uncle and studied painting until 17 years old.

The monastery was located 10 km from the province where he used to live and it was at the intersection of the Silk Road, which is in the direction of the west from China. Tourists, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese, tourists passed through this area. There, Sharav used to paint tourist portraits as well. Later Denmark scholar who studies the Altai mentioned in his book his traveling to Asia and Mongolia through the monastery, saying that the boy who painted portraits of people later became a great artist.

He was getting popular in his native land when he was 17, then went to the city when he was 22 and continued learning from another painter named Gendendamba. Sharav, who had an innate talent for painting, soon learned the art of painting, became famous in the city, and painted at the request of the Bogd Khaan.

About his famous painting “One day life in Mongolia”

When Bogd Khaan and Queen Dondogdulam saw a painting of One day life in Mongolia first time, it was depicting all sorts of things like festivals, funerals, felt making, agriculture, and animal breeding, they even see people make love, the Bogd khaan said “I can see some humor in your painting so I will nickname you “Marzan-humorous Sharav”, the queen said that “the painting is beautiful so I will name this “One day in Mongolia”. Thus, the nickname "Marzan Sharav- Humorous Sharav" and "One Day in Mongolia" became known as two inseparable names. The painting is like a naturalistic snapshot of more than three hundred characters engaged in common activities from birth to death that people living in Mongolia in the 20th century. It was painted with mineral pigment paints on cloth, there is no vanishing point or perspective so regardless of distance, everything is shown in the same proportion.

Portrait of Bogd Khaan and his queen. 1924

The subject matter was unremarkably everyday life, even boorish or insensitive in places; and the disproportionately large size of the people and animals against the background of nature added a comical tone to the radically undistinguished theme. Yet Sharav’s impeccable fluency in the technique of traditional Mongol painting, and the wide scope of his composition covering the entire geographic territory of Mongolia revealed the painting to be as stately as any image of a deity, a work of a true master.

“One day in Mongolia”, an original painting was restored by the Soviet Union in 1970-1980. In 1995, it was registered as a unique heritage and valued at 100 million MNT.

His other paintings

After painting for 12 years, he accomplished his advanced skills by painting White Tara and Green Tara. The monks with specialized talent and spiritual aptitude are selected to paint deities. He is often credited with introducing modern painting styles to Mongolia, but his most famous work, “One day in Mongolia-Mongolin neg udur” is done in a more traditional style. His other well-known work includes portraits of the last king of Mongolia Bogd Khan and his queen Dondogdulam, portraits of Russian revolutionary leader Lenin and Mongolian revolution leader Sukhbaatar.

The original Portrait of V.I.Lenin has been kept in the Mongolian Modern Art Gallery since it was painted in 1922.

Sharav was trained as a Buddhist monk and working as a court painter for Bogd khaan, perhaps having sensed the imminent political changes, breaks away from the traditional religious genre and portrait paintings of aristocrats to depict the ordinary life of his people in the diverse strata of his society.

You can see the mastery of techniques, trends, and creativity he learned from his teacher. He also learned the Tibetan language, Squire script, and Manchu scripts. He learned the symbols of Mongolian traditional art from his teacher, he began to look at things in his own way with a humorous philosophy and in search of something new.

In the 20th century, photography was getting popular in Mongolia, Sharav learned lighting and shadows from photography as well as using candlelight. According to art researchers, of his 50 art pieces are counted, 21 of them were created before the revolutionary period, which is before the 1920s in the time of Bogd King VIII. He is credited with the introduction of modern painting styles to Mongolia, but his most famous work, One day life in Mongolia (Mongolian: Mongolyn neg ödör), is done in a traditional painting style.

Visitors must see these art masterpieces displayed at the “Zanabazar fine art museum” located on Tourist Street.

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