Iraqi Artists
The Art History Archive - Arabic Art

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Artists from Iraq

Suad al-Attar

(1942 - ) is a world renowned Iraqi painter whose work is in private and public collections worldwide, including The British Museum and the Gulbenkian Collection. She has held over twenty solo exhibitions, including one in Baghdad that became the first solo exhibition in the country's history for a woman artist in 1964. Her many awards include the first prize at the International Biennale in Cairo in 1984 and an award of distinction at the Biennale held in Malta in 1995.

Suad left Baghdad with her husband and children in 1976, and settled in London. For her, the perpetual sense of longing for "home" has always been balanced by an awareness of the freedom that comes with distance. This freedom — a condition that gained added significance following the regime's rise to power under Saddam Hussein in the late 1970s—has enabled her to explore her relationship with her homeland and to develop a personal visual language with which to express it.

Elements of this language are to be found within the traditions of Middle Eastern art. The winged creatures of Assyrian reliefs, Sumerian sculptures and the illuminated manuscripts of the Baghdadi School were instrumental. However, this awareness of her Arab heritage did not result in slavish imitation, but was forged with her own romantic imagination and an appreciation of western figurative traditions to create enigmatic images in which narrative and symbolism are intertwined.

A substantial monograph documenting her career was published in London in 2004. Much of Suad's painting is characterised by an intense dreamlike and poetic sensibility that draws on motifs and symbols from within the traditions of Middle Eastern art. In recent years, these richly-coloured representations of paradise and of sleeping cities bathed in turquoise blue, have disappeared from her work as she has become increasingly preoccupied with the plight of Iraq.

"Gilgamesh and Enkido" is based on a Sumerian legend. Gilgamesh, the hero-king of the ancient Sumerian city of Uruk, is depicted emerging from a dark, cavernous background. He has the body of an animal and a highly emotive and luminous feminine face, suggesting the artist's desire to create a powerful female image and invent a new role for women in an otherwise male-dominated legend. The animal represents the winged bull of Assyria with its strong and upright legs. Gilgamesh is flanked by his foe turned friend and companion Enkido, whose presence in the painting symbolizes the relationship between a man/god (Gilgamesh) and an animal/man (Enkido); the latter represents nature with his attributes of strength, wildness, and innocence.

This painting reflects a tension between the yearnings and aspirations of the human spirit as opposed to the heaviness and earthbound animal-like body. The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of most famous literary works in the world, is 4,000 years old and is based on the Sumerian story of Gilgamesh, the ancient king of Uruk. The story (which underwent several elaborations by subsequent civilizations) was finally recorded in an Akkadian version in the seventh century B.C. and stored in the library of Ashurbanipal, the Assyrian king. Discovered in the mid-nineteenth century, the text of the Epic was written on clay tablets, each tablet containing 200 to 300 lines.

  • Horses in a Forest - 1970
  • Portrait of Laila - 1972
  • Gilgamesh and Enkido - 2001
  • Eternal Peace - 2001-04
  • Silent Tears - 2003
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    Ala Bashir

    is an Iraqi plastic surgeon, sculptor, and painter. After gaining attention for his work treating soldiers during the Iraq-Iran War, Bashir became a medical counselor to Saddam Hussein. For more than 15 years, Bashir served the former dictator closely, a time period that is chronicled by the History Channel DVD "Saddam's Doctor: An Insider's Story."

    Bashir, who was born in 1939 and now lives in the United Kingdom, is also the author of "The Insider: Trapped in Saddam's Brutal Regime." Publishers Weekly wrote of the book, "As Saddam Hussein's personal physician, Bashir had unique access to the dictator and his family for 20 turbulent years, and in this darkly comic memoir, he chronicles his time as Hussein's 'unwilling confidant,' taking the reader into presidential palaces, blood-spattered operating rooms and the streets of sanction-era Baghdad."

    In June 2004, Bashir was quoted in an article on Al speaking critically of the rewriting of history that was occurring in Iraq after the United States-led invasion. "I was reading an unbelievable amount of falsehood about Iraq, and thought it was my responsibility to tell what I know," Dr Bashir said. "I was reading and hearing information which seemed to come from people's imaginations and guesswork."

    "Cursed in earth and subdued by death, man found himself beset by time, and his instincts put to the test. Only then, he realized that with love he could survive, and that for a certain purpose he would toil. For those whom my love can not immune from death, are dedicated these paintings, in the hope they may express in drawing the reality of a resonant mind," Bashir (1985).

    "Early on in my life I comprehended that death is the most tragic event in our life. Events of early Monday July 19, 1958 had convinced me that hate is the most destructive force in our life. As a painter I realized that what we see is just manifestation of unseen power. Since then reality started to take another form in my mind. Hence, I was aware of deception of our senses. Darkness is where we begin and where we end. We don't usually see light traveling in darkness of space because we only can see it's reflection on substance. The truth is far beyond what we can see. Therefore my art is an invitation to comprehend this fact," Bashir (2005).

  • Golden Mask - Date Unknown
  • Hollow Life - Date Unknown
  • Man's Destiny - Date Unknown
  • Red Raven - Date Unknown
  • Temptation - Date Unknown
  • Torture-of-Mind - Date Unknown

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    Faeq Hassan

    (1914 - Unknown) was a Iraqi painter who was born in Baghdad. He graduated from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris in 1938. He founded the Painting Department at the Fine Arts Institute in 1939-1940 and the Pioneers Group (or S.P) in 1950.

    Hassan participated in group exhibitions until 1967 when he joined in founding the Corner Group and participated in its first exhibition. He took part in the Friends of Art Society in 1943 and 1946 and articipated in the Avicenna Exhibition in Baghdad in 1952.

    In 1962-1967 and 1971 he organized a number of one - man exhibitions in Baghdad and participated in most national exhibitions outside Iraq. In 1965 he joined nine artists in the Iraq Art Exhibition in Beirut. He later became a member of the Iraqi Artists Society.

  • Man on Horse I - Date Unknown
  • Man on Horse II - Date Unknown
  • Trio of Men - Date Unknown
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    Abdul Qadir Al Rassam

    (1882 - 1952) was born in Baghdad, Iraq. He was the first well-known painter in modern Iraq and the leader of realism school in Iraq.

    Al Rassam studied military science and art at the Military College, Istanbul, Turkey, (then the capital of the Ottoman Empire) from 1904. He studied art and painting in the European traditional style and became a landscape painter.

    He painted many landscapes of Iraq in a realistic style, using shading and composition to suggest time periods. He was a major figure among the first generation of modern Iraqi artists and was a member of the Art Friends Society (AFS, Jami'yat Asdiqa' al-Fen).

    A collection of his work is hung in The Pioneers Museum, Baghdad. A prolific painter of oils, the majority of his works are now in private hands.

  • View of Baghdad, Iraq - Date Unknown
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