Fahrelnissa Zeid, the teacher of the kaleidoscopic abstract | Culture

Fahrelnissa Zeid, the teacher of the kaleidoscopic abstract | Culture

A painter regardless of any classification. That's how it went Fahrelnissa Zeid, a woman who sucked culture and art at home and who had a life as a film, which undoubtedly was decisive in her artistic development by including two marriages, trips to many countries – with all the important capitals in the world of art of the moment-, a depression followed by a suicide attempt, good and bad fortune, avant-garde reference in Istanbul, Berlin and Paris, in addition to becoming princess and mother and grandmother of two princes of the Iraqi royal house.

Zeid used drawings, lithographs and sculptures to combine elements of Byzantine Islamic art with abstraction and other influences from the West. His works, which deal with a wide variety of subjects (from scenes from everyday life to portraits of relatives, relatives and friends), have great intensity because of the brightness of the colors, the way they contrast with the thick black lines that used and for the energy inherent in the composition, regardless of the format used. Its kaleidoscopic technique is very similar to that of Byzantine mosaics and Ottoman stained glass, and although the art that developed most is predominantly abstract, its style, said by itself, is unique and based on Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam .

Fahrelnissa Zeid He was born as Fahrünissa Sakir on January 7, 1901, on the island of Büyükada (Istanbul), in the bosom of a wealthy Ottoman family. Since she was a child she was surrounded by books and art, as she grew up next to a large library at home and between her brother's brushstrokes and her mother's oil paintings. In addition, his father, Mohammad Shakir Pasha, was a diplomat, photographer and historian, so the family was considered a model of intellectualism in the society of the time.

Zeid's life was, since she was little, like a film in which there was no shortage of adventures: her uncle Cevat was the grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire from 1891 to 1895. His father was appointed ambassador to Greece, where he met his mother, Sara Ismet Hanim. However, in 1913, his father was shot dead and his brother, also called Cevat, was tried and convicted for his murder.

Zeid began painting as a child and her first known work is a portrait of her grandmother that she made when she was 14 years old. Soon after, in 1920, she was one of the first women to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul, where she studied with the Turkish painter Namik Ismail. That same year, with only 19, Zeid married the novelist Izzet Melih Devrim and they traveled to Venice for their honeymoon. That trip was for the artist the first contact with European painting. The couple had three children, two boys and a girl: the oldest died of scarlet fever at three years, the second became a painter and the third was an actress.

In 1928 Zeid traveled to Paris and trained at the Stahlbach and Roger Bissière studios at the Académie Ranson. Visits to various European cities with her husband Devrim inspired her to embrace the world of modern art to such an extent that, along with thirteen other artists, she was part of the group called New École de Paris, which developed an exhibition in Paris that It welcomed young talents from different countries and, therefore, paved the way for different artistic movements.

Paris became the epicenter of surrealist and abstract art movements of the moment and that allowed Zeid to find a spiritual home, which helped her to recognize the multicultural aspect of her personality, since she did not consider herself solely the product of tradition. Turkish

In the mid-30s, Zeid divorced Devrim but remarried in Athens in 1934 with the Hashemite prince Zeid bin Hussein, who was the youngest son of Sharif Hussein bin Ali of Mecca and the ambassador of Iraq in Ankara. Her new husband, in addition to giving him the last name by which he became known, was named ambassador of the Kingdom of Iraq in Germany and in 1935 the couple moved to Berlin. They had a son who was Prince Ra'ad bin Zeid, who became the person who later preserved the artistic legacy of Fahrelnissa by keeping a file of their works to make them available to museums, galleries, auction houses, publishers and academics for exhibitions, acquisitions and research.

In these years Zeid resorted in his paintings to exaggerated features, with a Byzantine style of iconography and elongated faces with large rounded eyes that, similarly, can be found in the Egyptian portraits of Fayoum. In addition, in a portrait of her husband, Prince Zeid, she goes beyond a mere representation of visible traits to deepen her character, and describes her inner side as a display of personality through expressive touches and vivid colors .

In Berlin Zeid organized many social events in her role as the ambassador's wife and traveled throughout Europe, the United States and the Middle East. These visits to various European capitals allowed him to see works by Western artists such as Joan Miró, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, among others. After the annexation of Austria in March 1938, the couple settled in Baghdad. There the artist suffered a depression and on the advice of a Viennese doctor returned to Paris shortly after. The next years of his life he spent traveling between Paris, Budapest and Istanbul, trying to take refuge in painting and, at the same time, recovering from depression. In 1941 he returned to Istanbul completely focused on his painting.

Zeid became involved with the so-called Group D of Istanbul in 1942, formed by various avant-garde painters who worked in the newly created Republic of Turkey under the command of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. While Zeid always fled from any style classification and his association with the group was short-lived, his participation in it gave him the confidence to start exhibiting on his own, and that was how he opened his first personal exhibition in his house in Macka, Istanbul, in 1944.

The artist began to develop such a prolific work that made her a clear influence on the movement of modern art in Turkey and abroad. She moved to London when her husband, Prince Zeid, became the first ambassador of the Kingdom of Iraq to the Court of St. James. There he continued painting in a room in the embassy that he converted into his studio and his style became more complex, moving from figurative to abstract painting. Zeid was able to merge his Persian, Byzantine, Cretan and Oriental roots with the concepts, styles and techniques of modernism that he met and gave personality to his style.

He exhibited at the St. George Gallery in London in 1948 and the Queen Mother attended the inauguration. Thanks to his position in Iraqi royalty, many members of high society related to her and attended her inaugurations and exhibitions.

In the 50s Zeid lived between London and Paris, although he also made some leap to New York, where he exhibited. His knowledge of both languages, English and French, allowed him to develop without problems and at that time he made some of his most important works, experimenting with large abstract canvases that managed to immerse the viewer in kaleidoscopic universes through their intensive use of lines and vibrant colors. Zeid exhibited at the Galerie Dina Vierny in 1953 and later that show traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1954. Zeid was at the height of his career and it was not difficult to win the friendship of international artists who experimented with gestural abstraction as Jean-Michel Atlan, Jean Dubuffet and Serge Poliakoff.

Her life, however, took a turn in the summer of 1958, when she convinced her husband, Prince Zeid, not to return to Baghdad as interim regent while her nephew, King Faisal II, went on vacation as he used to. . On July 14, while the couple was their summer home on the island of Ischia, in the Gulf of Naples, there was a military coup in Iraq and the entire royal family was killed. They escaped death but had only 24 hours to vacate the Iraqi embassy in London, so this tragic event stopped Zeid's career as a painter.

The family moved to an apartment in the British capital and such was the turning point in the life of the artist, that at age 57 Zeid had to cook for the first time. From then on he began to paint chicken bones and, later, he even created sculptures of bones molded in resin. In his pictorial role he began to move away from abstraction to go on to paint portraits of his family and other people close to him.

A few years later, her youngest son, Prince Ra'ad, got married and moved to Amman (Jordan) and five years after the death of her second husband, in 1970, Zeid also settled there, founding in her house the Fahrelnissa Zeid Royal Institute of Fine Arts, where he taught a group of young artists. Although the Fahrelnissa Art Institute lasted only four years, its influential legacy marked several artists.

Fahrelnissa Zeid died on September 5, 1991, when she was 90 years old. She was buried in the Royal Mausoleum of Raghdan Palace in Amman, Jordan. After her death, she was considered one of the great painters of the 20th century and a pioneer of abstract art, leaving an immense visual legacy with a great variety of narrations about the development of modern art.

Throughout his career Zeid participated in almost 50 exhibitions in Europe, the United States and the Middle East. His paintings are included in the collections of various museums, including the Modern Art Museum in Paris, the New York Museum, the Edinburgh Museum, the Pittsburgh Museum of Painting and Sculpture, the Hittite Art Museum in Ankara, the Modern Art Museum and numerous private collections.


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