Fahrelnissa Zeid: Visionary Artist Bridging East and West

OV Digital Desk

Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

Fahrelnissa Zeid (7 January 1901 – 5 September 1991) was a Turkish artist best known for her large-scale abstract paintings with kaleidoscopic patterns as well as her drawings, lithographs, and sculptures. Zeid was one of the first women to attend art school in Istanbul. Her husband was a member of the Hashemite royal family of Iraq.

Life and Career

Fahrelnissa Zeid was in Istanbul, Turkey 7 January 1901. She was a pioneer in the world of modern art and played a significant role in the development of abstract art in Turkey and the Middle East. Zeid received her early education in Istanbul and later studied art in Paris, France.

Zeid’s work was highly influenced by the cultural and artistic traditions of the Middle East, as well as the modernist movements of the 20th century. She was known for her vibrant and expressive style, which often featured bright colors and bold brushstrokes. Zeid’s work encompassed a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, and ceramics.

Zeid was also an avid collector of art, and her collection included works by some of the most important artists of the 20th century, including Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and Henri Matisse. Zeid married Prince Zeid bin Hussein of Iraq, who was appointed the first Ambassador of the Kingdom of Iraq to Germany in 1935. From 1947, her practice became more complex, and her work transitioned from figurative painting to abstraction. Zeid was influenced by the abstract styles coming out of Paris in the post-war period.

Queen Elizabeth visited her exhibition at Saint George’s Gallery in London in 1948. Art critic Maurice Collis reviewed that exhibition and they became friends.

Throughout her career, Zeid exhibited her work in galleries and museums around the world, including the Tate Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. She was also a member of several prominent art organizations, including the International Association of Plastic Arts and the International Association of Women Artists. Zeid passed away on 5 September 1991 at an age of 90. Her contributions to the world of art continue to be recognized and celebrated.

Award and Legacy

Fahrelnissa Zeid was a highly respected and influential artist during her lifetime, and she received numerous awards and accolades for her work. In 1971, Zeid was made a member of the prestigious Order of the British Empire, in recognition of her contributions to the arts. She was also awarded the Order of Merit by the Turkish government in 1977.

Zeid’s legacy as an artist and pioneer of abstract art in the Middle East has continued to be recognized in the years since her death. In 2012, a major retrospective of her work was held at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, which showcased over 100 of her paintings, sculptures, and ceramics.

Remembering M. F. Hussain

Zeid’s work has also been included in numerous other exhibitions and collections around the world, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the British Museum in London.

In addition to her artistic accomplishments, Zeid is also remembered for her philanthropy and her commitment to supporting young artists. She established the Fahrelnissa Zeid Foundation in 1979, which provides grants and support to emerging artists in Turkey and the Middle East. Overall, Zeid’s contributions to the art world and her lasting legacy as an artist continue to be celebrated and recognized internationally.

 In October 2012,  her paintings were auctioned for a total of £2,021,838, setting a world record for the artist. Zeid’s family life is described in her daughter Shirin Devrim’s book, A Turkish Tapestry: The Shakirs of Istanbul, published in 1994. On 7 January 2019, Google Doodle celebrated Fahrelnissa Zeid’s 118th Birthday.