Prominent Iraqi Artist Nouri Al Rawi Dead at 89

Iraqi Artist Nouri Al Rawi (1925 - 2014)
Iraqi Artist Nouri Al Rawi (1925 – 2014)


One of pioneer and prominent Iraqi artists & art critic who was an inspiring master for many artists and played a great role in nourishing modern art scene not only in his country but across the region, Nouri Al Rawi passed away today at 89 years old.

(Source: Barjeel Art Foundation) The theme of the traditional Iraqi town is constantly revisited in the paintings of seminal Iraqi artist Nouri Al Rawi. Born in Rawa in 1925, the artist witnessed Baghdad’s emergence as a vibrant art centre in the 1950s.

Merging representation and abstraction, Al Rawi’s poetic depictions of iraq’s natural and urban landscapes draw on personal experience and memory. Often referencing the whitewashed architecture of his hometown, Al Rawi instils a dreamlike quality in his paintings through distilled colours and textures, often integrating poetry to provide an element of cultural location and metaphor. His work relates to a larger critical debate in the Arab World about post-independence identity and cultural authenticity.

Al Rawi played a pivotal role in the development of modern iraqi art, founding the national Museum of Modern Art and spearheading several government sponsored art initiatives in the 1980s. A 1959 graduate of Baghdad’s institute of Fine Arts, the artist was the first to establish literature and arts pages in the Iraqi press.

Nouri Al-Rawi, Untitled, 1982, Oil on canvas, 75 x 91cm.  Courtesy: Grosvenor Gallery
Nouri Al-Rawi, Untitled, 1982, Oil on canvas, 75 x 91cm. Courtesy: Grosvenor Gallery

(Source: Meem Gallery) He was awarded two scholarships to study abroad, first in Yugoslavia, where he studied art in 1962, and second, in Portugal, to study art management in 1966. When he returned to Iraq, he produced and wrote a regularly scheduled television programme, The Art Programme, which aired during the 1970s. As well as being an artist, Al-Rawi is an art critic and art historian, and has authored numerous essays on art for both Arab and international journals. He has also written books including Meditations on Contemporary Iraqi Art (1962), The Path to Iraqi Folklore (1962),  Jewad Selim (1963), and Contemporary German Art (1965).

He was chair of the Society of Iraqi Plastic Artists in 1980, a founding member of the Union of Iraqi Artists, a fellow of the Pioneers Group and a member of the Al-Rawad Group (he took part in all the group’s exhibitions). He was also secretary of the National Committee League of Art Critics, Iraq. Al-Rawi chaired the fine art department at the Institute of Fine Arts and was a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in Baghdad. Al Rawi’s work reflects his interest in everyday, Iraqi village life as well as childhood memory. His work is held in collections including the Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; and Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman. He lives and works in Amman.

May His Soul Rest in Peace

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