Who was Fahrelnissa Zeid? Google Doodle celebrates pioneering Turkish abstract artist

One of the greatest female artists of the 20th century, according to Tate Modern

Adam Forrest@adamtomforrest
Monday 07 January 2019 01:05
Who was Fahrelnissa Zeid

Google’s latest Doodle celebrates the life of Fahrelnissa Zeid, the renowned Turkish artist best known for blending Islamic and Byzantine traditions with influences from the West.

Tate Modern, the British gallery that organised a major retrospective of the late painter in 2017, called her “one of the greatest female artists of the 20th century.”

Ms Reid created her own distinctive style of abstract, kaleidoscopic patterns. Her largest work sold at auction, Towards a Sky (1953), fetched just under one million pounds in 2017.

Monday marks the 118th anniversary of Ms Zeid’s birth.

Born on 7 January 1901, she became one of the first women to go to art school in Turkey. The pioneer lived in several different cities in her career, becoming part of the avant-garde scenes in Istanbul, pre-war Berlin and post-war Paris.

Her reputation grew in the 1950s when she was living between London and Paris and exhibiting extensively.

Describing her move into abstract art, she said: “I did not intend to become an abstract painter; I was a person working very conventionally with forms and values.

“But flying by plane transformed me… The world is upside down. A whole city could be held in your hand: the world seen from above.”

In the 1930s, Ms Zeid married Prince Zeid bin Hussein, part of the Hashemite royal family of Iraq. She was the mother of Prince Ra’ad bin Zeid and the grandmother of Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad.

The Turkish artist also produced many portraits, mostly of friends and family, but she also created of a picture of Donald Trump in the 1980s when he was still a humble real estate tycoon.

Later in life she moved to Amman in Jordan, where she initiated her own school of art. She died on 5 September 1991.

The recent Tate exhibition was aimed at lifting the artist “out of obscurity to ensure that she does not become yet another female artist forgotten by history”.

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