Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid
7 January 1901
|Died||5 September 1991 (aged 90)|
|Known for||Painting, collage, sculpture|
|Spouse(s)||İzzet Melih Devrim|
Prince Zeid bin Hussein
Fahrelnissa Zeid (Arabic: فخر النساء زيد, Fakhr un-nisa or Fahr-El-Nissa; 7 January 1901 – 5 September 1991) was a Turkish artist best known for her large-scale abstract paintings with kaleidoscopic patterns. Also using drawings, lithographs, and sculptures. Zeid was one of the first women to go to art school in Istanbul. She lived in different cities and became part of the avant-garde scenes in 1940s Istanbul, and post-war Paris. Her work has been exhibited at various institutions in Paris, New York, and London, including the Institute of Contemporary Art in 1954. In the 1970s, she moved to Amman, Jordan, where she established an art school. In 2017, Tate Modern in London organized a major retrospective of the artist and called her "one of the greatest female artists of the 20th century". Her largest work to be sold at auction, Towards a Sky (1953), sold for just under one million pounds in 2017. Her record is the USD 2,741,000 sale of her Break of the Atom and Vegetal Life (1962) in 2013 by Christies.
In the 1930s, she married into the Hashemite royal family of Iraq, and was the mother of Prince Ra'ad bin Zeid and the grandmother of Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad, Prince Mired bin Ra'ad, Prince Firas bin Ra'ad, Prince Faisal bin Ra'ad and Princess Nissa Raad.
Fahrelnissa Zeid was born Fahrünissa Şakir (hereafter referred to as Zeid), into an elite Ottoman family on the island of Büyükada. Her uncle, Cevat Pasha served as the Grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire from 1891 to 1895. Zeid's father Şakir Pasha was appointed ambassador to Greece, where he met Zeid's mother Sara İsmet Hanım. In 1913, Zeid's father was fatally shot and her brother, also named Cevat, was tried and convicted of his murder.
Zeid began drawing and painting at a young age. Her earliest known surviving work is a portrait of her grandmother, painted when she was 14. In 1919, Zeid enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts for Women, in Istanbul.
In 1920 at the age of nineteen, Zeid married the novelist İzzet Melih Devrim. For their honeymoon, Devrim took Zeid to Venice where she was exposed to European painting traditions for the first time. They had three children together. Her eldest son, Faruk (born 1921), died of scarlet fever in 1924. Her son Nejad (born 1923) went on to become a painter, and her daughter Şirin Devrim (born 1926) became an actress.
Zeid travelled to Paris in 1928 and enrolled at the Académie Ranson, where she studied under the painter Roger Bissière. Upon her return to Istanbul in 1929, she abandoned her academic figurative practice and turned towards expressionist figurativism, and enrolled at the Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts.
Her brother Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı was a novelist. Under her direct tutelage, her sister Aliye Berger became a major modernist painter and engraver, while her niece Fureya Koral became a pioneering ceramist artist.
Zeid divorced Devrim in 1934, and married Prince Zeid bin Hussein of Iraq, who was appointed the first Ambassador of the Kingdom of Iraq to Germany in 1935. The couple moved to Berlin where Zeid hosted many social events in her role as an ambassador's wife. After the annexation of Austria in March 1938, Prince Zeid and his family were recalled to Iraq, taking up residence in Baghdad.
Zeid became depressed in Baghdad and on the advice of Viennese doctor Hans Hoff returned to Paris after a short time. She spent the next years of her life traveling between Paris, Budapest, and Istanbul, attempting to immerse herself in painting and recover. By 1941, she was back in Istanbul and focusing on her painting.
Zeid became involved with the D Group of Istanbul, an avant-garde group of painters working in the newly formed Turkish Republic under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Although her association with the group was short-lived, exhibiting with the D Group from 1944 gave Zeid the confidence to begin exhibiting on her own. The artist opened her first personal exhibition in her home in Maçka, Istanbul in 1945.
In 1945, Zeid cleared out the parlor rooms of her apartment in Istanbul and held her first solo exhibition. In 1946, after two more solo exhibitions at İzmir in 1945 and in Istanbul in 1946, Zeid relocated to London where Prince Zeid Al-Hussein became the first Ambassador of the Kingdom of Iraq to the Court of St James's. Zeid continued to paint, turning a room in the Iraqi Embassy into her studio.
From 1947, Zeid's 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.
She exhibited in London at Saint George's Gallery in 1948. Queen Elizabeth visited the gallery. Art critic Maurice Collis reviewed her 1948 exhibition and they subsequently became friends. The prominent French art critic and curator Charles Estienne became a major proponent of Zeid's work. She was part of the founding exhibition of the Nouvelle Ecole de Paris organized by Estienne in 1952 at the Galerie Babylone.
Over the next decade, living between London and Paris, Zeid made some of her strongest works, experimenting with monumental abstract canvases that immerse the viewer in kaleidoscopic universes through their heavy use of line and vibrant colour. Zeid exhibited at Galerie Dina Vierny in 1953, showing her most recent abstract works such as The Octopus of Triton, and Sargasso Sea. The exhibition travelled to the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1954, making her the first woman of any nationality to exhibit at the modernist showcase. In the mid-1950s Zeid was at the height of her career. In this period, she became friends with a group of international artists such as Jean-Michel Atlan, Jean Dubuffet and Serge Poliakoff, who experimented with gestural abstraction. Fahrelnissa Zeid exhibited also frequently alongside other members of the Nouvelle Ecole de Paris in small group exhibitions, as well as exhibiting at the Salon des Realites Nouvelles Salon des Réalités Nouvelles.
In 1958, Zeid convinced her husband Prince Zeid al-Hussein not to return to Baghdad as acting regent while his great nephew, King Faisal II, went on vacation as he usually did. The couple went to their new holiday home on the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples. On 14 July 1958 there was a military coup in Iraq and the entire royal family was assassinated. Prince Zeid and his family narrowly escaped death, and they were given only 24-hours to vacate the Iraqi Embassy in London. The coup halted Zeid's career as a painter and hostess in London.
Zeid and her family moved into an apartment in London and at the age of fifty-seven, Zeid cooked her first meal. The experience prompted her to begin painting on chicken bones, later creating sculptures from the bones cast in resin, called paléokrystalos. The 1960s were a period of both renewal and looking back for Fahlrenissa Zeid. She immersed herself in renewing her portrait practice alongside her abstract work, and focused on her invention of paléokrystalos. At the same time, she had two largescale homecoming retrospectives in Turkey in 1964, in Istanbul and Ankara. She prepared for a large exhibition in Paris in the late 1960 after her meeting with André Malraux but that never happened after the dismissal by Malraux of Jacques Jaujard who coordinated with her, and the subsequent May 1968 May 68 events. Still Fahrelnissa continued exhibiting in Paris through 1972.
In the 1960s her youngest son, Prince Raad, married and moved to Amman, Jordan. In 1970, Prince Zeid Al-Hussein died in Paris and Zeid moved to join her son in Amman in 1975. She founded The Royal National Jordanian Institute Fahrelnissa Zeid of Fine Arts in 1976, and for the next fifteen years she taught and mentored a group of young women until her death in 1991.
Museum Ludwig held her first retrospective in the west in 1990. In October 2012, a number of her paintings were sold at auction by Bonhams for a total of £2,021,838, setting a world record for the artist.
In 2017, Tate Modern in London organized a major retrospective of the artist. According to an article in The Guardian, the exhibition aimed to lift the artist "out of obscurity to ensure that she does not become yet another female artist forgotten by history." The central gallery of the exhibition hosted large-scale, abstract paintings of Zeid from the late 1940s and 1950s. Exhibited in this room, her five-meter work titled My Hell (1951) was shown in the UK in her 1954 exhibition at the ICA London. The last gallery was devoted to portraits that Zeid concentrated on in her last years in Amman, as well as resin sculptures. All the works in the exhibition were loaned from international collections and Tate Modern acquired one of the paintings, Untitled C, "so she can now be part of our narrative," according to Tate Modern Director Frances Morris. The exhibition traveled to Deutsche Bank KunstHalle in late 2017. Istanbul Modern lent eight works to the retrospective exhibition and also organized the exhibition Fahrelnissa Zeid in spring 2017 with works from its collection, focusing on Zeid's practice between the 1940s and 1970s. Istanbul Modern director Levent Çalıkoğlu stated, "The belated interest of Western museums and art community in Zeid’s works. . . is restoring the value she deserves."
In 2019 she was commemorated with a Google Doodle.
In her lifetime and even after her death, Zeid’s work was beset by orientalist assessments that she fused Islamic and byzantine influences with modernism. Assessments that followed her even after her death. As the 2017 exhibitions which strove to replace her within the narratives of transnational abstract practices of mid-twentieth century art were criticized for their ‘Eurocentric’ framing. The concurrent publication of the artist’s biography Fahrelnissa Zeid: Painter of Inner Worlds, written by Adila Laïdi-Hanieh, a former student of Zeid's, was seen as upsetting those narratives that explicated her art from an ‘Orientalist’ perspective in a way quite disengaged from the artist herself.  Zeid often stated her modernist sensibilities and refuted being influenced by Turkish based classical art forms. In 1984, she wrote about her canvas Triton Octopus that it was, “my only painting where one guesses my Byzantine side.” She told art critic Edouard Roditi Édouard Roditi in 1959 ” : I have never been a student of Moslem art’, and ‘I have never been particularly conscious of being an artist in this specifically Turkish tradition…But I’ve also been conscious, at all times, of being an artist of the same generally “abstract” school as many of my American, French or English friends and colleagues. I mean a painter of the “École de Paris” rather than of any more specifically nationalist school.” Her own inclinations were towards a more universalist elemental vision of art making. In 1952 she told the art critic Julien Alvard that:” I am a means to an end. I transpose the cosmic, magnetic vibrations that rule us… I am not a pole, a centre, a myself, a somebody. I act as a channel for that which should and can be transposed by me … painting is for me, flow, movement, speed, encounters, departures, enlargement that knows no limits.
The artist’s 2017 biography Fahrelnissa Zeid: Painter of Inner Worlds, written by Adila Laïdi-Hanieh, provides a revisionist and definitive account of both her life and career, and foregrounds the importance of her immersion in European culture and her shifting mental state on her artistic vision and constantly renewing bold practice. The book also challenges orientalist interpretations of her art, and redefines Fahrelnissa Zeid as one of the most important modernists of the twentieth century.
- Fight Against Abstraction, 1947
- Resolved Problems, 1948
- My Hell, 1951
- Towards a Sky, 1953
- Someone from the Past, 1980
- Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (2017-06-12). "Fahrelnissa Zeid: Tate Modern resurrects artist forgotten by history". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-12.
- "Complete ICA Exhibitions List 1948 - Present - July 2017" (PDF). ICA. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
- Tate. "Fahrelnissa Zeid – Exhibition at Tate Modern | Tate". Tate. Retrieved 2018-03-12.
- Del Valle, Gaby (31 Oct 2018). "Why is art so expensive?". vox.com. Retrieved 2 Nov 2018.
- Sotheby's - Fahrelnissa Zeid, Towards a Sky
- Sotheby's (April 19, 2017). "The Painting That Was Too Big for London's ICA". sothebys.com. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
- Devrim, Şirin (1996). A Turkish Tapestry: The Shakirs of Istanbul. London: Quartet. p. 11. ISBN 0704380358.
- Greenberg, Kerryn (2017). "The Evolution of an Artist". In Greenberg, Kerryn (ed.). Fahrelnissa Zeid. London: Tate Publishing. p. 11. ISBN 9781849764568.
- Devrim, Şirin (1996). A Turkish Tapestry: The Shakirs of Istanbul. London: Quartet. p. 38. ISBN 0704380358.
- Greenberg, Kerryn (2017). "The Evolution of an Artist". In Greenberg, Kerryn (ed.). Fahrelnissa Zeid. London: Tate Publishing. p. 12. ISBN 9781849764568.
- Greenberg, Kerryn (2017). "The Evolution of an Artist". In Greenberg, Kerryn (ed.). Fahrelnissa Zeid. London: Tate Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 9781849764568.
- "Istanbul Modern displays vivid, colorful art by Fahrelnissa Zeid". DailySabah. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
- Devrim, Şirin (1996). A Turkish Tapestry: The Shakirs of Istanbul. London: Quartet. p. 127. ISBN 0704380358.
- Greenberg, Kerryn (2017). "The Evolution of an Artist". In Greenberg, Kerryn (ed.). Fahrelnissa Zeid. London: Tate Publishing. p. 18. ISBN 9781849764568.
- Greenberg, Kerryn (2017). "The Evolution of an Artist". In Greenberg, Kerryn (ed.). Fahrelnissa Zeid. London: Tate Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 9781849764568.
- Greenberg, Kerryn (2017). "The Evolution of an Artist". In Greenberg, Kerryn (ed.). Fahrelnissa Zeid. London: Tate Publishing. p. 20. ISBN 9781849764568.
- Devrim, Şirin (1996). A Turkish Tapestry: The Shakirs of Istanbul. London: Quartet. p. 167. ISBN 0704380358.
- Greenberg, Kerryn (2017). "The Evolution of an Artist". In Greenberg, Kerryn (ed.). Fahrelnissa Zeid. London: Tate Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 9781849764568.
- Tate. "'Untitled', Fahrelnissa Zeid, c.1950s | Tate". Tate. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
- Devrim, Şirin (1996). A Turkish Tapestry: The Shakirs of Istanbul. London: Quartet. p. 210. ISBN 0704380358.
- Laïdi-Hanieh, Adila (2017). "The Late Style". In Greenberg, Kerryn (ed.). Fahrelnissa Zeid. London: Tate Publishing. p. 131. ISBN 9781849764568.
- "Fahrelnissa Zeid: Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle, Berlin - kulturnews.de" (in German). 2017-10-25. Archived from the original on 2018-03-16. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
- "Bonhams sets new world record for Turkish Artist Fahrelnissa Zeid". Bonhams. October 2, 2012.
- "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 2018-03-12. Cite uses generic title (help)
- "Fahrelnissa Zeid". Museumsportal Berlin. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
- ART, ISTANBUL MODERN, ISTANBUL MUSEUM OF MODERN. "Fahrelnissa Zeid - İstanbul Modern". www.istanbulmodern.org. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
- "Fahrelnissa Zeid at Istanbul Modern". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
- "Fahrelnissa Zeid's 118th Birthday". Google. 7 January 2019.
- "Özpınar, Ceren. "Why Not See Farther and Enlarge the Visual Orb': Revisiting Fahrelnissa Zeid"". Third Text.
- Becker, Wolfgang. Fahr-El-Nissa Zeid: zwischen Orient und Okzident, Gemälde und Zeichnungen. New York: Neue Galerie, 1990.
- Greenberg, Kerryn, ed. Fahrelnissa Zeid. London: Tate Publishing, 2017.
- Laïdi-Hanieh, Adila. Fahrelnissa Zeid: Painter of Inner Worlds. London: Art / Books, 2017.ISBN 978-1-908970-31-2.
- Laïdi-Hanieh, Adila. Fahrelnissa Zeid’s Amman Portraiture: Rituals of Friendship and Reinvention. Bonham’s Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern Art. November 2018. (2017)
- Parinaud, André and Shoman, Suha. Fahrelnissa Zeid. Amman: Royal National Jordanian Institute Fahrelnissa Zeid of Fine Arts, 1984.
- Zaid, Fahrelnissa. Fahrelnissa Zeid: portraits et peintures abstraites. Paris: Galerie Granoff, 1972.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid.|
- 1 artwork by or after Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid at the Art UK site
- Laïdi-Hanieh, Adila (2021). Fahrelnisaa Zeid 1901-1991. BarjeelFoundation.org. 
- Fahrelnissa Zeid at the AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions 
- Awwad, Salma (2013.10.30). “$2.7m artwork breaks world record for female Mideast artist.” Arabian Business. Retrieved 2021-01-16
- Devrim, Şirin (1996). A Turkish Tapestry: The Shakirs of Istanbul. London: Quartet.ISBN 0704380358.
- Harambourg, Lydia. “Les années 50 à Paris 1945/1965” Applicat-Prazan.com. 
- Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (2017-06-12). "Fahrelnissa Zeid: Tate Modern resurrects artist forgotten by history". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-12.
- Oikonomopoulos, Vassilis (2017). "Multiple Dimensions of a Cosmopolitan Modernist". In Greenberg, Kerryn (ed.). Fahrelnissa Zeid. London: Tate Publishing. pp. 45–46. ISBN 9781849764568.
- Kayabali, Yaman. “Fahrelnissa Zeid and the Problem of Eurocentrism in Art History’ “ Muftah. (https://muftah.org/fahrelnissa-zeid-problem-eurocentrism-art-history/#.YDpcTGgzY2x)
- Özpınar, Ceren. “Why Not See Farther and Enlarge the Visual Orb’: Revisiting Fahrelnissa Zeid”. Third Text. 
- Roditi, Edouard. Dialogues on Art. London, Martin Secker & Warburg, 1960. P.196. ISBN 9780915520213