FAHRELNISSA ZEID, Tate Modern, until 8th October 2017


I am grateful to John Kirkwood for visiting and writing about this exhibition:


Fahrelnissa Zeid (1901–1991)
Resolved Problems 1948
Oil paint on canvas, 130 x 97 cm
Istanbul Modern Collection/ Eczacibaşi Group Donation, © Raad bin Zeid Collection


Fahrelnissa Zeid (1901 – 1991) was born into an elite Ottoman family in Istanbul and witnessed the birth of modern Turkey and as the wife of the Iraqi ambassador in Berlin she saw the rise of Nazi Germany.  Later in Paris and London she was part of the post-war artistic upsurge until the impact of the 1958 events in Iraq changed her life forever.


Her life story which sound like the plot of a Douglas Sirk movie includes a family murder, the death of her first child, marriage into royalty and a narrow escape from political assassination.  It is a wonder she had any time to follow her artistic pursuits but thankfully she did and became one of the foremost exponents of abstract painting.


Not easy to classify, indeed Fahrelnissa described a 1980 self-portrait as ‘the hand is Persian, the face is Cretan and the eyes Oriental’ and indeed her work is quite a melange of all those differing influences and it is odd that such a vibrant artist has remained practically forgotten – until now!

Fahrelnissa Zeid (1901–1991)
Third Class Passengers 1943
Oil paint on plywood, 130 x 100 cm
Istanbul Modern Collection/ Eczacibaşi Group Donation, © Raad bin Zeid Collection



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