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The Precursor of Contemporary Expressionist Art in Iraq

By Saad Al-Jadir

Khalid Al-Jadir was amongst the most outstanding, brilliant and inventive men of the Iraqi Art movement in twentieth century. He was one of those most extraordinary artists in the history of modern Iraqi and Arab art, attracting wide acknowledgement, and yet did not get the much deserved chance to emerge and be known on the world stage like the foremost European and international artists.

Khalid Al-Jadir has left behind a unique realistic-expressionist artistic vision. His vision served as a means through which he conveyed his impression about every place he lived in or visited, over five decades, ranging from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, and Brunei eastward to Europe and Morocco in the West.

Through his childhood and teens, Khalid’s passion for depicting accurately the features of the outer world was so great that he used to tell me jokingly the invention of the camera was for him competition, rivaling his own skills.

Saad Al-Jadir 2011

Khalid Al-Jadir

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Khalid Al-Jadir successfully developed a realistic-expressionist style that was unique to him resulting from his persistent, experimental work that had taken place in Iraq before his departure to Paris to study in the ‘Beaux Arts’ in 1949.

Khalid Al-Jadir was undoubtedly influenced by European arts, yet he was able to create his own ‘Iraqi’ style, which remained constant and unchanged until his very last sketch. Indeed, he never deviated from this line except when it came to elaborately innovate in this style with the purpose of enhancing the lure, splendor and richness of his artistic image.

In his obituary of Al-Jadir, Shaker Hassan Al Sa’eed, the Iraqi painter and one of top art critiques in the Arab world said: “He was truly, incontestably the precursor of contemporary expressionist art in Iraq”.

‘Adel Kamel, the Iraqi art critique, writes with regard to the unity of style in Khalid’s works:

The issue of style in Iraqi plastic art was still not understood in its real dimension before Khalid Al-Jadir, one of the precursors, could endow it with a clear a definite solution. This solution is related to the artist’s style as a whole, meaning the style that identifies the art with its actual context, its environment, ambiance as well as its spiritual-artistic significance. In this vein, we note that Khalid Al-Jadir has not adopted a different style other than that he has been known for. Unlike Jawad Salim and Hafidh Al-Duroobyi, and even Faiq Hassan, Al-Jadir did not experiment with ‘abstractionism’ or the other artistic types, but actually adopted the realist trend which, doubtless, comprises relatively different stylistic essays.

He goes on emphasizing that it is imperative for every study of the art of painting in Iraq to refer to this particular phenomenon which is different from the predominating trend, and which is indicative of a kind of discomfort pertaining to style. He explains that Khalid Al-Jadir admirably committed himself to preserve the oneness of and sameness in his style on the basis of practical rules and norms set by himself.

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