Jewad Selim (Iraq, 1919-1961) Nisa Fi Al-Intidar ("Women Waiting")

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Lot 16*
Jewad Selim
(Iraq, 1919-1961)
Nisa Fi Al-Intidar ("Women Waiting")

Sold for £ 154,818 (US$ 202,184) inc. premium
Jewad Selim (Iraq, 1919-1961)
Nisa Fi Al-Intidar ("Women Waiting")
oil on board, framed
executed in 1943
45 x 35cm (17 11/16 x 13 3/4in).



    "Artists were appalled at the conditions of poverty, illiteracy and subjugation of a lot of Iraqi women during this period in Iraq's history. They were concerned about the situation of illiterate women who were "waiting" for marriage or who were forced to work as prostitutes. Jewad was very proud of his sister Neziha for having the courage to break out of the tradition of "waiting" and leaving to study art in Paris. The painting will have been a statement of the plight of women at this time"
    - Miriam Selim, the artists daughter

    Property from the collection of Said Ali and Medhat Madhloom, acquired directly from the artist
    Thence by descent to the present owner

    Jewad Selim, Monument to Freedom, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Ministry of Information, 1974, illustrated P.99
    The Grass Roots of Iraqi Art, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Wasit Graphic Publishing Ltd, St Helier, 1983, illustrated in colour
    Exhibition Catalogue: Jewad Selim, National Museum of Modern Art, January 1968, Ministry of Culture, Illustrated in Black and White

    Jewad Selim, House of Nizar Ali Jawdat in 1950, Baghdad, Iraq, 1950, No.9 (the artists first solo exhibition)
    Jewad Selim, National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, January 1968

    Bonhams are most privileged to present perhaps one of the rarest and most sought after works of Iraqi art to come to auction in recent history, from the father of Iraqi Modernism, Jewad Selim.

    Jewad Selim painted Woman Waiting in 1943 and gifted it to his close friends, the brothers Madhat and Said Ali Madhloom, in whose family collection the work has remained for the past 80 years. The work was not only exhibited at Jewad's first ever solo exhibition in the house of Ali Jawdat Ayoubi, but also featured in his major 1968 retrospective at the Baghdad National Museum, and has appeared in almost every major publication on the artist, including the seminal "Grass Roots of Iraqi Art" by Jabra Ibrahim Jabra

    Executed in Jewad's key transitional period; during a five year stay in Baghdad after returning from Rome and before enrolling at the Slade, the work is a powerful and unique commentary on the plight of Iraqi women, and perhaps one of the first overtly feminist artworks painted in the Middle East

    In this painting Jewad depicts the prostitutes that were to loiter in the back alleys of Baghdad, entreating business for passers by. Far from being a merely literal appreciation of its subject matter, Jewad's depiction of the women is a wider commentary on the plight of a generation of Iraqi women whose fate and destiny were tied to the men for whom they were "waiting"; this including not only Women Waiting for male custom, but for girls waiting to be betrothed whose transition to adulthood depended on the presence of a male provider.

    Mixing traditional Iraqi and Islamic motifs with a modernist visual language, Selim weaves a form of "folk modernism" which is both vernacular and universal. Focusing on the florid landscape of downtown Baghdad, Selim's composition is populated with the humorous and extravagant characters encountered in everyday life. Light hearted and boisterous, the "Women Waiting" is in part a stylistically sophisticated example of a burgeoning modernist movement in Iraq and in part a playful take on life in streets of Baghdad.

    "...A new trend in painting will solve the identity crisis in our contemporary awakening, by following the footsteps of the thirteenth century Iraqi masters. The new generation of artists finds the beginning of a guiding light in the early legacy of their forefathers" – Jewad Selim

    Jewad Selim (1919-61)

    It is impossible to understand the modern art movement in Iraq without taking into account the works of this pioneer sculptor and painter, who was undoubtedly the most influential artist in Iraq's modern art movement. To him, art was a tool to reassert national self-esteem and help build a distinctive Iraqi identity. He tried to formulate an intellectual definition for contemporary Iraqi art. In charting his country's contemporary social and political realities, he was committed to combining the indigenous historical and folkloric art forms, with contemporary Western trends.

    Born in Ankara, Turkey in 1919 to Iraqi parents who moved to Baghdad in 1921, Jewad Selim came from a strongly artistic family: his father was an accomplished amateur painter, whose work was influenced by the European old masters, and his brother Nizar and sister Neziha were also accomplished painters, becoming well-known in their own right.

    Jewad was sent to Europe on government scholarships to further his art education, first to Paris (1938-39) and then to Rome (1939-40). The effects of World War II resulted in Jewad cutting short his studies and returning to Baghdad, where he began part-time work at the Directorate of Antiquities, where he developed an appreciation and understanding of ancient art of his country, and he also taught at the Institute of Fine Arts and founded the sculpture department.

    In 1946, he was sent to the Slade School of Art, London. At the Slade, Jewad met his future wife and fellow art student, Lorna. Jewad returned to Baghdad in 1949 to become Head of the Department of Sculpture at the Institute of Fine Arts, where he taught his students to draw on the heritage of their country to create a distinctive Iraqi style and artistic identity, which would become the ethos of an influential art movement just a few years later. In 1950 Lorna joined Jewad in Baghdad, where they were married.

    In 1951, Jewad Selim formed The Baghdad Modern Art Group.. Modern Iraqi art began with the first exhibition of the Baghdad group where they announced the birth of a new school of art that would "serve local and international culture".

    After painting his most mature works in the 1950s, the artist gave up painting and focussed on sculpture, the culmination of which was his Monument for Freedom in Tehrir Square in Baghdad of 1960-61. This was the largest monument built in Iraq in 2500 years ". The time frame presented by the President was unrealistic and the project did not run smoothly. Immense pressure was put on Jewad to finish his work and he suffered a heart-attack. He died one week later on 23rd January 1961 at the age of just forty-one, leaving a wife and two young daughters.

    Jewad's early death in 1961 was a shock to the artistic community of Iraq, but his spirit remained and was reignited by a new wave of young artists returning from their studies abroad, who picked up his mantle of extending Iraqi art into the rest of the Arab world and internationally. Jewad had paved the way ahead.
Jewad Selim (Iraq, 1919-1961) Nisa Fi Al-Intidar ("Women Waiting")
Jewad Selim (Iraq, 1919-1961) Nisa Fi Al-Intidar ("Women Waiting")
Jewad Selim (Iraq, 1919-1961) Nisa Fi Al-Intidar ("Women Waiting")
Jewad Selim (Iraq, 1919-1961) Nisa Fi Al-Intidar ("Women Waiting")
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