Ismail Fattah studied painting and sculpture, under the instruction of Jewad Selim, at the Institute of Fine Arts, Baghdad, from 1952-1958 (he received his diploma in Painting in 1956, and Sculpture in 1958). He went on to train in Rome, studying sculpture at the Academia di Belle Arti, and ceramics at the Academia San Giacomo in 1964.
Returning to Baghdad in 1956, Fattah taught ceramics, and later sculpture (from 1969), at the Academy of Fine Arts until the late 1990s. he was president of the Society of Iraqi Artists for Abstract Art, from 1971-1978. He was also a member of the Baghdad Group of Modern Art, joined Al-Zawya in 1967, and was a founding member of the New Vision Group (he exhibited his work at their first show in 1969). Along with Selim, Fattah is regarded as one of Iraq’s preeminent modern sculptors (though both artists were also painters).
Fattah held solo and group exhibitions, displaying both sculpture and painting, in Rome, Baghdad, London and Beirut. These include the Arts Culture Palace, 1963, Modern Artists Gallery, 1964 and Laurina Gallery, Rome, 1965; National Museum of Modern Art and Al-Wasiti Gallery, Baghdad, 1965; Twelve Arab Artists, Galerie Faris, Paris, 1980; Contemporary Arab Artists I, Iraqi Cultural Center, London, 1978; Venice Biennale, 1976; Kufa Gallery, London, 1988; and National Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Kinda Foundation, Saudi Arabia; Darat Al-Funun and Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman and Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad.