12 December - 9 January, 2024

"The Modernist Colleagues" Farroukh & Onsi



The selection presented here is one that dives into the sisterhood of the oeuvres of two significant artists in Lebanese art history: Moustafa Farroukh and Omar Onsi. The pair were considered as part of the same generation of Lebanese painters; specifically the 2nd generation, which includes Bibi Zogbe and Cesar Gemayel. Their many echoed similarities speak to the spirit behind an era that shaped Lebanese modernity for years to come. 

Moustafa Farroukh was born in Beirut in 1901 , taking illustrating jobs starting as young as fifteen years old. The artist started his artistic formation under the tutelage of Habib Serour, moving then to Rome to attend art academies in the 1920’. Wrote 5 books, and was considered a Modern Art theorist, holding many conferences to the Beiruti public.

Named after his poet grandfather, Omar Onsi was born in 1901 in Beyrouth to an educated family. He starts his journey in medical school, at what later became the American University of Beirut (Formerly known as Syrian Protestant College), but also starts publishing his illustrations in a University paper.  Unlike Farroukh, his talents were not “discovered” by Serour, but by Khalil Saleeby who later became his tutor. Participating in exhibitions and fairs worldwide, Onsi and Farroukh are today two of the major players in Lebanese modern art. 

Contrarily to their European contemporaries, the pair didn’t completely break from the artistic tradition before them. In fact, they used it along with their cultural tradition, local politics and history, etc., to anchor their art into the Lebanese context, creating the first true form of Lebanese painting which gave way to local modern art in the generation following them. They favored portraying all members of society instead of focusing on the aristocracy and religious figures. Onsi ad Farroukh often painted portraits of “Nahda” thinkers, a cultural and more specifically, literary renaissance encompassing a new wave of works by artists such as Gibran Khalil Gibran, May Ziadeh, etc. Often wearing Ethnographer hats, they documented life and culture from Jordan all the way to Andalusia, Spain, but most importantly, featured the diverse landscapes of Lebanon. Their landscapes, even when foreign to Lebanon, were painted in a way that is inherently Lebanese. 



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