Meet Fahrelnissa Zeid: One of the greatest women artists of the 20th century

This month, London hosts a special guest known for her abstract paintings at the Tate Modern–Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid. Whether you are familiar with her work or not, this exhibition is not to be missed.

Zeid’s story starts in 1900 in Istanbul. Born FahrunissaSakir, Zeid came from an art-loving Ottoman family. However, successful female artists were not so common in Turkey at the time, and so she was instrumental in leading the way. Zeid started painting at the age of 14 and was one of the first women to go to the Academy of Art in Istanbul in the 1920s, the early years of the modern Turkish Republic. She was exposed to European painting traditions when she traveled to Europe and later trained in the continent’s capital of culture, Paris. Zeid was involved in a male-dominated avant-garden collective called ‘Dgroup’ in Turkey, and by the 1950s had become a renowned and important figure in Turkish art.

After she married Prince Zeid Al-Hussein of Iraq, she became a princess. Despite the lofty title, she remained an experimental avant-garde artist, combining eastern and western styles. Zeid increasingly synthesized her abstract European-style painting with Islamic, Byzantine, Arabic, and Persian influences.

Zeid not only painted on canvas – she also experimented with painting on turkey and chicken bones which she later cast in polyester resin panels, strangely reminiscent of stained-glass windows. In the later years of her life, she returned to figurative painting, creating stylised portraits of her friends and family. She also introduced many unaccustomed Arab women in Amman to abstract painting.

If you would like to see some artwork from one of the greatest female artists of the 20th century, FahrelnissaZeid’sexhibition will be waiting for you at Tate Modern Museum until 8th of October.

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