Saliba Douaihy (Lebanese, 1915-1994)
Lots are subject to 5% import Duty on the importat… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, CONNECTICUT, USA
Saliba Douaihy (Lebanese, 1915-1994)


Saliba Douaihy (Lebanese, 1915-1994)
signed 'S.Douaihy' (lower right)
acrylic on canvas
14 x 20in. (35.6 x 50.8cm.)
Painted circa early 1970s
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner's father and thence by descent.
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Lot Essay

Christie's is honoured to offer two captivating paintings by the celebrated Lebanese artist Saliba Douaihy, from an American collection. Painted circa early 1970s, these works were acquired from the artist by the present owner's father who was an art dealer and close friend of the artist and originally from Ehden himself. The present works have remained in the family's collection ever since.
Striking in their composition and combination of colours, they are reminiscent of Saliba Douaihy's cultural and artistic multifaceted heritage. Born in 1915 in the picturesque town of Ehden in the northern mountains of Lebanon, Douaihy's early passion for the arts arose as a result of his many visits to the churches in his hometown. Discovering his remarkable talent in drawing and illustration, the artist's father sent him to Beirut to study art at the age of fourteen where the young artist Saliba Douaihy worked closely with the well-established painter Habib Srour, teaching him the techniques of drawing and painting. During his two-year apprenticeship, Douaihy came to paint large church murals and occasionally posed for his master's religious portraits. In the fall of 1932, Saliba Douaihy flew to Paris to enrol at the prestigious Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts where he studied oil painting alongside the established French artists Paul Albert Laurence and Louis Roger and became familiar with fresco painting with Duco de la Haille. Only two years later, the artist was granted the school's top award which led him to exhibit his early works at the Salon des Artistes Français, where many leading figures of the Parisian art scene discovered his works for the first time. Upon his graduation in 1936, Douaihy returned to Lebanon where he opened his own studio and became a prolific and celebrated painter. He was awarded many commissions by prominent patrons and collectors. His crowning achievement came with the completion of the decorations for the Maronite Church at Diman and his success at meeting the Patriarch's aesthetic ambitions was the start of his lifetime ties with the Maronite community.
Beyond his depictions of religious scenes, Saliba Douaihy set his own distinctive style which caught the attention of his fellow artists and art critics. Inspired by the landscapes, the rustic villages and the pastel hues of the architecture surrounding him, his early works delicately combined figurative art with subtle touches of Minimalism and revealed his stylistic consonances with European traditions of art.
A few years later in 1950, Saliba immigrated to New York City in search of new experiments and the ebullient art scene he encountered led him to change many of his artistic concepts, as well as his perception of form and colour. He soon moved away from his earlier, rather academic, style and strived for new beginnings in his artistic exploration. He spent time discussing art and trends with established artists namely Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann and Ad Reinhardt, but remained nevertheless detached from the American Abstract Expressionist movement, working alone in his spacious studio in the loft of the Maronite Church of Our Lady of Lebanon in Brooklyn Heights where he began his much sought-after series of abstract minimalist paintings. At the end of the 1950s, his works depicted flat monochromatic forms, refined straight lines and hard edges, anticipating the most successful era of his celebrated career.
Inspired by the theories of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant and by the abstract masterpieces of Josef Albers, Saliba Douaihy aimed to find the sublime through the depiction of flat and minimal forms and lines, deprived of all superfluous features, letting go of the spontaneity of his brush. From the late 1960s until he passed away in 1994, Saliba Douaihy thrived at reaching the absolute simplification of both form and colour through a pure minimal style, yet beyond his artistic exploration of flatness, he developed his own ideas of the infinite space and produced seemingly endless variations of his strict patterns only to explore the constant interaction between the dominant asymmetrical shapes of his paintings and the slender shafts of colours that intersect or border them.
In these enchanting examples, Saliba Douaihy uses saturated shades of light and dark blue, red and green to depict in pure abstraction his nostalgic recollections of the Lebanese landscapes that once surrounded him. Characteristic of his distinguished style, the pictorial flattening gives both works a two-dimensional quality, length and width with colours spread between the lines, yet effectively suggesting the depth of his abstract landscapes. With minimal colour and form, Saliba Douaihy achieves harmony and order through his striking compositions and the two present works are fine examples from his most-sought after and most successful period as a painter. Saliba Douaihy's rich cultural heritage coupled with his close ties with the leading artists of Post-War art history and his everlasting appetite for aesthetic explorations position him today as one of the most important artists in modern and contemporary art across borders. By the mid-1960s up until today, his works have been exhibited in many institutions including the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and are featured in public and private collections around the world including Mathaf in Doha. His celebrated solo exhibition opened at the North Carolina Museum of Art in 1978.

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