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Shafic Abboud (Lebanese, 1926-2004)
Lots are subject to 5% import Duty on the importat… Read more 'Shafic Abboud was a man of very little words, we barely spoke. He didn't say much and I didn't ask much, I was struck by the power of his work. He struck me as always being an absent artist, only present in his own artistic world, not in the real world. He would dive into an art work and not come out, the characteristic of a true artist... He liked his privacy and I loved the works. All the paintings I bought were bought with love and infatuation of the fresh colours. I always came back for more, his paintings on my wall brought me happiness every morning.' (Viviane Debbas in conversation with Hala Khayat, August 2014). With a deep-rooted appreciation for art and culture that has manifested itself in an eclectic grouping of sculpture, jewellery, carpets, icons and paintings from around the world, the Viviane and Robert Debbas Collection, Beirut, is one of the most comprehensive known collections of masterpieces by Lebanese painter Shafic Abboud (1926-2004). As was the case with many who fed Lebanon during the Civil War of 1975-1990, the Debbas couple settled in Paris in 1976, although constantly visiting Beirut when they could, following a short interim stay in Switzerland, where they enriched their burgeoning art collection and found refuge and warmth from the situation in Lebanon by visiting museums, historical sites, antique fairs and artist's studios. It was at this time that Viviane Debbas discovered her passion in jewellery, resulting in the creation of the eponymous jewellery brand in Beirut and Paris. It was also equally the time that Viviane would frequently visit Abboud's studio recalling 'there was something very unique about his space, visiting the atelier in the 8th arrondissement, overlooking a nice small garden, with open windows allowing for maximum amount of light to enter. I remember the space with a lot of light, it somehow reminded me of Beirut while in Paris. Maybe home outside of home.' (Viviane Debbas in conversation with Hala Khayat, August 2014). This burgeoned a close personal relationship that was to last until the artist's death. Inspired by the joyful and dynamic nature of Abboud's palette and compositions, Viviane and Robert Debbas have amassed an inspiring unparalleled collection of nineteen exquisite paintings. Christie's is honoured to be offering ten of these spectacular examples from one of the most important Lebanese Masters epitomising some of the best examples of the artist's different periods, spanning from 1959 to 1998 providing an exceptional insight into Abboud's eclectic oeuvre. This unprecedented ensemble of Abboud paintings bear witness to five decades of endless experiments in search for the essence of light through colour, something that preoccupied him all his life and which is at the core of his works. Abboud is one of the founding pillars of Modern Lebanese art. Born in Mhaydse, Lebanon, in 1926, he started by painting figurative works, much inspired by folkloric Lebanese tales and daily life. He later moved towards abstract art, following his move to Paris in 1947, where he studied art with some of the leading artists of the Parisian art scene at the time, such as André Lhote and Fernand Léger amongst others, before enrolling into the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Seeking to depict light and its essence Abboud uses organic shapes and carefully chosen monochrome planes of colour, often meticulously superimposed on top of each other, to cover his canvases with thick impasto and fecks of pigment that are reminiscent of abstract painter Nicolas de Staël's works. Nonetheless, whilst Abboud's paintings do not depict stories or landscapes, they are not entirely deprived of narrative. He uses hints and extracts the atmosphere of a precise scene in time through light and colours. His titles do not aim to confuse the viewer into Abboud's abstract world, but they indicate what he has represented and bridge his abstract colourful forms with clues drawn from reality, which he subtly inserts onto his canvases. His paintings do not tell the story of an event or adventure, but focus on modest everyday-life snapshots, capturing the experience and sentiments of specific moments. In some ways, as the art critic Joseph Tarrab has mentioned, Abboud's oeuvre can be considered a sort of 'private diary' offering insight into the artist's world of emotions drawing the viewer into the voluptuousness and happiness emanating from his paintings with their rich textures, pigments and the beautiful lyrical abstraction. The Viviane & Robert Debbas Collection provides a rare insight in the 'history of [Abboud's]sensations' and allows the viewer to travel through five decades of Abboud's oeuvre into the heart of his paintings' light and colours. THE 1950s Having moved to Paris in 1947, Abboud was exposed to a plethora of artists and styles that were to have a major impact on how he created a style of his own, moving from a poetic and figurative Lebanese art towards subtle and dream-like abstraction. In 1954 he painted Composition, which is considered to be Abboud's first large abstract work. It marked his break from his early folkloric figurative works and stands out as the founding painting for his artistic research. His first solo show took place at the Galerie de Beaune in Paris in 1955, which included introductory text written by one of the leading art critics of the 1950s and 1960s in Paris, Roger van Gindertael (1899-1982). Dedicated to supporting non-figurative painters, Gindertael put Abboud forward to the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in 1955, where the painter's works were regularly exhibited until his death. Although Abboud's canvases of the early 1950s emulated de Staël's works, the later works of that decade are characterised by their unparalleled richness in terms of colour variation, texture and movement on the surface of the canvas as exemplifed by the strikingly vivid work of 1959 from the Viviane and Robert Debbas Collection. Abboud has chosen a very subtle palette for this composition, opting for delicate pastel blues, oranges and pinks, in a multitude of pigments and thick brushstrokes hence giving his painting a unique lyrical and oniric tone. 1959 was a pivotal year for Abboud, as he was the frst Arab artist to be invited to participate to the First Biennale of Paris in the French section that same year in October 1959. THE 1970s The 1970s proved to be a very busy decade for Abboud, not only in terms of production but also with regards to his numerous trips to Lebanon, where he taught art for three months every year until 1975 when the civil war broke out. He also participated in several major international solo and group exhibitions scattered throughout France, Holland, Germany and Lebanon and experimented with other media than painting and drawing, producing terracotta, ceramics and illustrated books. It therefore comes with no surprise that his 1970s works are particularly recognisable through their spontaneity, richness of colour and density of subject. The two late 1970s paintings in the Viviane and Robert Debbas Collection are are exceptional examples of the artist's own version of abstraction, that is always based on a reality lived, witnessed and discussed by the artist. The compositions and palettes used for the two 1970s examples from the Debbas Collection are very different yet showcase how the artist tackled the redefining of space through a return to classical figuration. The first 1976 work (Lot 2) is dense, colourful and invasive, taking up most of the space on the canvas. The intricacy of this work with its complex interwoven shapes and brushstrokes is further heightened by the opulent variety of pigments used, dominated by orange, red, green and white tones. Every line, colour and pattern responds to one another and enhances its vibrancy, creating a beautiful harmonious composition, which captivates the viewer through its unparalleled complexity. In the second work from 1977 (Lot 3), the palette is restricted to whites, blacks, greys and browns, imbued with a unique silver light. The diverse textures, shapes and seemingly quotes from reality are amalgamated towards the centre of the composition. This concentrated area appears to almost float in a dreamlike background of luminous whites and greys. Rich textures in the painting's surface, intricate patterned areas, creative medleys of radiant pigments are some of the ingredients necessary for the making of Abboud's unparalleled compositions, epitomised by both of these 1970s works. His paintings form a permanent bridge between the art scenes of France and Lebanon, and that of Lebanon and the Middle East, as well as providing a platform for the artist's endless questioning and quest to capture the essence of light and redefine space. THE 1980s With five monumental paintings representing Abboud's production of the 1980s, the Viviane and Robert Debbas Collection provides an unprecedented overview of this prolific decade of the artist's oeuvre. In 1980, Abboud realised a wide range of eclectic paintings that fluctuated between large abstract monochromatic fat areas of thick paint and intricate multi-surfaced and multi-colour compositions, of which the five works in the Debbas Collection are outstanding examples including a number of works that are some of the largest ever created by the artist. Despite their apparent versatility, they all converge towards Abboud's ambiguous abstract reality, as each work features his signature hints taken from real life. All five of the works have been attributed with a specific title, alluding to a place, event or time that the artist knew, witnessed or experienced. La Reunion de la Famille and Histoire de Julie II (Lots 4 & 5 respectively) typify works whose titles allude to an event witnessed by the artist. Both are very different in style and composition, with the former's bright rich colours and complex fragmented surface as opposed to the latter's subdued monochromatic grey tone and simple geometric structure. The obvious heterogeneity between the two paintings could possibly be explained by the various reactions provoked by each event that Abboud depicted. La Reunion de la Famille evokes a more joyful family event recorded by the artist whereas Histoire de Julie II beautifully renders the artist's cherished memories of a bird he named Julie that would sit on the window ledge and build a nest. The two paintings from Abboud's Chambre series dated 1987 (Lots 6 & 7) reflect the artist's childhood memories exemplified by the varying choice of colour palette, in one case bright and exuberant, in the other more subdued. Following his 1987 Chambre series, Abboud worked the following year on another iconic series entitled Nuits, which Nuits A of 1988 (Lot 8) in the Debbas Collection is part of. In this 1988 series, Shafic Abboud expressed the emotions he felt at night. He had always been fascinated by the night, because of its atmosphere, the light of the sky and his memories of the coastal cities of Lebanon, the sparkles of which he enjoyed watching from the top of the hills in the clear night. THE 1990s From the late 1970s until the end of his life, Abboud's paintings continued to tell a story and to be generated by a specific moment from his daily life. The works executed in the 1990s and 2000s seem to be the synthesis of all his experiments from the past 40 years. The last fifteen years of his career were marked by a series of successful one-man shows and group exhibitions, between the Galerie Protée (Paris & Toulouse), Galerie Faris (Paris), Galerie Janine Rubeiz (Beirut) and the Galerie Claude Lemand (Paris), as well as several stays in Lebanon and Syria, where he revisited places he had been during his childhood. He also frequently travelled around Europe, such as Venice, Athens, Rome, Florence, Volterra and Corsica, despite his degrading health and regular heart problems which ultimately led to his death on 8 April 2004. These eventful years unavoidably nurtured his inspiration for these later works, two of which Christie's is offering from the Viviane and Robert Debbas Collection. Each of these works are dominated by one colour tone, from a profound dark green to a luminous fiery red or orange. Abboud appears to be much more subtle in incorporating elements from daily life into these paintings as the focus becomes more on the power of a single colour, meticulously decomposed throughout the canvas with short, soft, superimposed brushstrokes of different tones of the same colour. His rich layers of paint each show through the painting's surface, illuminating the entire composition with an intense and unique light. These vast canvases explode with colour and texture, guiding the viewer into Abboud's deepest feelings, as the Lebanese painter shares his 'private diary' with us. THE VIVIANE AND ROBERT DEBBAS COLLECTION
Shafic Abboud (Lebanese, 1926-2004)


Shafic Abboud (Lebanese, 1926-2004)
signed and dated 'Abboud 59' (lower right)
oil on canvas
39 3/8 x 31 7/8in. (100 x 81cm.)
Painted in 1959
Galerie Faris, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
L. Harambourg, L'Ecole de Paris 1945-1965 - Ditionnaire des Peintres, Paris 1993 (illustrated in colour, p. 13).
Paris, Galerie Raymonde Cazenave, 1960.
Paris, Galerie Faris, Rétrospective Shafic Abboud 1949-1989, 1990.
Beirut, Loft 46, Pieces for a Museum Featuring: Paul Guiragossian and Shafic Abboud, 2010 (illustrated in colour, p. 26).
Special notice

Lots are subject to 5% import Duty on the importation value (low estimate) levied at the time of collection shipment within UAE. For UAE buyers, please note that duty is paid at origin (Dubai) and not in the importing country. As such, duty paid in Dubai is treated as final duty payment. It is the buyer's responsibility to ascertain and pay all taxes due.
Post lot text
This work is sold with a photo-certificate from Christine Abboud and will be included in the forthcoming Shafic Abboud Catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Christine Abboud, under no. ID1423.

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