Born in Basra in 1934, Ismail Fattah discovered his passion for art, in particular sculpture and painting at an early age and in 1952 he moved to Baghdad to study at the newly established Institute of Fine Arts where he spent time with many artists including Shaker Hassan al Said, Kadhim Haidar and Faeq Hassan, but his most important encounter was with the great artist Jewad Selim, considered until today as the Father of Modern art in Iraq. The latter discerned in the young Fattah an irrefutable talent for creation and the relationship between the two men led Fattah to distinguish himself as an artist with a style that was clearly innovative.
Following his years at the Institute, Fattah like many artists of his generation settled in Rome where he enrolled at the Academia di Belle Arti and graduated in sculpture and ceramics. Granted the first prize in sculpture for Arab artists in Italy in 1962 as well as a prize for sculpture by foreign artists a year later, his success had clearly moved beyond the frontiers of his homeland, but the artist returned to Iraq in 1965 and became a teacher at the Institute, where he had spent his early years as a debuting artist. Soon after, his first major exhibition was held at the National Museum of Modern Art and Fattahs works caught the attention of many artists and collectors of the time. In fact, his works differed from those of most Iraqi contemporary artists as the artist moved away from the politically charged depictions of everyday people that reflected the social realities of his time and rather created works that questioned the relationship between man and his surrounding void and thus rendered the inexpressible qualities of human consciousness.