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Louay Kayyali (Syrian, 1934-1978)
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Louay Kayyali (Syrian, 1934-1978)

Flower Boy

Louay Kayyali (Syrian, 1934-1978)
Flower Boy
signed and dated in Arabic (lower left)
oil, pencil and varnish on canvas
37 x 29 3/8in. (94 x 74.5cm.)
Painted in 1975
Various Properties.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 30 April 2003, lot 145.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
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Lot Essay

Louay Kayyali painted haunting and beautiful images of the Syrian street life in the 1960s and 1970s. Condemning the political context of his homeland after the independence in the late 1940s and evoking the many shattered promises of every leader that came to rule, his criticism is brought to life through the depiction of working-class figures. The focus in his paintings is indeed on dispossessed young people, street vendors and boys forced to work in menial jobs as shoe-shiners, newspaper or lottery ticket vendors, when they should be at school. They are captured at work, in action on the street, yet always as if immobilised in time.
The flower boy in the present lot is portrayed as an innocent proud young man who has lost everything but his dignity, selling flowers as if to evoke his own sentiments. Frozen in time, he has handpicked delicate white Syrian jasmine flowers and when the wind blows, the pleasant scent of his flowers will eventually reach the people around him. Only then can Kayyali's message be conveyed to his viewer. The colours of his shirt and trousers are reminiscent of those worn by the Christ in many of the Syrian icons that inspired the artist.
The deliberate choice of colour highlights the burden carried by all Syrian people and seemingly by the artist himself. Kayyali's characters are often depicted as solitary figures as if the artist alludes to his own personality, alone facing his harsh life and evoking the fate of a nation still young, yet desperately looking for encouraging promises.

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