Captivating in its contrasting yet harmonious colour palette, Christie's is delighted to be offering Untitled painted by the celebrated Lebanese artist Saliba Douaihy from a Private American Collection. Having met the artist through common friends in Paris in 1965, the present owner was mesmerized by the work and has kept it in their collection ever since.
Born in 1912 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. Encouraged at an early age to develop his talent, Douaihy worked under the apprenticeship of well-established painter Habibi Srour, whereby Saliba developed his depictions of religious scenes. Douaihy set about creating his own distinctive style which was inspired by his native country's landscapes, rustic villages and pastel hues of architecture. As such, his early works delicately combined figurative art with subtle touches of Minimalism and revealed his stylistic consonances with European traditions of art.
In the 1950s Douaihy immigrated to New York and having been exposed to the burgeoning art scene, particularly the Abstract Expressionists Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann and Ad Reinhardt, he moved away from his earlier academic style and began his much sought-after series depicting 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.
Working alone in a studio based in a monastery, it was within this context of spiritual serenity, coupled with a strong inspiration from the German philosopher Immanuel Kant and the colour practices of Josef Albers, that Douaihy aimed to find the sublime through the depiction of these flat and minimal forms and lines, deprived of all superfluous features and in doing so, let go of the spontaneity of his brush.
Until he passed away in 1994, Douaihy continued to thrive at reaching an absolute simplification of both form and colour. He developed his own ideas of infinite space whereby his signature style became the interlinking of asymmetrical areas using few opposing yet complementary colours exploring the constant interaction between the dominant asymmetrical shapes of his paintings and the slender shafts of colours that intersect or border them.
In the present delightful example, a large expanse of dark khaki green is interrupted by bright and sharp angled lines of yellows, reds, blues and greens. The artist's colour palette harks back to his nostalgic recollections of the Lebanese landscapes that once surrounded Douaihy and remained a recurrent theme throughout his oeuvre. In true Douaihy form, the use of these flat colours impart a sense of two-dimensionality to the painting lacking of any sort of perspective, yet the short and sharp bursts of colours suggest depth and an affinity for landscape painting that is reminiscent of his earlier works. These colours are resplendent with life, freshness and warmth and achieve an overwhelming sense of harmony through form.
Since the mid-1960s, Saliba's 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, from which a comparable work Regeneration was offered at Christie's Dubai in April 2012, showing the development of the artist's determination to play with abstraction and colour.
As a key figure who played an instrumental role in Lebanese art history, Douaihy's everlasting appetite for aesthetic explorations position him today as one of the most important international artists in Modern and Contemporary art.