This dazzling composition by internationally acclaimed pioneer of Modern Lebanese Art, Shafic Abboud, entitled Les années de l’oiseau and painted in 1979, comes from the prestigious collection of an important art patron of the artist during his lifetime. The last time Christie’s Dubai offered a work by the artist dating from the same period and that was stylistically and almost proportionally comparative, was in October 2014 when Histoires (1976) from the Viviane and Robert Debbas Collection sold for almost $400,000.
The lyrical title in Les années de l’oiseau refers to one of the painter’s recurring and personal themes, the bird, that was suggested in several paintings, one of 1971 titled Le Personnage-Oiseau and two of the late 1980s, that each look back on the one hand to the 1971 work in Naissance du Personnage-Oiseau of 1989, and on the other hand to the present work in La Méditation sur Les Années de l’Oiseau of 1988. A more explicit reference to the bird in his oeuvre is the unique bronze sculpture of a ‘Bird’ dated 1989. That same year, Abboud also realised a totemic terracotta sculpture that incorporates the image of the bird and reflects the story of his own life, although its title Les accords de Taef also had a political connotation in deliberately quoting the truce that was intended to end the civil war raging through Lebanon since 1975.
With its poetic connotations of freedom, the bird is an animal with which Abboud associated himself as an adolescent, whose thirst for life was characterised by the awakening of his senses and the liberation of feelings through his painting. He observed not only the physical world around him, but also absorbed its sensations, sounds and emotions, and in that sense, he offered a ‘bird’s eye view’ of a particular subject, both literally and visually through his intricate and vibrant amalgamations of interwoven shapes, brushstrokes and colours. In the title of the present work, the ‘years of the bird’ specifically refer to his teenage years that paradoxically coincided with some of the darkest years of Modern European history; 1939-1945. The imposing format of Les années de l’oiseau heightens the complexity of its meticulous layers of pigments and its dense patchwork of shapes and textures, epitomising Abboud’s 1970s style. Every element is a quote from reality and they are all brought together by a soft grey-blue tone into one harmonious composition that seems to be permanently in movement with its rich colour contrasts glimmering throughout the surface of the canvas. Throughout this masterpiece, Abboud seems to retrace a bird’s trajectory, transcribing each perception into a line, resulting in one of his most remarkable compositions from that time. The unprecedented texture of Les années de l’oiseau may also reveal the experiments undertaken by the Lebanese master in the late 1970s involving the introduction of new mediums such as tapestries, sculptures, ceramics and prints.