As the war raged through Lebanon from 1976 to 1992, Chafic Abboud was deeply affected by his inability to visit his native land as he used to. In the 1960s and 1970s, he habitually returned yearly to Lebanon between January and March, where he taught painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Lebanese University whilst simultaneously preparing exhibitions and meeting his audience.
After the end of the civil war, Abboud travelled several times to Lebanon and Syria, in the 1990s, always accompanied by his companion Michle Rodière. Abboud went into the mountains as well as on the coast of Lebanon and re-visited the Syrian countryside and cities. He also returned to the monasteries of Saydnaya and Maaloula, two renowned villages, North of Damascus, where his mother used to take him on pilgrimages when he was a child. (see C. Lemand, Shafic Abboud, Paris 2006, pp. 354-355).
Nonetheless, Abboud had never been to Aleppo before December 1994, when he convinced an Armenian taxi driver recommended by a friend from his native village Mhaydse, to drive him there. This driver regularly travelled back and forth between Beirut and Aleppo to visit family, and willingly gave a ride to both Abboud and Rodière on one of his trips. They had an adventurous journey, as they found themselves going through a Palestinian camp North of Tripoli during the night, whilst rivals were shooting each other. As it was very cold at that time of the year, the chauffeur even offered an Armenian man and his daughter a lift back to Aleppo as they were left freezing in the cold when Lebanese customs officers refused to let them enter the country. The artist and his companion spent three days in Aleppo, walking around the old neighbourhoods of the city, the citadel and the historical souks. Chafic Abboud was enthralled by these visits, being so sensitive to light and to the colours and textures of the products and fabrics he saw. It is the visual and emotional memories of his December 1994 trip to Aleppo that he captures in the present work Le Chemin d'Alep.
Le Chemin d'Alep is the product of several sketches and preparatory stages, painted over a two-year period between 1998 and 2000. In this monumental masterpiece, Abboud presents a dazzling panoply of bright whites intertwined with gleaming pastel pinks, blues, oranges and touches of vibrant yellow. Whilst every shimmering pigment harmoniously responds to each other, Abboud builds up the surface of his canvas with various painterly textures, resembling lavish fabrics with unspecified organic or architectural shapes. What results is the painter's uncanny ability to grasp the essence of his memorable sensory journey to Aleppo a few years earlier. Measuring 190 x 205cm., the present work is one of the two largest known canvases painted by Abboud during the last decade of his life, the other one being Voyage en Orient of 2001, measuring 195 x 205cm. (illustrated, p. 286 in C. Lemand, ibid.).
Although written 20 years before painting Le Chemin d'Alep, the following extract from Abboud's writings could to some extent refer to the present lot as the artist explains that:
'In the genesis of each painting, there is a visual trigger coming from an event which we have experienced. Why chose one or another moment of daily life? This is still a real mystery to me and there is no explanation for the reasons of my adherence. All in all, painting is like telling a story, yet my language is the paint and everything is enacted and decided on the canvas and within its making. The work is finished once the initial impact is restored and life is recovered, through trial and error. To sum up, the more I go forward, the less I know what the painting is'.
(Chafic Abboud, October 1978, quoted in C. Lemand, ibid., p. 5).