A religious pilgrimage in Hatra, north of Iraq. Aldroubi was commissioned by Baghdad’s Sheraton Hotel which put the painting on display.
Aldroubi seen sitting in his studio in front of a painting of a Spanish woman that he was working on.
Aldroubi seen sitting in his studio in front of a painting of a Spanish woman that he was working on.

HAFIDH ALDROUBI
B. 1914, BAGHDAD, IRAQ, D. JANUARY, 1991, BAGHDAD, IRAQ.

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewee: Sohail Aldroubi
Relationship: Son
Instagram: hafedaldroubiart
Facebook: Hefed Aldroubi (1914-1991) – Private Group

Articles written about the artist:

–My grandfather, the man who coloured the
streets of Baghdad, The National News
–Pioneers of Iraqi Modern Art in focus as
watermelon sellers colour Baghdad’s dusty
streets, The National News
–How an Armenian oil mogul forever linked
Baghdad and Lisbon, The National News

Aldroubi speaking to the American Ambassador (wearing grey suit) and his wife in one of his exhibitions in Baghdad in the 1960s.
Aldroubi speaking to the American Ambassador (wearing grey suit) and his wife in one of his exhibitions in Baghdad in the 1960s.

Awards

–Honoured at the Al Wasiti Festival, in Baghdad in 1972. This was one of the biggest awards Aldroubi had received.
–Received honorary awards from the Society of Iraqi Plastic Arts 1981 and the Union of Iraqi Artists in 1981.
–In 1984, Aldroubi received an award from the government, a Volkswagen Passat, an award for the pioneer artists.
–In 1982, Iraqi artists won the first prize among Arab artists and were given awards from the biennial Arab art festival, held in Baghdad, Iraq.

Aldroubi speaking to guests in one of the Iraqi art tour exhibitions in Europe.
Aldroubi speaking to guests in one of the Iraqi art tour exhibitions in Europe.

Most prominent exhibitions

– 1972 Solo-Exhibition, Baghdad, Iraq
– 1964 Contemporary Iraqi Art Group Exhibition, Beirut, Lebanon
– 1964 Traveled to Europe and held a wide range of exhibitions. The most notable ones were in Italy and Hungary.
– 1957 The Baghdad Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, Al Mansur Club, Baghdad, Iraq
– 1952 Ibn Sina Exhibition, Baghdad, Iraq
– 1951 Solo-Exhibition, Baghdad, Iraq
– 1945 Exhibition of the Society of the Friends of Art, Baghdad, Iraq
– 1943 Exhibition of the Society of the Friends of Art, Baghdad, Iraq
A Permanent Collection of Paintings and Drawings made in Iraq, Directorate General of Antiquities, Baghdad, Iraq
– 1942 Exhibition of the Society of the Friends of Art, Baghdad, Iraq
– 1941 Solo-Exhibition, Baghdad, Iraq
– 1931 Took part in the Industrial
Agricultural Exhibition in Baghdad.

Aldroubi painting in his home studio in Baghdad in 1985.
Aldroubi painting in his home studio in Baghdad in 1985.

Biography of Hafidh Aldroubi

Hafidh Aldroubi (also known as Hafez al-droubi) was born bab al-sheikh in Baghdad in 1914.

He was indeed one of the leading figures in Iraqi art. He studied art in The Academy of Rome (1937-1940) where he had to return to Baghdad due to the start of the second world war. Aldroubi graduated in arts studies from Goldsmith University of London (1947-1950).

Hafidh Aldroubi was one of the founding members of the Art Friends Society, taking part in its exhibition in the years 1941, 1942, 1943, 1945. Furthermore, he also participated in the Ibn Cenna Exhibition in Baghdad in 1952.

Portrait of Aldroubi’s wife, Suhaila, sitting in their house in Baghdad. Painted in 1977 (currently part of Aldroubi’s private family collection).
Portrait of Aldroubi’s wife, Suhaila, sitting in their house in Baghdad. Painted in 1977 (currently part of Aldroubi’s private family collection).

The Iraqi Impressionist Group was pioneered by Hafidh Aldroubi who carried out the thrust of Iraq’s modern art movement. He took part of course in all of their exhibitions.

Hafidh Aldroubi was the chairman of the Iraqi Art Society the dean of the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad for six years.In 1942 Aldroubi established a free art studio in Baghdad.

Hafidh Aldroubi also took part in numerous Iraqi art exhibitions in Europe and the Middle East. Received honorary Awards from UIA and SIPA. Artworks in private and public collections are included in ministries, universities and museums worldwide.

Hafidh Aldroubi’s work was influenced by Picasso, Dali, Van Gough and Cezanne. Throughout the years his prospective of art changed from academic, abstract, cubism to impressionism. His aim was to establish a new movement of art to be distinguished and known as Baghdady Art. Al-Droubi produced realistic paintings, with naturalistic dimensions and perspective of daily traditional Baghdady scenes, a rapidly disappearing rural life, cityscapes, and historical subjects, with a distinct use of light. Most of his mature works kept a similar subject matter, but his style became more cubist and abstracted style, with straight distinct lines and flat colours.

Aldroubi’s family, his wife and two sons and himself in the 1960s.
Aldroubi’s family, his wife and two sons and himself in the 1960s.

INTERVIEW WITH SOHAIL ALDROUBI

I am the eldest son of the artist Hafez al-Droubi, currently taking care of his estate, with my mother Suhaila, daughters and wife.

My father was an active artist. He used to produce around two to three paintings a week when he was in a good mood and in total there are around a thousand works. My favourite is “The Dance Party”, which I have at home. His best work was produced during his time of studies in Rome and London. The most important works were at the Saddam Museum, but they disappeared after the invasion.

When we were kids, we spent most of the time in his studio in Baghdad, so we were around him. He used to give us paper and ask us to copy his work. My brother used to do it and challenge him, but I was more into music. He made portraits of all of us. These works belong to the family.

Dancing party in 1974, Aldroubi painted this after picking up his sons and relatives from a Thursday night dancing party in Baghdad Al Alwia social club.
Dancing party in 1974, Aldroubi painted this after picking up his sons and relatives from a Thursday night dancing party in Baghdad Al Alwia social club.

Work on the estate began in 2010. It is not registered as a legal entity. It wasn’t easy because most of the paintings are located across the world, and we don’t have any archives to refer to. Sadly, in the 1960s and 1970s in Iraq, it was not easy to have a camera, so my mother maintained an archival book but without pictures. My mother also didn’t record all the details, so the name of a painting alone doesn’t reveal anything. For example, my mother had “Farm” as a title, but my father has a lot of farm paintings, so we can’t know which one she is referring to from the title alone.

We left Baghdad in 1991 and settled in Jordan for seven years. During that time, we managed to bring most of his paintings to Jordan and now they are with us in London. We are having them framed and restored to their original condition by a restorer who worked for the British Museum. This archive is located at the family home, and we are willing to share it whenever asked.

Pictures of the notebook where the works were archived.

We are known by Christies, Sotheby’s and galleries around the world; they would never sell without our authentication. This means that whenever anyone has a painting for sale, they send it to us for authentication, for which we charge 500 pounds. Once we have been sent a picture of a work, we have to research it and we try to link it to its history via the book. When you have lived with an artist, you know his style and you can feel it from the stroke of the brush. So, some of them I know, some my mother remembers, and the older ones require deeper research. It is not always an easy task. For the paintings from the 1940s and 1950s, before he was married and before I was born, we have to consult his friends and people who were his students, such as Dr Alaa Bashir and Dia al-Azzawi, as they know his techniques and his style of painting.

Baghdad market in the 1970s.
Baghdad market
in the 1970s.

My mother wanted most of his works to be shared in museums for the public to see rather than be placed in an auction or for private sale. That’s our aim. The British Museum, for example, holds some works. In Qatar they have about five paintings by him, while the Barjeel Art Foundation and Sharjah also have good collections of works that were acquired from private collectors. The mayor of Baghdad had an idea to revive the culture of Baghdad through murals on walls in locations where each artist was born. Although they didn’t ask for our permission, we are happy that my father’s name will appear and that people will see one of his artworks.

We are currently working on a new website and in the process of finalising a book and negotiating with publishers.


Images are courtesy of Sohail Aldroubi

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS #59 MODERN ART AND ARTIST ESTATES: WAYS, WORKS AND ARCHIVES – VOL I

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