Jewad Selim

  • Born 1919 in Ankara, Ottoman Empire
  • Died 1961 in Baghdad, Iraq

Jewad Selim is recognized as the father of modern Iraqi art, whose teachings at the Maehad Alfunun Aljamila (Institute of Fine Arts), Baghdad, influenced a generation of artists. From 1938 to 1940, Selim studied art in Paris and Rome on scholarships. He returned to Baghdad during World War II and founded the sculpture department at the Institute of Fine Arts, eventually becoming the head of the department. After the war, Selim attended the Slade School of Art, London. Selim formed the Baghdad Modern Art Group in 1951. In developing a contemporary Iraqi visual language, Selim combined traditional Iraqi iconography—such as ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian sculpture, Babylonian and Assyrian reliefs, and miniature painting—with innovations by contemporary Western artists, like Aristide Maillol (1861–1944) and Henry Moore (1898–1986). During the 1950s he primarily painted, creating a notable series called “Baghdadiat” in homage to traditional Abbasid painting traditions. His practice increasingly focused on sculpture. An important public work is Nasb al-Hurriya (Monument for Freedom, 1960–61), a bronze relief mural in central Baghdad commemorating Iraq’s 1958 revolution. During the completion of this work, Selim had a heart attack and died at forty-one.

Artworks by Jewad Selim in the exhibition