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Dalloul Art Foundation

AMINE EL BACHA, Lebanon (1932 - 2019)


Amine El Bacha was born into a family of painters and musicians in the Ras Al Nabaa neighborhood of Beirut in 1932. After graduating from the St. Sauveur School, he studied under César Gemayel,...

Written by RAMI KARIM

Amine El Bacha was born into a family of painters and musicians in the Ras Al Nabaa neighborhood of Beirut in 1932. After graduating from the St. Sauveur School, he studied under César Gemayel, Jean-Paul Khoury, and Fernando Manetti at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts, from 1954 to 1957. Through a scholarship from the French Embassy, he then studied in Paris under Maurice Brianchon and Henri Goetz at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and Académie de la Grande Chaumière, respectively, from 1960-1968. 

Before dedicating his life to art, El Bacha worked briefly as a decorator’s assistant and at Radio Liban. As a child, he would frequent the studio of Hungarian painter Stefan Lokos in Beirut, and the two would depict the city from the vantage points of its rooftops, gardens, and cafés. It was through these exercises that El Bacha learned to paint color through memory. His engagement with color expanded in Paris through experiments with abstraction. El Bacha sought to depict the essences of his objects, challenging modernism to involve intuited aesthetic associations. 

El Bacha sharpened this technique while in Paris, creating semiotic representations of nature that considered musical sensibility, light, temperature, and climate in addition to his own vision. It was then that El Bacha’s engagement with modernism intersected with his return to childhood memory and perception, cementing it as a guiding principle of his practice. His consequent style emerged from Cubism and Oriental art, genres that flattened their subjects to convey their most essential nature. El Bacha was invited to spend five years at Educavi Maesta Foundation in Italy in 1976. In 1979, he won an international competition to design the mosaic of the San Martino church in Legnano, which exposed him to Byzantine and Islamic art by way of their presence in the European Mediterranean. His work then began to include pictorial and ornamental features, even in depictions of nature.

Throughout prolonged stays in France, Italy, and Spain, El Bacha remained anchored to his aesthetic roots in Lebanon. His color palette was birthed in his homeland and traveled alongside him. Beirut specifically evoked for El Bacha the autonomous and once Arab region of Andalusia in southern Spain, which led him to move there in 1987. El Bacha spent this period creating about a hundred watercolor paintings that were compiled into an art book about Andalusian civilization. 

Music played an active role in El Bacha’s practice. He was once quoted saying, “One can hear music while looking at my artwork.” Growing up, his brother Toufic was an established musician and composer, and his uncle a composer and painter who gifted him a watercolor set as a child. From a very young age, they would paint landscapes together, which marks the beginning of his practice. El Bacha’s intimate relationship to music was crucial in developing his signature expressionist style that transcended modernism’s insistence on structural givens such as foreground. Unlike other mediums, music allows for the creation of meaning and beauty out of sheer abstraction while still employing formal parameters. Music allowed El Bacha to manipulate color and shape the same way a poet does language, balancing conventional legibility with experimental abstraction and renewing visual associations of even the most familiar objects. More than romance, music for El Bacha served as a tool for freeing the visual senses. He emulated melody, grounding each piece and encouraging complex compositional structures, much like those appearing in song. He also merged the technical registers of each medium to create rhythms of color, as is exemplified by a mix of abstract and defined moves in his work.

El Bacha was a master colorist who consistently managed a synergistic ensemble of light-stricken hues. His subjects included rural landscapes, nature portraits, cityscapes, and their interior dwellings, humans, and figureless abstract designs. A noteworthy example of El Bacha’s nature work can be found in Paysage (Qartaba, région de Byblos)(1988), where he melds features of a textured landscape into a flattened, nearly two-dimensional depiction. Also observable in Paysage is El Bacha’s masterful handling of white space, which he used to outline a tree. El Bacha’s intellect shines in Le Dîner intime (2004), which portrays a dinner table occupied by two women, a man, and two other nonhuman figures: one with the head of a bird, another with a clock instead of a head. The two women are seated together, looking uncomfortably at one another, and the man is at the head of the table, also visibly uncomfortable. With its mouth open, the bird appears to talk to an unsettled cohort of diners as the clock ticks. 

An ardent watcher of people and places, El Bacha’s practice could be described as anthropological due to the observational work that went into each piece. He would sit for hours in cafés, streets, theatres, public squares, landmarks, and nature reserves, watching the world go by through his unique lens. He would then transcribe what he saw, adjusting content to account for his own desires. This collision of documentary and imaginative gesture quickly became his trademark. Dreamlike depictions of otherwise quotidian features characterize El Bacha’s relationship to abstraction that draws from memory and childhood visual associations. 

El Bacha worked primarily in watercolor, though he took on ceramics, tapestry, jewelry, India ink, oil paint, and wood throughout his career. He also believed that writing was integral to creating visual work, and in addition to keeping regular journals, published the play The Suicide in 2009. His entire oeuvre was crafted at the nexus of his intellectual and aesthetic registers. The through line between each piece was unmistakable emotionality, which benefited paintings of humans and nature alike. In fact, El Bacha claimed to witness the same forms repeat themselves among varied subjects: "the curve of the head is the earth, the sun, and the moon. The horizontal is the sea, and the vertical is the tree. Everything repeats itself in a different form.” 

El Bacha passed away in Beirut on February 5, 2019, at the age of 87. 


Selected Solo Exhibitions


Partitions and Colors: Homage to Amine El Bacha, Sursock Museum, Beirut, Lebanon


Boushari Gallery, Kuwait


Amine el Bacha: Paintings, Darat Al Funun, Aman, Jordan


Sultan Gallery, Kuwait City, Kuwait


Salon of the Sursock Museum, Beirut, Lebanon 


Galerie Faris, Paris, France


The Jordan National Gallery, Amman, Jordan
Dar el Fan, Beirut, Lebanon


Sultan Gallery, Kuwait City, Kuwait


Huesca Museum of Fine Arts, Huesca, Spain


Sultan Gallery, Kuwait City, Kuwait


Sultan Gallery, Kuwait City, Kuwait


Dar el Fan, Beirut, Lebanon


French Cultural Centre, Beirut, Lebanon

Selected Group Exhibitions


Tajreed, CAP Kuwait, Kuwait


Invitation d’artistes 2011,Manoir du Plessis au Bois, France


Journey through the Contemporary Arts of the Arab World, Bilad Al Sham (2): Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, Darat Al Funun, Aman, Jordan


Sursock Museum, Beirut, Lebanon


Galerie Faris, Paris, France


Gallery Contact, Beirut, Lebanon


Gallery Saad, Beirut, Lebanon


Gallery Manoug, Beirut, Lebanon


Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, National Museum of Modern Art, Paris, France


Six th Biennale de Conches, Conches-en-Ouche, France


Salon des Surindépendants, Paris, France


Alexandria Biennale, Alexandria, Egypt


Paris Biennale, Paris, France


Salon d'automne, Beirut, Lebanon

Awards and Honors


Award of 'Officer's Cross of the Order of Civil Merit', The Spanish Embassy, Beirut, Lebanon


Gold Medal of the Citta Eterna Prize, Rome, Italy
Il Premio Internazionale d'Arte, Torino d'Argento, Italy 


First prize in Macerata lithography competition, Italy


Lebanese Ministry of National Education Award, Lebanon


Prize of the French Embassy at the Autumn Salon, Beirut, Lebanon


Sursock museum, Beirut, Lebanon, 
Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon
The Collection of the Ministry of Culture, Beirut, Lebanon
KA Collection, Beirut, Lebanon
Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan
The Khalid Shoman Collection, Amman, Jordan

Amine el-Bacha observing life
Nada Al-Awar
Canvas/ Artist Website, English, 2008
Alice مسرحية في سبع مشاهد
Amine El Bacha
Dar Nilson/ Artist Website, Arabic

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LIBAN 20 poemes pour un amour. Illustrations de Amine El Bacha.لبنان 20 قصيدة من أجل حب
Nadia Tueini
Dar An Nahar, French, 1979

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Les Enluminures de Amine El Bacha
Paul Audi
Banque Audi/ Artist Website, French, 1993

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شمس الليل
Amine El Bacha
كتاب العربي ٨٩/ Artist Website, Arabic, 2012

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دقات الساعة قصص و رسوم
أمين الباشا
Dar Nilson/ Artist Website, Arabic, 2010

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المنتحر . مسرحية
أمين الباشا
Dar Nilson/ Artist Website, Arabic, 2009

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Art of the Middle East. Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World And Iran.
Saeb Eigner
Merell/ DAF Library, English, 2016

Extract from Book pp.333, 364

Resonances. 82 Lebanese artists reviewed by Helen Khal
Cesar Nammour & Gabriela Schaub
Fine Arts Publishing/ DAF Library, English, 2011

Extract from Book pp. 54-57

Art From Lebanon. Modern and Contemporary Artists 1880-1975
Nour Salame Abillama & Marie Tomb
Wonderful Editions/ DAF Library, English, 2012

Extract from Book pp. 264-267, 273

كتابات مستعادة من ذاكرة فنون بيروت
Faysal Sultan
Dar Alfarabi/ DAF Library, Arabic, 2013

Extract from Book pp. 116-127

Adieu Amine el-Bacha, French, 2019
Amine el-Bacha, dernier envol…
Zena Zalzal
L'Orient Le Jour, French, 2019
رحيل أمين الباشا شيخ التشكيل اللبناني
إلياس العطروني, Arabic, 2019
Décorations espagnoles à Amin ElBacha et Tomas Alcoverro, French, 2012
Lebanon bids farewell to artist Amine el-Bacha, English, 2019
Of Dreams and Other Realities
KAREN KARAM, English, 2015
أمين الباشا رسم بيروت 60 عاماً و رحل, Arabic, 2019
التشكيلي اللبناني "أمين الباشا" يرسم حالماً و يكتب متكئاً على الجمال, Arabic, 2013
أمين الباشا لبناني في مائياته تمتزج الطبيعة بالإنسان
فاروق يوسف, Arabic, 2015
أمين الباشا التشكيلي أدباً و رسماً
سلمان زين الدين, Arabic, 2015
الفنان الكبير أمين الباشا و كتاب عمره عن العاصمة التي عشقها
Al Mustaqbal, Arabic, 2010
أمين الباشا.. عازف اللوحات - أداب و فنون
أحمد بزون, Arabic, 2015
أمين الباشا.. الساحر الملون إذ ترك بهجته و رحل, Arabic, 2019
حوار / أمين الباشا: لوحاتي تجاهر باستحضار المدينة لثبيت صورتها
إسماعيل فقيه, Arabic, 2011
عاشق بيروت .. الموت يغيب الفنان التشكيلي أمين الباشا
سارة عابدين, Arabic, 2019
أمين الباشا.. رحيل المعلم, Arabic, 2019
Boushahri Gallery: Amine El Bacha's Art Exhibition, English, 2011
Elbasha a Dar El Fan
Victor Hakim/Nicole Malhame Harfouche
L'Orient Le Jour/Revue du Liban/ Artist Website, French, 1969
Amine Elbasha by Joseph Fitchett
Joseph Fitchett
Contact Art Gallery/ Artist Website, English, 1972
Maria Lluisa Borras
La Vanguardia, Spanish, 1989
L'Alchimie Kitmitto- El Bacha
Henry Chapier
Artist Website, French, 1998
Selections Arts
Selections Arts, English, 2019
تكريم أمين الباشا, Arabic, 2008
Journey through the Contemporary Arts of the Arab World, English, 2000
Remembering Amine El Bacha: 'Even when he drew ruins, he infused them in jungles of colours'
Myrna Ayad, English, 2020


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