Farid Haddad was born in 1945 in Beirut, Lebanon. Though raised in a family of scientists and businessmen, Haddad was drawn to art from a very young age. Though his first interest was music, he enrolled in painting classes at Omar Onsi’s studio at the Gudver Institute in the early ‘60s, where he fell in love with the visual arts. In 1969, he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the American University of Beirut, where he was mentored by American artists Arthur Frick and John Carswell, and later received his MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
In 1972, Haddad spent six months in New York through a Fulbright scholarship. Four years later, the artist began teaching drawing and painting at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and in 1979, design and multimedia art at the New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, where he earned the State Council of the Arts Prize in 1983 and 1984.
At the start of his career in the 1970s, the artist applied in his work the principles of color-field painting, a style of abstraction established in New York in the late 1940s. Typically made on a large scale, color-field paintings involve the use of overlapping pigments painted or stained into the canvas in broad swaths of unbroken color, emphasizing the flatness of the picture plane and negating all forms of figuration. Here, the importance is not given to form, composition, and brushstrokes in the intention to center color itself as the “subject” of the painting. While Haddad’s works derive from this movement, they do not stick rigidly to its principles and can be interpreted beyond the scope of pure color, evoking landscapes in their allusions to romantic green fields and dreamy skies. For example, in Color Field Variation no. 4 (1973), the artist ornaments a landscape with powerful contrast. Colors gradate from an exploding red at the bottom of the canvas to a mellow blue-green at the top. In contrast to the color field painters of the 1940s and 1950s, his rhythmic paint strokes are immediately visible throughout the artwork, applied repetitively and meditatively in the same direction. Celebrated Lebanese-American artist and critic Helen Khal (1923-2009) described these works as intellectually provocative and emotionally satisfying. As a result of his stylistic choices during this period, critics compared him to Jack Tworkov, an American-Polish abstract expressionist painter.
In the early eighties, Farid Haddad turned to experimental abstraction. His new works were characterized by a dominance of color over loose shapes, and extensive hatching and brushstrokes that cover his canvases to form exciting textures that resemble wrinkled paper from a distance. He continued in this aesthetic vein through the 2000s, as is seen in Mahalia’s Landscape (2005). Here, the figureless background is colored with an autonomous white and tainted with greyish yellow and blue. A chopped tree trunk is freely depicted on the central right of the canvas. The thickness of the paint and the intensity of Haddad’s brushstrokes give the painting a sense of antiquity.
In some of his works, Haddad paints a square in the middle of the composition, seemingly out of place. In Cathedral (1979), for example, a flatly-colored orange square is centered amid a fusion of breath-taking indigo. The painter justified his use of the geometric shape as an attempt to create “one painting within an another,” adding that “there is a perversity in that square, it tortures me; I would love right now to be able to peel that square off.”
Farid Haddad has participated in more than 20 solo exhibitions and over 50 group exhibitions in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. Today, he is Professor Emeritus at New England College, where he is known among his students and colleagues for his dry humor and passion for teaching. Haddad works out of his studio in Concord, New Hampshire.