Dalloul Art Foundation

Dalloul Art Foundation

OMAR ONSI OMAR ONSI

OMAR ONSI, Lebanon (1901 - 1969)

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Bio

Written by Rami Karim

Omar Onsi was born in Tallet el Khayat, Beirut, in 1901. His father, the physician, Abdel Rahman Onsi, named him in homage to his grandfather, a poet. A painter himself, Abdel Rahman, introduced his son to art through a visit to portraitist Habib Serour’s studio, but he ultimately insisted on more practical education for Omar. Onsi enrolled at the medical school of the Syrian Protestant College (now the American University of Beirut), where his illustrations in a student publication drew the attention of Khalil Saleeby, a painter who invited the fledgling artist to train at his Bliss Street studio. Onsi accepted despite his parents’ opposition and soon gained artistic success, winning the silver medal at the Beirut International Fair in 1921. He left medicine shortly thereafter to focus solely on art.

In 1922 the young painter traveled to Jordan, where he taught art and English to young members of the Jordanian royal family. In his free time, he painted their portraits, as well as Bedouin scenes and desert landscapes. He was inspired by the region’s harsh sun and dry sands as contrasted by perpetual blue skies. In 1927 Onsi moved to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, where he studied the École de Barbizon and Fontainebleau movements closely. He also befriended the Lebanese sculptor Youssef Howayek and met and married Emma Morand. 

Onsi returned to Beirut in 1930, and Morand joined him three years later. They moved into his childhood home, where he painted members of his social circles as well as scenes of the Lebanese mountains and their villages. He also painted Beirut’s urban landscape, at that time largely underdeveloped, including a seaside lined with date palms and cactus plants. During the 1930s, the painter established a local reputation through several group and solo exhibitions. Meanwhile, Emma passed away suddenly in 1934, and for the next five years, Onsi’s Painting expressed the melancholy that washed over his life after the loss of his beloved wife. In 1939 he married Marie Bauer, an Alsacian woman who taught at the Collège Protestant Laïque and began to return to himself.

Though canonically Lebanese, Onsi’s work differs from that of his contemporaries in its modest colors, textures, and shapes. During travels and exhibitions in Europe, the Middle East, and North America, Onsi depicted diverse landscapes he visited, though his most frequented theme remained Lebanon. Further, although he painted nude figures – a practice that was still taboo at the time – and was deeply engrossed in the contemporary Lebanese art scene, his own work remained primarily concerned with traditional scenes. He favored watercolor to other mediums for its vivid delicacy, especially in depicting Beirut’s sunlit views. Onsi had a knack for accurately sketching whatever lay before him. Though minimal in application, his brushstrokes contained information pertaining to the color and mood of his subjects and their environments. In a 1948 conference at Cénacle Libanais titled Painting, he argued that “art that doesn’t express the life and culture of a society cannot service,” adding that aesthetically valuable art required intellectual grounding.

Onsi was a co-founder of the Lebanese Association for Artists, Painters, and Sculptors in 1957, and became a board member at the Sursock Museum upon its opening in 1960. He died of stomach cancer in Lebanon in 1969.

Sources

Abillama, Nour Salamé, Marie Tomb, Amin Maalouf, Joseph Tarrab, Cesar Nammour, Maha Azizé Sultan, Fayçal Sultan, and Gregory Buchakjian. Art from Lebanon: modern and contemporary artists, 216-227. Beirut, Lebanon: Wonderful editions, 2012.

Nammour, Cesar, and Gabriela Schaub. Resonances, 82 Lebanese Artists Reviewed by Helen Khal. Beirut: Fine Arts Publishing, 2011.

"Omar Onsi." Mathaf Encyclopedia of Modern Art and the Arab World. Accessed May 14, 2019. http://www.encyclopedia.mathaf.org.qa/en/bios/Pages/Omar-Onsi.aspx

Nammour, Cesar, and Gabriela Schaub. Resonances, 82 Lebanese Artists Reviewed by Helen Khal. Beirut: Fine Arts Publishing, 2011.

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CV

Selected Solo Exhibitions

1997

Omar Onsi Retrospective Exhibition organized by Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock Museum, Beirut, Lebanon
Omar Onsi, organized by Diana Dabliz Kaaki at International College, Beirut, Lebanon

1991

Conference and exhibition organized by Mansour Onsi and Joseph Matar at Summerland Hotel, Beirut, Lebanon

1980

Un Onsi Inconnu, exhibition organized by Amal Traboulsi at Galerie L'Epreuve d'Artiste, Beirut, Lebanon

1979    

Hommage à Omar Onsi, exhibition organized by Samia Tutunji at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Beirut, Lebanon

1964

Retrospective, organized by Yusif Khal, Gallery One, Beirut, Lebanon

1951

Le Peintre Omar Onsi presente, La Galerie d'Art Fakhreddine, Beirut, Lebanon     
Arab Cultural Club, Beirut, Lebanon

1937

Solo exhibition of watercolors organized by Iskandir Abu Sha`ar at the Galerie Libanaise, Beirut, Lebanon

1935

Exposition Omar Onsi Peinture, Aquarelles, solo exhibition at the School of Arts and Crafts, Beirut, Lebanon

1932

Exhibition of Paintings and Water-colors by Omar Onsi, solo exhibition organized by C. C. K. Corrie at the Terra Santa College, Jerusalem
Solo exhibition in December at the School of Arts and Crafts, Beirut, Lebanon
Solo exhibition in February at the School of Arts and Crafts, Beirut, Lebanon

Selected Group Exhibitions

2019

Traces of Drawings, NABU Museum, El Heri, Lebanon

2018

A Century in Flux, organized by Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah, UAE
The Permanent Collection, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon

2016    

The Arab Nude, American University of Beirut, AUB Art Galleries, Beirut, Lebanon

2012    

Le Corps Découvert, exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France
Art from Lebanon: Modern and contemporary artists, Volume 1, 1880-1975, Nour Salamé Abillama at Beirut Exhibition Center, Beirut, Lebanon

2010    

Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar

1994    

Pastel in Lebanese Art, Lebanese American University (formerly Beirut University College), Beirut, Lebanon
Collective exhibition organized by Jumana Rizq at Maraya Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon

1993    

Still Life in Lebanese Art,Lebanese American University (formerly Beirut University College), Beirut, Lebanon

1989    

Lebanon – The Artist’s View, 200 years of Lebanese Painting,British Lebanese Association at the Barbicon Centre, London, UK and the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France

1987    

Les Artistes témoins d’eux-mêmes,Autoportraits et portraits (1919-1987), Galerie les Cimaises, Nahr al-Kalb, Lebanon

1966    

Salon d’Automne, Sursock Museum, Beirut, Lebanon

1965    

Salon d’Automne, Sursock Museum, Beirut, Lebanon
Confrontations: 5 Generations of Lebanese painters and sculptors, organized by L’Orient newspaper, Beirut, Lebanon
Collective exhibition organized by Joseph Matar at the Municipality Building, Jounieh, Lebanon
São Paulo Biennial VII, São Paulo, Brazil

1964    

Salon d'Automne, Sursock Museum, Beirut, Lebanon 
Collective exhibition at La Sagesse High School, Beirut, Lebanon
Salon des Fleurs, Galerie l'Oeil, Beirut, Lebanon

1963    

Salon d'Automne, Sursock Museum, Beirut, Lebanon 
Salon du Printemps, Lebanese Ministry of National Education, Beirut, Lebanon

1962    

Salon d'Automne, Sursock Museum, Beirut, Lebanon

1959    

Salon du Printemps, Lebanese Ministry of National Education, Beirut ,Lebanon
Alexandria Biennial III, Alexandria, Egypt

1957    

Alexandria Biennial II, Alexandria, Egypt

1956    

Salon d'Automne, Lebanese Ministry of National Education and Fine Arts, UNESCO, Beirut, Lebanon

1955    

Salon d'Automne, Lebanese Ministry of National Education and Fine Arts, UNESCO, Beirut, Lebanon
Salon du Printemps, Lebanese Ministry of Education, Beirut, Lebanon

1954    

Salon d'Automne, organized by the Lebanese Ministry of Education, Beirut, Lebanon
Salon du Printemps, Lebanese Ministry of National Education and Fine Arts, UNESCO Beirut, Lebanon            

1948    

Defense of East and West, collective exhibition organized by UNESCO, Lebanon
Lebanese Artists, American Information Office, Dhur al-Shuwayr, Lebanon

1947    

Salon des Artistes Libanais, collective exhibition organized by the Lebanese Ministry of Education at the National Museum, Beirut, Lebanon

1941    

Salon des Amis des Arts, collective exhibition organized by the Society of the Friends of the Arts, at the Lebanese Parliament Building, Sponsored by General Vegan, Beirut, Lebanon

1940    

Salon des Amis des Arts, collective exhibition organized by the Society of the Friends of the Arts, at the Lebanese Parliament Building, Sponsored by General Vegan, Beirut, Lebanon

1939    

New York World's Fair, Lebanese Pavilion, organized by Charles Corm New York, USA
Salon des Amis des Arts, collective exhibition organized by the Society of the Friends of the Arts, at the Lebanese Parliament Building, Beirut, Lebanon 

1938    

Salon des Amis des Arts, collective exhibition organized by the Society of the Friends of the Arts, at the Cercle de l'Union Française, Beirut, Lebanon

1933    

St. Georges Hotel, Beirut, Lebanon
Arab Arts
, collective exhibition, Jerusalem, Palestine

1932    

Festival de Dornach, Dornach, Switzerland

1931    

Colonial Exhibition, Paris, France

1930    ​

Collective exhibition organized by Maurice Zwain, at the School of Arts and Crafts, Beirut, Lebanon

1921    

Beirut Industrial Fair, Beirut, Lebanon

Awards and Honors

2004    

Public sculpture installed in his honor in the park of the Serail, (Lebanese government offices), Beirut, Lebanon

1968    

Said Akl Prize

1964    

Lebanese Ministry of Education Medallion

1963    

Lebanese Philanthropic Merit Award

1956    

Lebanese National Order of the Cedars, Merit Award

1947   

Lebanese National Order of the Cedars, Knights Rank

Collections

Nicolas Sursock Museum, Beirut, Lebanon
Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon
Ramzi Saïdi collection, Beirut, Lebanon
Ramzi El Hafez Collection, Beirut, Lebanon
The Lebanese Ministry of Culture, Collection, Beirut, Lebanon
NABU Museum, El Heri, Lebanon
Saradar Collection, Beirut, Lebanon
Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE
Collection of the American University of Beirut, Lebanon

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Documents

NECESSARY NUDES: HADÄTHA AND MUCÄSIRA IN THE LIVES OF MODERN LEBANESE
Kirsten Scheid
Jstore, English, 2010

Journal Article p.204-206-218-220-226-227-230

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Press

عمر الأنسي شاعر اللون: مائيات الرائد المرهف يلفحها هواء الريف
aljarida.com, Arabic, 2007
EN MÉMOIRE DE L’ARTISTE-PEINTRE OMAR ONSI (1901-1969) SA STATUE SE DRESSE AU CENTRE-VILLE
Sonia Nigolian
rdl.com.lb, French
نَتَذَكَّـر عُـمَـر الأُنـسي
نزيه خاطر
jamaliya.com, Arabic, 2012
تكريم الفنان عمر الانسي بحديقة تحمل اسمه في بيروت
archive.aawsat.com, Arabic, 2003
غداً إزاحة الستار عن نصب تذكاري لعمر الأنسي في بيروت
يقظان التقي
mustaqbalweb.com, Arabic, 2003
عمر الأنسي الانطباعي الذي انتقل من الصحراء إلى بحر لبنان
فاروق يوسف
alarab.co.uk, Arabic, 2016
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Videos

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Exhibitions

OMAR ONSI Artwork