oil on canvas
Nejad Melih Devrim's Abstract Composition, is a true masterpiece by this leading Ecole de Paris artist, embodying the characteristics which came to define his oeuvre. Nejad was a master of colour and brought together his Eastern origins with his Western upbringing to create extraordinary compositions, establishing himself as one of the most innovative artists of the period.
Born into a highly educated family of artists and poets, he was raised by his parents; the pioneering female artist Fahrelnissa Zeid (Lot 71, 88) and the well-known literary figure, Izzet Melih Devrim. After his mother married Prince Zeid in 1934, who was assigned to Berlin as the Iraqi ambassador, he moved to Germany with them and lived there from 1937 to 1939 until returning to Istanbul to attend the prestigious Lycée de Galatasaray. During the few years he lived in Europe, Nejad was able to visit great architectural monuments and museums and began to draw inspiration from the Western masterpieces he came upon during these travels.
Nejad's passion for art led him to the National Academy of Fine Arts, Istanbul where he became one of the founding members of the 'Yeniler Group'. His social character and extraordinary talent made him a popular figure soon after he moved to Paris in 1946 where he became a fixture at Gertrude Stein's 'Salons'. He was also continuously invited to exhibit at Salon de Mai and Salon des Réalités Nouvelles among the leading figures of Ecole de Paris.
Although clearly passionate about Paris, Nejad never forgot his cultural roots and infatuation with the mosaics he studied at the Chora Museum in Istanbul. Growing up in a city surrounded with the great architectural masterpieces of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires including Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Chora Museum, Nejad would spend hours studying each element, decoration and detail. Not surprisingly, after moving to Paris, he would take several trips to see the stained glass windows of Chartres Cathedral. Considered to be one of the finest examples of the French High Gothic style, built between 1193 and 1250 and with majority of the original stained glass windows still intact, Chartres Cathedral would have been mesmerising for Nejad. The light emanating from these densely filled stained glass windows decorated with Christian iconography would surely have reminded Nejad of the Byzantine mosaics he so closely studied in Istanbul. The stained glass windows reminiscent of mosaics were the main source of illumination, and the spiritual magnificence that this light radiated was what he aimed to recreate in his paintings which he believed was only possible through the use of vibrant colours.
Nejad's paintings from this period are composed of soft, geometric forms recalling a surface of fractured light, luminous with colour. Carefully placed against a black, brown and white background, they divide the canvas into three horizontal planes. The bright blues, yellows and reds are harmoniously rendered throughout after a thoughtful process by the artist to balance the whole composition. One of the largest works the artist has ever painted, the grandeur of the canvas is breathtaking and the extraordinary ability and creative talent of the artist to create a well-balanced, almost musical painting is awe inspiring.
After remaining in the artist's personal collection for thirty-five years, this work was acquired by a prominent collector in 1987 and has not been offered for sale since. Belonging to his most revered 1950s period, it is a true testament to Nejad's mastery in creating the most arresting compositions with geometric abstraction and is arguably the most important painting by this artist to ever appear on the market.
With its distinguished provenance, rare monumental size and beautiful composition, it is a work of museum quality and a collector's item at its best.
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