‘There was little sensitivity and understanding regarding my father’s desire to be a painter or an awareness for my father’s talent. When Sir Winston Churchill visited my grandfather in 1943, he saw my father’s work in his office and encouraged my grandfather to support his son’s painting. A painter himself, Churchill showed that you could be a statesman and still, ‘paint on the side.’
These encouragements from Churchill lead El Glaoui to study and live in Paris for fifteen years. The unlikely relationship between Churchill and Hassan El Glaoui played a significant role in both of their artistic endeavours. Churchill was very inspired by Moroccan landscapes and often featured mosques and local street scenes of the ‘ochre city’ in his works. The exhibition Meetings in Marrakech, at Leighton House London in 2012, tells the unexpected story of their friendship portrayed alongside celebrated works of both Hassan El Glaoui and Winston Churchill.
At the age of ten, Hassan El Glaoui’s father gifted him a pony; the Pasha often rode horses into war. This gave rise to Hassan El Glaoui’s passion for horses, a feature that is prominent in his figurative works. El Glaoui would continue to paint horses throughout his career, favouring depictions of Thouriba, the practice whereby synchronized horse riders charge forward in long lines, pointing their jezails (long-barrelled rifles) towards the sky. His focus on painting horses, particularly portraying the bond between a horse and its rider, was developed further upon the artist’s return to Morocco in 1965. Painting Moroccan traditions, both old and new, was very important for Hassan El Glaoui. Despite El Glaoui spending much of his formative years studying and practicing in Paris, the artist’s subject matter was deeply rooted in his homeland of Morocco.
El Glaoui depicted scenes representing the grandeur and splendour of Moroccan celebrations, often painting monarchical ceremonies. The present work depicts the national celebration of the King’s ascension to the throne, an event still celebrated today. These important events traditionally took place in front of the old city walls with spectators dressed in traditional Moroccan white djellabas. The artist worked with few colours to provide more intensity to the scene and draw attention to its central figures.
Hassan El Glaoui’s works have been exhibited extensively across the globe, notably at Gallerie André Weill, Paris (1950), Wildenstain, New York (1951), Galerie Petrides, Paris (1959), Hammer Galleries, New York (1967, 1969), Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels (1969) and Tyron Gallery, London (1969), amongst others. His works are included in numerous prestigious collections such as the Royal Palace Collection in Fez and the Parliament Collection in Rabat. This April, an exhibition of El Glaoui’s work, produced during his years in Paris, opens at the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rabat. Throughout his long career, Hassan El Glaoui received international praise and is widely celebrated as one of Morocco’s most revered artists and a pioneer of contemporary art.
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