In accordance with his early success, Selim travelled to Europe on government scholarships to further his education; firstly to Paris (1938-39) and then to Rome (1939-40). In 1946, Selim’s scholastic journey extended to London where he enrolled in the Slade School of Art. Selim produced Back Garden, Camden Town during this time in London, which reflected a significant period in his personal as well as professional life, as this was where Selim met his wife Lorna, a fellow art student at Slade.
This rare 1947 work retains an innocence and freshness of vision which Selim’s works were known to preserve. The masterpiece draws creatively on local forms, depicting a view from a rented studio Selim shared with fellow Iraqi artists throughout their student days.
The studio vista provided Selim the opportunity to test his artistic eye. The meticulous composition gives the impression of a thoroughly and carefully considered art piece Selim was able to experiment with mild variations of light and shadow as well as the stimulating silhouettes depicted across an assorted urban setting. As suggested through its title, this exquisite work portrays a juxtaposition of two contiguous scenes; the liberation of the extended foreground branches versus an urban backdrop consumed with the angularity and the restraint of building structures.
Selim's time spent in Europe served as a pivotal period in his pursuit of a prosperous career in Baghdad. He discovered some of the foremost Western icons of art whilst travelling, namely, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Henry Moore. Upon his return to Baghdad, Selim formed the Baghdad Modern Art Group. Many key figures of the modern Iraqi art and literature scene were followers of this newly founded group, such as the artists Shakir Hassan Al-Said and Dia Al-Azzawi. Selim's sudden and pre-mature death in 1961, when the artist was only in his early forties, was a great loss for Iraq and marked the end of the first phase of the Iraqi modern movement. He remained one of the very few Arab artists who acquired such a wide knowledge of modern Western Art. Although Selim's life was cut short bringing to an end this formative period, many inspired young artists, including Ismael Fattah (Lot 59) continued to follow his example, exploring subjective approaches and using innovative techniques.
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