Lot 40
  • 40

JEWAD SELIM | Back Gardens - Camden Town

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Jewad Selim
  • Back Gardens - Camden Town
  • signed and dated Jewad Selim 1947
  • oil on board
  • 55 by 40cm.; 21 1/2 by 15 7/8 in.


Dr. Norman Daniel Collection, Baghdad (acquired in 1951)
Private Collection, USA 
Private Collection
Sale: Christie's Dubai, Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art Part I, 17 April 2012, lot 1
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


London, Walton House, First Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture by Iraqi Artists at present in England, April-May 1949, no. 33, n.p.
Baghdad, Mr Nizat and Ellen Ali Jawdat's house, Jewad Selim, 1950, no. 45, n.p.
Baghdad, British Institute, Paintings of Britain by Iraqi Artists, 1951, n.p.


Condition: This work is in very good condition. Any surface imperfection is in line with the age of the painting and inherent. No visible signs of restoration under UV light. Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, with the overall tonality of the original painting being slightly softer.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Widely recognised as the father of Iraq's modern art movement, Jewad Selim's passion in life was painting and sculpture. His capacity to create remarkable artworks inevitably had an impact on the development of Iraqi modernism, setting the scene for the younger artists. Selim, who was an early member of the Pioneers art group in Baghdad, was also among the core founders of the Baghdad Group for Modern Art in 1951. Despite his premature death, Selim is undoubtedly among the most important Iraqi artists in its history. 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.