Lot 28
  • 28

Saliba Douaihy

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
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  • Saliba Douaihy
  • Composition Abstraite (Abstract Composition)
  • signed S. Douaihy on the reverse 
  • oil on canvas 
  • 63 by 86cm.; 24 3/4 by 33 3/4 in.
  • Executed circa 1975.


Collection of Ali Ahmad Said Esber (Adonis), Syria (acquired directly from the artist)
Private Collection, France (acquired from the above)
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2014


Condition: This work is in very good condition. Upon closer inspection, some very faint handling marks across the right edge of the canvas. A very light vertical hairline surface mark to the centre-right area of the work. Some very faint discolouration alongside the lower central axis of the blue. The canvas is well-stretched. Some faint signs of varnish stains only visible under UV light. Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, with the catalogue illustration failing to convey the intensity and vividness of the blues and the yellow.
"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

Saliba Douaihy is considered to be one of the leading twentieth century painters of Lebanon. Born in Ehden in the north of the country, Douaihy developed a talent and passion from an early age. A grant from the Lebanese government propelled the artist to study abroad. His trips to Europe and the US played a vital role in establishing the subsequent phases of Douaihy’s artistic practice. New York and its vibrant modern art scene were particularly influential. While living in New York, the artist became well acquainted with the Post-war Abstract Modernist founders such as Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhart and Hans Hoffman amongst others. This exposure inspired the production of his sought-after series of Hard Edge paintings. From the 1950s when the artist immigrated to New York until his death, Hard Edge minimalist abstract paintings occupied the bulk of the artist’s oeuvre. Emmanuel Kant’s writings stimulated the artist to reach a formalist aesthetic, driving Douaihy to emphasise compositional elements in his paintings to aspire to the “sublime”. In the span of a lifetime, Douaihy was able to move away from strictly academic style into a radical modernist approach, making him one of the true pioneers of Arab Modernism. Untitled’s composition epitomises the concepts and beliefs that inspired Douaihy’s admired later works. The painting showcases a deep understanding of the minimalist aesthetic, and the artist’s exceptional ability to handle two key elements in formalist painting: colour and shape. The present work portrays a dominating expanse of deep blue adjacent to a thick white plane, interrupted around the edges by variously shaped narrow red, orange, green and light blue angular stripes. Dissimilar in size and colour the planes transport the eye from the main focal blue to the outer right white edge, tracing the four edges of the canvas and back to the centre again. While the flatness and the geometric precision of the individual planes allude to a lack of perspective, the vibrancy of the different colours and the intuitive positioning of the shapes throughout the composition challenge the sense of two-dimensionality. These distinct planes express depth and space, consequently referencing the artist's fascination with Lebanon’s landscapes. The combination of these asymmetrical planes embodies Douaihy's unique interpretation of the sublime and infinite space, creating the illusion of a world that spreads beyond the boundaries of the composition hence evoking a feeling of tranquility and peace in the contemplator.

The present painting was originally in the collection of the important Arab poet, translator, theorist and political activist and two-time Nobel Prize nominee, Adonis. The poet has been described as a visionary and a pioneering Arab writer of the modern era. A contemporary and close friend of the artist, Adonis was born in Qassabin, a small village in Syria located only a few hours away from Douaihy’s birthplace. In addition to publishing twenty books and translating into Arabic over a dozen significant works such as the complete version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Adonis was the editor of three of the most influential Arab literary magazines of the 20th century. Adonis produced and edited Majallat Shi'r (Poetry Magazine, 1956- 1964) alongside Youssef El Khal's, a poet and the owner of the legendary Gallery One in Beirut where Douaihy exhibited his works on numerous occasions.