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Arts, Art and Architecture

Azzawi, socialist realism, Rawi, Iraqi people, important artists

Much like its poets, Iraq’s painters and sculptors are among the best in the Arab world, and some of them are world-class. The first generation, active since the 1940s, includes Fa’iq Hasan and Isma’il al-Shaykhali. Their paintings are figurative works in the impressionist style. Other important artists of this generation are Jawad Salim, Nuri al-Rawi, Mahmud Sabri, and Tariq Mazlum. Jawad Salim was deeply influenced by Pablo Picasso’s cubist style as well as by ancient Mesopotamian art and the Soviet style known as socialist realism. To a younger generation, active since the late 1950s, belong Diya al-‘Azzawi and Hamid al-‘Attar. Baghdad is rich in open-air sculptures and monuments designed by many of these great artists and financed by the regime. Some of the monuments glorify Hussein, others glorify the ruling Baath Party, but many are dedicated to the Iraqi people and the rich history of the country.

Iraqi architecture is best exemplified in the sprawling metropolis of Baghdad. The city’s architecture is almost entirely new, with some islands of exquisite old buildings and compounds. There are many colonial buildings dating back to the period of British occupation and mandate (1917-1932). A few buildings date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, when the Ottomans controlled the area. Some traditional private homes built in the 18th and 19th centuries have been preserved. These buildings include the shanashil, a porch with netlike woodwork screens overlooking the street. Most of the public buildings in contemporary Baghdad are modern. Government offices are usually far from aesthetic, but there are a few beautiful modern hotels, some of which draw their inspiration from Babylonian and classical Islamic architecture. There are modern art galleries, museums, and public libraries, their designs mostly inspired by Islamic architecture. Some old mosques in the Baghdad area are impressive, in particular the gold-domed mosque in the suburb of Kazimayn, the burial place of two Shia imams (spiritual leaders).

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