Google on Saturday dedicated a doodle on its homepage to the late Naziha Salim, one of the most influential painters in the history of contemporary art in Iraq. Google’s artwork depicts Salim’s body split in two: one half is taken painting, the other is composed of his long-time subject, rural Iraqi women and pastoral life.
Salim was born in 1927 into a family of Iraqi artists in Turkey. His brother, Jawad, is widely regarded as one of Iraq’s greatest sculptors. After moving to Baghdad, Salim established herself as one of the few female artists to exert influence on the male-dominated Iraqi art scene of the 1940s and 1950s. She studied painting at the Institute of Fine Arts. Arts of Baghdad and, after graduating, she became one of the first women to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris on a government scholarship.
She had a simple painting style, preferring simple compositions, bold brushstrokes, and vibrant color palettes. Unusually for the time, she centered the daily lives and desires of Iraqi women in her paintings. Whether tending the fields, herding donkeys, or posing in an urban portrait, his female subjects radiated individuality. Salim often juxtaposed these contemporary settings with references to Iraqi religious and political history, presenting individuals as knots in a larger cultural weave.
At the time of her death in 2008, former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani hailed her as “the first Iraqi woman to have anchored the pillars of contemporary Iraqi art”.
His works are part of the collections of the Sharjah Art Museum, the Modern Art Iraqi Archive and the Barjeel Art Foundation. In 2019, she was included in an exhibition of modern Arab art at the Sharjah Art Museum dedicated to the undocumented or understudied pioneers of the movement.