Saloua Raouda Choucair

Composition in Blue Module

1947–51

On display at Tate Modern

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 595 x 800 mm
frame: 761 x 966 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with funds provided by the Middle East North Africa Acquisitions Committee 2011
Reference
T13308

Summary

Composition in Blue Module is an abstract painting of interlocking forms with straight and curved edges in a range of predominantly blue tones. Larger areas of darker colour at the top of the composition suggest a background, while a large blue triangular shape occupies the foreground. The work reflects the artist’s experience as a student at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and in particular the influence of Fernand Léger (1881–1955), whose studio she attended. The palette of blues, purples and lighter tones is typical of Choucair’s paintings from this time, which are characterised by subtle shifts within an overall tonal similarity.

Choucair received some critical attention while based in Paris (she had a solo exhibition at Colette Allendy Gallery in 1951), though her work was received less favourably in Beirut where its avant-garde nature was still shocking in a relatively traditional art context. A contemporary Lebanese critic stated in an interview: ‘In looking at your paintings I can barely distinguish the value of one from the other’ (Edvick Shayub, in Sawt al-Mara, vol.7, no.12, 1951). During her time in Paris, Choucair made a number of paintings in this abstract style, as well as a series of watercolours and tapestries that utilise the same geometric interlocking forms. On her return to Beirut in 1951, she began to make sculptures using similar interlocking shapes (see The Screw 1975–7, Tate T13280; Infinite Structure 1963–5, Tate T13262; Poem Wall 1963–5, Tate T13279; and Poem 1963–5, Tate T13278).

Choucair began painting under the tutelage of leading Lebanese landscape artists Mustafa Farroukh and Omar Onsi. She studied at the American University in Beirut before going to Paris in 1948. Her appreciation of western abstraction was coloured by her study of Islamic aesthetics and her modular sculpture and abstract paintings are characterised by a combination of the curve and the straight line, two basic elements of Islamic design.

Further reading
Joseph Tarrab, Hala Schoukair, Helen Kahl, Saloua Raouda Choucair: Her Life and Work, Beirut 2002.

Jessica Morgan
August 2010

Display caption

Choucair is one of the few Lebanese artists of her generation devoted to geometric abstraction. Composition in Blue Module dates from the late 1940s and early 1950s, when she was studying in Paris. Its palette of blues, purple and lighter tones shows the subtle shifts of colour that characterised her early painting. Like many of her paintings, it uses the two basic elements of Islamic design – the straight line and the curve –as a starting point to create simple shapes which she duplicates in various combinations and divisions across the picture plane.

Gallery label, February 2016