Hussein Madi

The artist and the person

Madi : Private collections (1995) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

The collection

This collection of Hussein Madi’s art exhibition posters was donated to the Libraries of the American University of Beirut after the "Exhibition on Art Posters in Lebanon", organized by the Steering Committee of AUB Arts Center was held on March 2001. It comprises of 18 posters dating between 1974 and 1995.

Madi (1976) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

A calligraphic poster, by Hussein Madi for an exhibition that was held in Italy in 1976

Madi : Drawings, engravings, watercolors (1974) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

A poster by Madi, for an exhibition at Galerie Modulart, which took place in 1974

Violence in education (1992) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

A poster prepared by Madi in 1992, for the "Development Studies Symposium" about violence in education

Madi (1979) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

Samia Toutounji

This exhibition was organized by Samia Toutounji, a poet and art dealer, and a close friend of Madi’s. She opened her first gallery, named Platform, in 1987. She was on her way to Madi’s studio in 1989, when she fell victim of an explosion at the Spanish embassy. She immediately died along with her father, Toufic Youssef Awad (a prominent Lebanese writer) and the Spanish Ambassador.

Madi (1974) by Hussein Madi and Bou FaresAmerican University of Beirut

Samia Toutounji held several exhibitions for Madi at her house before opening her own gallery.

Madi (1978) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

An exhibition at the Toutounji house, in 1978.

Hussein Madi (1985) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

A poster for an exhibition of paintings by Hussein Madi, 1985, at Petra Bank Art Gallery. Under the patronage of H.R.H. Princess Majda al-Raed at Samia Toutounji's Platform Gallery

Hussein Madi : engravings (1980) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

A poster for Hussein Madi: Gravures. An exhibition organized by Samia Toutounji in 1980.

H. Madi : Sculptures (1988) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

An exhibition of Hussein Madi's sculptures held at the Platform gallery in 1988.

"Samia was an extraordinarily pleasant, elegant and gracious lady. Our relationship was based on trust, respect and friendship. She kept telling her family and friends to buy, buy, buy Madi now!"

H. Madi : Drawings and engravings (1989) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

The Art

"Words are useless, art is my language"

Madi's art does not fall under the umbrella of one school of art. In fact, his unique strokes and his distinctive use of color, makes it seem as if he's created a language of his own through art.

Throughout Madi's work, we see repetitive shapes, lines, colors and even figures. This repetitiveness creates a pattern that makes his art feel to the eyes as music feels to the ears.

Madi (1993) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

His art, although some dub it as similar to Picasso's cubism, is distinctive from it in the most fundamental manner.

As Abbas Beydoun, an art critic says: "Picasso builds and destroys continuously. He is an iconoclast of styles and a smelter of methodologies, but he uses his enormous dynamism of his adopted styles and methodologies like toys or tools to serve his own ends. Hussein Madi, on the other hand, is neither a destroyer nor a smelter of styles. No artist other than Madi is a representative of the same-artist style... Madi does not have a specific discipline, though some have made him the godfather of more than one discipline. He has himself talked at times as being the other of a discourse..."

H. Madi : Pastels and watercolors (1988) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

"Sometimes after I spread the color on canvas my senses aren't pleased... I mix and reapply colors until I get the required shade. I scream: "ahlan wasahlan." I welcome the new born color"

Madi uses hard geometric shapes along with gentle curves, to create a world where contradictions coexist in harmony. He has the same approach to color, where he manipulates hues and tones to create either harmony or dissonance.

H. Madi (1990) by Hussein Madi and Bahu RifaiAmerican University of Beirut

“When the mechanism of the human body is fully understood, sketching and drawing both become a real test for the true artist”

Madi believed that an artist needed a strong base in anatomy science. A true artist needs to understand the mechanism between the human body and its surroundings.

When he was a student at ALBA, he made it his routine to arrive to the workshop earlier than everyone, where he would carry on sketching throughout the day. In the evening, he would go to coffee shops with his friends to capture clients on their canvas. Unfortunately, all his college work was destroyed along with his parents’ home in the civil war.

Madi (1982) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

The Child

“No matter what the future holds for you, living up to your own expectations is only going to come about through hard work…”

Madi (1995) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

Madi was born in 1938 to a modest family from Chebaa, a village in south-eastern Lebanon. As a child, he used to spend his summers in Keserwan, at his grandfather's home. According to him, those were the most exciting times of his childhood.

Madi loved spending time with his grandfather, watching him tend to the fields and perform daily tasks. He identifies with his grandfather and says he learnt common sense, dedication, care and discipline from him, which he applied throughout his art.

His grandfather saw his interest in sketching, and encouraged him to continue, while his parents were disapproving of him wasting his time on filling sketch books instead of paying attention to school and his future.

Madi (1993) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

The artist

“you’re going to sweat blood to become an outstanding artist”

Madi left his parents' home when he was 19 with his mind setup on living up to his full potential and becoming an artist. He knew from the beginning that it won't be easy.

He was accepted in the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts in 1958. In 1963, he travelled to Italy to study art at the Academia di Belle Arti, where he was allowed to skip the first year. In 1965, he won an award for sculpture, that entitled him for a scholarship of 70,000 Liras to continue his art studies in Italy. Rome was vibrant and alive and Madi was stunned by it, as he puts it. He ended up living there for 22 years.

H. Madi : Paintings (1989) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

Return Home

"I bitterly regret not having remained in Rome because of all the frustrations I endured since my return to Beirut. In fact, civil war drastically affected the course of my life"

In 1986, Madi came back to Beirut for good. In Beirut, as always, he was absorbed in his work, enjoying his time away from social life and publicity.

Over the years, his work has been displayed in several art galleries, the latest being Aida Cherfan’s gallery, located in the central district of Beirut.

Madi : Private collections (1995) by Hussein MadiAmerican University of Beirut

In 1982, Madi was elected president of the Lebanese Art Association. He remained president until 1992. During this time, he worked on elevating the stature of the the association through exhibits and events. He also worked on improving its premises which were in a bad state because of the war.

“Despite all the mishaps, I was deeply happy. My work celebrated life. And that was the only way I knew to get back at this brutal and irrational war”

Credits: Story

Physical Content, AUB Libraries Archives and Special Collections.
Digital Content; AUB Libraries Digitization Lab.
Metadata Creator; Basma Chebani.
Exhibit Curator: Sara Jawad.
Sources: Madi, A Boundless Life by Aida Cherfan
The Art of Madi, by Saqi

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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