01 Painting, Middle East Artists, Louai Kayyali’s Then What, with Footnotes, #66

Louai Kayyali, 1934–1978, SYRIAN
Then What, c. 1965

190 x 172 cm
Oil on wood, 1965
Private collection

In Kayyali’s work eleven figures (seven women, two boys and one man) are crowded together as though walking in unison. With most of their gazes turned away from the viewer, they are lost in the suggested horror of their surroundings as several peer up at an invisible, looming force. In the center of the canvas is a man whose features are distorted as the artist has rendered his face with quick brush marks and few details.

Louai Kayyali, 1934–1978, SYRIAN
Then What, c. 1965


Hunched over and overpowered by an incomprehensible weight, he seems to carry the burden of mankind. His arched back, angular chin and hidden face resemble Masaccio’s Adam in “The Expulsion from Paradise” (1427). Behind him stands a female figure in profile, her head stretched far into the sky, as she beckons the heavens for reprieve and reflects the inescapable posture of a body that is overrun by grief. Kayyali has painted her face in a near identical rendering of Eve in the above-mentioned fresco, as he simply rearranged the central figures of Masaccio’s composition. More on this painting

Louay Kayali, (1934–1978) was a Syrian modern artist. Kayali was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1934 and studied art in the Accademia di Belle Arti after having studied at the Al-Tajhiz School where his work was first exhibited in 1952. He met Syrian artist Wahbi Al-Hariri there and the two would share a friendship for the rest of Kayali’s life. Al-Hariri would become his mentor as he was for artist Fateh Moudarres that Hariri introduced to Kayali in 1955. Moudarress and Kayali would together represent Syrian modern art at the Venice Biennial Fair. He suffered from depression and died in 1978 from burns incurred from his bed catching fire, reportedly from a cigarette. More on Louay Kayali

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