Abdulqader RASSAM
Abdulqader RASSAM
عبد القادر الرسام

Abdul Qadir Al Rassam, عبد القادر الرسام), 1952 - 1882), was born in Baghdad, Iraq and is one of the first generation of Iraqi artists to study abroad and paint in the European style. He was influential in terms of introducing local audiences to European art. He is noted for his portraits and landscapes, painted in the Realist style.

Abdul Qadir Al Rassam was born in the Maysan Province, Qal'at Saleh District in 1882. Qadir's life straddled two distinct eras in Iraqi history: he was born during Ottoman rule and died in the royal era (1921-1958). He was the first well-known painter in modern Iraq and the leader of realism school in Iraq.

He studied military science and at the Military College, Istanbul, Turkey, (then the capital of the Ottoman Empire) from 1904, where drawing and painting were part of the curriculumThere, he was exposed to the European traditional style and learned to paint in the naive manner of the Turkish soldiers. Along with contemporaries, Salim Mohammed Saleh Zaki (1888-1974) and Hajj Mohammed Salim (1883-1941) who was a relative; all of whom also studied at the Military Academy, this group of Iraqi artists were first generation to paint in the European style. This group became known as the Ottoman artists.

During his military career, he was stationed in Istanbul. However, after retiring in the 1920s, he returned to Baghdad. His wife and family, however refused to leave Istanbul, forcing the artist to live alone in a house in Baghdad. Carpet Ghazi recalled visiting the artist with his father in the 1930s:

"His house was medium and large and consisted of two layers. The ground floor consisted of Al-Hawsh, Tarmah, Sardab, the kitchen, the bathroom and the upper floor. It consisted of a room allocated for the reception and another bedroom. And the basement was filled with his paintings scattered in the walls of the house. The most important thing that drew attention was a painting on the wall facing the ladder to a soldier who clutched his sword and was placed in the staircase opposite the painting, Whenever a man goes up to the staircase, he is frightened and fanciful, imagining that the soldier with the sword and his sword is a real guard, a trick prepared by the painter to frighten the thieves... Abdul Qadir was a fine-grained man dressed in a straw hat and then replaced by a Faisaliah and put on white glasses. He lived alone in this house and was served by an old man who ran the house."

He was the first local artist to offer painting lessons in his studio, and many modern Iraqi painters began their careers by studying with him. He was also the first modern Iraqi artist to paint a mural in a public building - at the entrance to the Cinema Royal in Baghdad.

He was a major figure among the first generation of modern Iraqi artists and was a founding member of the Art Friends Society (AFS, Jami’yat Asdiqa’ al-Fen). He became a landscape painter, and painted many landscapes of Iraq in the realism style, using shading and composition to suggest time periods. A prolific painter of oils, the majority of his works are now in private hands. A small collection of his work is hung in The Pioneers Museum, Baghdad, but many of these works were looted in 2003.

Very little is known about his early life and career. It was only when the researcher and art historian, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra investigated the history of art education in the city of Amarah 1917-1958 that his name was found in the Register of Teachers in the school of Qal'at Saleh for 1916.

He painted scenes of everyday life in Iraq and landscapes, especially of area around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. A collection of his work is in The Pioneers Museum, Baghdad.