On the 27th anniversary of the departure of the creative artist Layla AL-ATTAR 27/6/1993
في الذكرى 27 لرحيل الفنانة ليلى العطار 27/حزيران/1993

Layla Al-Attar (Arabic: ليلى العطار‎; May 7, 1944 - June 27, 1993) was an accomplished Iraqi artist and painter who became the Director of the Iraqi National Art Museum.

Life and career

Layla Attar graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad in 1965, and was amongst the first women graduates from that program. She became the Director of the Center for National Art (now the Iraqi Museum of Modern Art), a post she held until her death in 1993.

She held five one-woman shows in Iraq, and took part in all national and other collective exhibitions held in the country and abroad. Al-Attar also took part in the Kuwait Biennial (1973), the first Arab Biennial (Baghdad 1974), the second Arab Biennial (1976), the Kuwait Biennial (1981), and won the Golden Sail Medal in the Cairo Biennial (1984).

On 27 June 1993, Al-Attar, her husband and their housekeeper were killed by a U.S. missile attack on Iraqi Intelligence main building which was just behind her house, ordered by U.S. President Bill Clinton. The building was hit by 24 rockets. Two misfired and hit their house by accident, per her son's testimony. The attack also blinded Al-Attar's daughter. There are some rumours the misfire was intended due to a previous unflattering mosaic of George Bush laid onto the floor at the entrance to the al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad. The idea was that nobody would be able to get into the hotel, where most foreign visitors to Iraq stayed in the 1990s, without stepping on Bush’s face. The mosaic was removed when Baghdad was captured on 9 April 2003.

Her sister, Suad al-Attar is also a noted artist, now living and working in London.


Kris Kristofferson dedicated and wrote a song about Al-Attar, called "The Circle", which appears on his live album Broken Freedom Song: Live from San Francisco. In the live introduction to the song on that CD, Kristofferson explains that it covers both the death of Layla Al-Attar and the problem of los desaparecidos, the Argentines who "disappeared"; they were secretly arrested and murdered by the Argentinian dictatorial government. He states that he linked the two as examples of governments taking no responsibility for the deaths of non-combatants.

Marta Gomez later covered the song on a tribute album, The Pilgrim. A celebration of Kris Kristofferson, adding a verse in Spanish.

The character Layal in the play Nine Parts of Desire is based on Al-Attar. Author Heather Raffo, stated that she saw a painting by Al-Attar in an art gallery and was curious about it. This prompted her to write the play, with the Al-Attar character central in it however the character is fictional and does not depict any relation to The real Layla Al Attar

في ذكرى رحيل الفنانة ليلى العطار 27/حزيران/1993

كتب الناقد فاروق يوسف في مقاله الذي نشر في مجلة آفاق عربية العدد 8 سنة 1993

"كانت ليلى العطار تسعى إلى إبراز أو إظهار ما تظنه حقيقياً، حيث جسد المرأة في عزلته يكتشف قوانينه في الطبيعة، ليس على مستوى آليات عمله فحسب بل وعلى مستوى ما يقود إليه من نتائج جمالية خفية لا يمكن اكتشافها إلا عن طريق الحدس، الذي يحاول الرسم عن طريق أشكاله البصرية أن يكون قريباً منه.

إن المثير في أعمال هذه الفنانة أن لوحاتها بالرغم من الحيز التصويري الضيق الذي انتمت إليه لم تكن تتشابه على الإطلاق، الأمر الذي يؤكد حساسية هذه الرسامة إزاء موقفها التصويري المغلق، وكانت هذه الحساسية تقف وراء ضآلة نتاجها الفني وعدم ولعها بالغزارة، حيث كان زمن إنجاز اللوحة الواحدة يمتد طويلاً حتى يقضي على الانفعال الشعوري والجمالي ويستنفذه.

في مسافة الحلم القصيرة التي عاشتها ليلى العطار بين عامي 1944 و 1993 كانت نموذجاً للإنسان الطيب المتفق شعوراً وحساسية إزاء الآخرين وكانت رسامة بحق"

On the anniversary of the departure of the creative artist Layla AL-ATTAR 27/6/1993

“Layla Al-Attar was trying to show or display what she thought was real, as the woman’s body in its isolation, explores its laws in nature, Not only on the level of the way of working, but also on the level of the hidden aesthetic results it leads to, and can only be discovered by intuition, which drawing tries to be close to it through its visual forms.

The interesting thing about her works is that her paintings despite the narrow pictorial space she belonged to were not the same at all, this emphasizes the sensitivity of this painter to her closed pictorial space, this sensitivity was the reason for her few artistic product and not being fond of abundance, as the time of completion of one painting was long enough to eliminate and exhaust emotional and aesthetic sensation.

In the short dream distance that Layla Al-Attar lived between 1944 – 1993, she was an ideal of a kind, harmonious human being with a sense of sensitivity towards others, and she was a real painter”

Critic Farouk Yousef- Magazine of “Afaq Arabia” issue no. 8 - 1993



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