Madiha UMAR
Madiha UMAR
مديحة عمر

Madiha Omar (1908 – 2005 in Aleppo) (Arabic: مديحه عمر‎) is an Iraqi artist who is known for incorporating calligraphy with abstract art. She is generally perceived as the first Arab artist to have done this.[1] Therefore, she is seen as the predecessor to the Hurufiyya movement. Also, Omar was the first female to receive a scholarship from the Iraqi government to study in Europe.

Madiha was born in Aleppo Her father Circassian and her mother Syrian. However, the family moved to Iraqi when she was a young girl. Omar attended the Sultaniyya School in Istanbul, where she drew praise from Ali Riza for her painting skills. She then trained as a teacher at the Maria Grey Training College in London in the 1930s, graduating with First class honours in Arts and Crafts in 1933. She then taught painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad, becoming head of department before leaving in 1942.

In 1939 she married Yasin Umar. She accompanied her husband, a diplomat, to Washington where he was a member of the Iraqi Commission.

She attended the Corcoran School of Art receiving a MFA in 1959.

In 1971 she joined the One Dimension Group founded by Shakir Hassan Al Said.

Omar was the first Iraqi woman to receive a scholarship from the government to study in Europe & she is reputed for being the first to utilize Arabic calligraphy in abstract form since 1944. Received an Honorary Award, Corcorron Fine Arts College, 1947. Held many exhibitions in Baghdad, Beirut, Sudan, Turkey and the USA. Participated in world act conferences and lectured on art. Organized eighteen solo exhibitions, 1980-1950 and numerous group shows throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East and the USA. Lives and works in New York, USA.

Her work has received critical acclaim and has been included in many books on the history of art. She has had radio interviews on the BBC and Voice of America