Jamil Hamoudi (1924–2003) was an Iraqi artist, Painter and sculptor, who became the Director of the Ministry of Culture's Fine Arts Department. He is noted for his involvement in various Iraqi and Arabic art movements including the Hurufiyya movement which bridged the gap between traditional and modern Iraqi art.

Life and career

Hamoudi started out as a self-taught sculptor in Baghdad. He developed a naturalistic style. [1]In 1944, he was taken on to teach drawing and art history at a school in Baghdad. At the same time he attended classes at the Baghdad College of Fine Arts. He graduated in 1945 and in 1947, took a government scholarship to go to Paris, to study at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Académie Julian, and École du Louvre. He also Hamoudi researched the Assyrian-Babylonian art and languages.

In 1943, he created what has been described as the first Iraqi sculpture; a figure of the 11th-century philosopher-poet, Al-Maʿarri. By 1947, he was experimenting with abstract paintings using Arabic characters, and as such was one of the early pioneers of hurufiyya art. This led him on a path to discover the graphic possibilities of the letter in art.

Certain art historians regard him as the "founding father" of the hurufiyya movement (alphabetical art movement or Letrism movement). However, other scholars have suggested that the movement began somewhat earlier with the work of the Iraqi-American artist, Madiha Omar who exhibited huryifiyya artwork in 1949 in Washington. Whether he was the movement's founder, or simply helped to popularise the hurufiyya genre, there can be little doubt that he was a leading light in Iraq's modern art movement.

He defined his use of Arabic script in the context of rediscovering his own heritage, amid his studies of European art. He wanted to cling onto his own values and traditions as a means of avoiding being overtaken by experiences outside his own heritage. He wrote that there was nothing more sacred that the Arabic alphabet, saying that his art was "a form of prayer."

Hamoudi actively contributed to Iraqi arts culture through his membership of various art groups and societies in Iraq, and by organising exhibitions for up-coming artists, at a time when Iraq had no public galleries. In 1952, he organised an exhibtion, entitled L'Ensemble "A" at the Institut Endoplastique in Paris. In 1971, he became a founding member of the One Dimension Group, started by his friend and colleague, artist and intellectual, Shakir Hassan Al Said. In 1971 he joined the One Dimension Group when it was founded by Shakir Hassan Al Said and which sought to use art as a means of developing a sense of national identify. Jamil defined his use of Arabic script as a rediscovery of Iraqi heritage, within the confines of European abstract art.  Hamoudi and the art groups in which he was involved were largely responsible for bridging the gap between modernity and heritage, and establishing Iraqi modern art.

In 1973 he was appointed as Director of Fine Arts at the Ministry of Culture.

Since his first solo exhibition in 1950, Hamoudi has exhibited internationally and his works are included in numerous museums and private collections worldwide. In his distinguished career, he was also a critic and published extensively on art.


Hamoudi's early works reveal the influence of Cubism movement and later he identified himself with the surrealist movement. In time, however, he distanced himself from Surrealists, claiming:

"A dark, saturnine atmosphere emanated from [their canvases] the effect of which was to arouse a feeling of despair in human beings."

Ultimately, he developed his own style; one that referenced his Iraqi heritage, but also used modern techniques. His paintings are brightly colored and make use of geometric shapes like circles, triangles and arches, often in repeating patterns, a reference to Arabesque.  For sculpture he frequently used plaster, stone, wood, metal, copper, glass, marble, Plexiglas and ceramics.d


  • Peintures, Sculptures, Dessins de Jamil HAMOUDI un artiste de Bagdad, Paris, Librairie Voyelle, 1950







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اشتار مجلة اممية فصلية - العدد الثاني
اشتار اممية فصلية - العدد الاول
جميل حمودي
Jamil Hamoudi Précurseur
جميل حمودي