Al-Awar, Nada. “Saloua Raouda Choucair: A Lifetime of Serenading Sculpture.” Canvas 2, no. i: 78-87
Choucair was never deterred by the opinions of others and devoted her whole self to her art. In addition to Egyptian art, the mosques of Morocco also fascinated Choucair with their endless arches and intricate stone. In her mission to prove that Islamic art was not inferior to Greek art because of its exclusion of the human form, Choucair studied both civilizations immensely and this knowledge helped her develop as an artist herself. Her paintings played off of lines and curves of Islamic art, and did not depend on visual hints to evoke questions. After her time in Paris Choucair returned to Beirut to marry and began experimenting with all sorts of artistic media, eventually discovering a huge love for sculpture. Many of her smaller sculptures were meant to act as models as Choucair’s ultimate goal was to have them built larger and in outdoor, architectural spaces although very few of her works made it that far.
Blazwick, Iwona, ed. Sophie McKinlay, Magnus af Petersens and Candy Stobbs. Adventures of the black square: abstract art and society 1915-2015. London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2015.
Choucair was considered the first contemporary abstract painter in the arab world, by 1940, and 20 years later had transitioned to sculpture. The city Beirut grew in height as Choucair used more concrete and architectonic building blocks in her work to mirror the city and also incorporate geometric Arab art. Although she was largely unknown outside of Beirut during her life she combined her knowledge of the arab world with her education in science and abstraction to create modular sculptures that stand stand individual and as a whole.
Choucair, Hala. “All About my Mother.” Canvas 7, no. 6: 62-63
This was written by Choucair’s daughter. As a young girl Choucair was energized by diving into rocky and wavy waters, a fearlessness which her daughter says only increased as she ages. Because of her passion for abstract art that did not necessarily carry a very visible story, Choucair’s work was often missed by those around her. Her first retrospective was titled Material and was shown and the UNESCO headquarters in Beirut in 1962. Material showed art on painted carpets, and used unique materials such as glass to join the worlds of art and architecture. Her second large show was titled Retrospective and was held in 1974, featuring practically every significant piece she had made up until then. In 1955 Choucair spent the summer touring the USA looking at art and art schools and when she returned home she remained there for good, never again leaving for extended periods of time even during warfare. One of Choucair’s greatest goals with her artwork was to integrate it into the world outside. She created water art and benches, sculptures that were intricate and interesting from all perspectives and thus were perfect to fit into the urban life. As she aged Choucair retained the vivacity she had for life, and her daughter who is the author of this article planned a third show for her to collect all of her art and show it for the first time since 1974.
“CHOUCAIR, Saloua Raouda.” In Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, 2013-. Accessed March 30, 2017. http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/benezit/B00037762.
Saloua Raouda Choucair was born 1916 in Beirut. She studied art under Mustafa Farroukh from 1935, Omar Onsi from 1942, and at the American University in Beirut from 1945 to 1947. In the middle of her last years of studying in 1946 she also taught at the Arab Culture Center. She relocated to Paris in 1948, and studied lithography, fresco work, and sculpture at the École des Beaux-Arts under Saupique as well as taking classes at the Académie de la Grande-Chaumière on abstraction under Dewasne and Pillet. This short bibliography also gives a list of Choucair’s numerous exhibitions in Lebanon.
Jones, Kevin. “SALOUA RAOUDA CHOUCAIR: Memory, Corrected.” ArtAsiaPacific 88 (2014): 104-13.
Choucair attended a progressive school for girls before she became an apprentices to Farroukh and Onsi. Later she moved to Paris to study under Fernand Léger, returning to Beirut in 1951. She was an artist that kept large amounts of notes for each of her art pieces. In 1948, at the beginning of her stay in Paris, abstract modernism was beginning to grow in Europe and through her studies at the Académie de la Grande-Chaumière and the École des Beaux-Arts she had many windows into that world. Fernand Léger had just returned from New York and was considered one of the most modern artists of the time, and this is where Choucair gravitated. In 1950 when the Atelier D’Arte Abstrait opened in Paris she frequented that studio as well, an experimental and collaborative place that was unique because there were no masters working there. Choucair was increasingly drawn to abstraction and modernist architecture. Many of Choucair’s modular works are from this time, and they show a connection between her practices of abstraction in Paris and also the structural and mathematical style that made it’s way into her architecture as well. Her sculptures were inspired by the intricacies of poems, by kinetics, and then by movement and duality. Choucair was always searching for her own way to use abstraction, and always in tune to the art across Europe even when she returned to Beirut and never left. During her life, outbursts of war and gender divides were in the way of Choucair becoming well known for her art. This author spends the last part of their article reflecting on circumstances and hoping that the art of Choucair will come to a more public eye.
LaTeef, Nelda. “Saloua Raouda Choucair, Sculptor.” In Women of Lebanon: Interviews with Champions for Peace, 16-23. North Carolina: Mcfarland & Company, 1997.
In a foreword, the author gives some background on the artist. Choucair graduated from Beirut College for Women in 1938. Her educational background in math and physics came across in her architectonic sculpture, and she is quoted as saying she would have been an architect if she could start over. In 1951 she exhibited in Paris at the Collette Alendy Gallery. In 1974 the Lebanese government held their first ever art retrospective in her honor and shared 30 years of her work, only for war to break out soon after. The author then inserts the interview that she conducted with Choucair. Choucair’s mother was a well-educated widow who raised three children at a young age. The artist had a feel for art at a young age and was always engaged in art class. On a trip to Paris with her brother-in-law in 1948 she was awed by the art she saw and, realising that she was a “real” artist, decided to remain there on her own as a student of the École des Beaux-Arts. Choucair taught herself a lot, and was greatly inspired on a trip to Egypt during World War II when she visited the mosques. She was angered by hearing an art teacher call islamic art second to other styles because it did not reach the level of body representation that greek sculpture did. Her sculpture is inspired by Arab art, especially calligraphy, music, and poetry as all of these can be artistically deconstructed. In her art she portrays beauty without fear. The war was a time when lots of her art was destroyed, and she sent her daughter out of the country to Paris at 19 because she believed it was safer. She relaxes through art and cares deeply about her family, honesty, and the state of her country.
LIBAN - Le regard des peintres: 200 Ans de peinture Libanaise. 1989. Published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name, shown at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.
This is an exhibition catalog in French from an exhibition on Arab art in Paris. Choucair left her previous teachers for Paris in 1948, when she moved there and studied at larger art institutions. In Paris she visited the workshops of Fernand Leger, Hajdu, Etienne Marin, and Jean Dewasne and Edgar Pillet. These visits held incredible influence in her later works. She participated in numerous group exhibitions in many countries and had works of realism in the American University of Beirut between 1935 and 1945. She exhibited continuously in numerous salons, including the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles where she was one of the first Arab artists to show. Her personal exhibitions have been shown around Beirut, France, and even at UNESCO.* She has also received countless awards for her artwork from many institutions in Beirut and all over Lebanon.
Scheid, Kristen. “Saloua Raouda Choucair.” In Mathaf Encyclopedia of Modern Art and the Arab World. Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. Accessed April 3, 2017. http://www.encyclopedia.mathaf.org.qa/en/bios/Pages/Saloua-Raouda-Choucair.aspx
Choucair’s father died from military circumstances when she was very young, and she was raised by her mother to become a well educated activist and leader. She discovered a passion for art at the American Junior College for Women where she studied natural sciences. Before pursuing art in her thirties, Choucair worked as a librarian, joined many activist groups, and grew in leadership skills while trying to change the way that the people around her viewed art. She viewed art from a perspective of all disciplines, from poetry to physics. She began proper artistic training in 1948, and remained a force of nature in activism. Choucair wanted her art to be provoking and impactful on both a personal and worldly level. Her unique perspective and status was bold and far beyond what had been expected of Arab women before, and her art was able to launch her to higher spheres of influence where she continued to challenge the world through her art.
Other Primary Structures. Edited by Jens Hoffmann. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014. Published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name, shown at The Jewish Museum in New York, NY.
This exhibition catalog consists of black and white images of sculptures by many artists, including one of Choucair’s titled Infinite Structure, a tower made of Tufa stone. Choucair was born in Beirut in 1916 and returned there to begin sculpting after a trip to Paris in her early thirties. In Paris she studied at the École des Beaux-Arts as well as working in the studio of painter Fernand Léger. Choucair used fiberglass, many consistencies of clay, metal, marble, and wood to create geometric and culturally meaningful patterns. This turned her into a pioneer of Arab abstract art.