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Artists' Index
Encyclopedia of Modern Art and Arab World
موســــوعة الفـن الحديـــث والعالــم العربـــي
Artists' Index

Georges Sabbagh

جورج صباغ
Georges Hanna Sabbagh
Georges Hanna Sabbagh; George

​​Born on 18 August 1887 in Alexandria, Egypt; died on 9 December 1951 in Paris, France.​

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Georges Hanna Sabbagh


Georges Hanna Sabbagh was born in 1887 into a wealthy Catholic family of Syro-Lebanese origin established in Alexandria. He was educated at the Collège des Pères Jésuites in Cairo before his father, Hanna Sabbagh Bey, one of the stakeholders of the Heliopolis urban development project, sent him to Paris in 1906 to study law. During that period, Georges Sabbagh showed little interest in his studies and instead started to take painting lessons at the Académie Ranson in 1910. There he was trained by the painters Paul Sérusier (1864 - 1927), Félix Vallotton (1865 - 1925) and Maurice Denis (1870 - 1943). From that time on, he dedicated himself entirely to art.

During the First World War, between 1914 and 1915, Sabbagh enrolled in the British army. On his return to France, in 1916 he married the art historian and political activist Agnès Humbert (1894 -1 963), with whom he had two sons, Pierre and Jean. The same year, he spent several months in the Silencio villa of Maurice Denis located in the small village of Perros-Guirec in Brittany, the sole region of the Nabis and the painters of the École de Pont-Aven. In 1917, Sabbagh held his first individual exhibition at the Galerie Chéron in Paris, which was a success. From then on, he became a renowned painter in Paris and was in touch with many of the artists working during the interwar period in the French capital, such as Modigliani, Jules-Emile Zingg, and Yves Alix and Henry de Waroquier.

In 1920, on the death of his mother, he returned to Egypt for the first time after more than ten years in Paris. While in Egypt, he produced several paintings addressing the themes of motherhood and family. He returned to France in 1922 and traveled regularly to Crozant, to visit his friend, the painter Armand Guillaumin (1841 - 1927). In 1928, he built a house in Ploumanac'h in Brittany close to the villa of Maurice Denis that inspired several of his paintings. Sabbagh became a French citizen in 1930. He left France to return to Egypt in 1936 and lived there until 1945. During that period, he produced many landscapes, townscapes as well as still lifes. In 1951, he traveled to Switzerland where he held exhibitions in Geneva and Lausanne and died in Paris the same year, on the 9th of December.

Georges Sabbagh spent most of his life in Paris, where he built his career. Although he was very attached to his Egyptian origins, he considered himself a painter of the École de Paris. He was a prolific artist, who produced over a thousand oil paintings as wel​l as many engravings. His early paintings are marked by the lessons of the Nabis, particularly by his teacher and friend, Maurice Denis, who initiated him into the emotional power of color and symbolism. Sabbagh, along with some of his contemporaries working in Paris, such as his friends Yves Alix and Jules-Emile Zingg, belonged to what the critic Jean Cassou called "the sacrificed generation." These artists assimilated the experiences of the Nabis, the Cubists and the Fauves, while searching for a new form of Realism. In 1918, he paid tribute to his forefathers, by representing Cézanne and Van Gogh in his painting entitled Les joueurs de cartes.

Overall, Sabbagh remained independent and original in his pictorial style, by continuously following modern trends while expressing the powerful light and colors of his country of origin. He painted many portraits of his contemporaries, friends, and family, as well as marines of Brittany and landscapes of the Egyptian, French and Swiss countryside. During his lifetime, Sabbagh held twenty-eight individual exhibitions and participated in more than 130 collective exhibits. He held one of his last exhibitions at the Galerie Motte in Geneva in 1951. After his death, many retrospective exhibitions where organized in his honor and in 1981, Pierre and Jean Sabbagh dedicated a monograph to their father that shed light on his life, work and career. His works can be seen in many collections around the world, including the Museum of Egyptian Modern Art in Cairo, the Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo and the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha. In 2013, several works of Georges Sabbagh were presented in the exhibition Tea with Nefertiti: The Making of the Artwork, the Museum and the Public held at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, and at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris under the title Le Théorème de Nefertiti.


​1990​"Georges Sabbagh: Alexandrie 1887 - Paris 1951", Municipal Museum of Boulogne-Billancourt, France
​1988 ​"Georges Sabbagh et ses amis peintres de la Bretagne", Maison des Traouïeros, Perros-Guirec, France
​1986​"Hommage à Georges Sabbagh", Salon d'Automne, Paris, France
​1982​"Hommage à Georges Sabbagh", Mairie du 6ème arrondissement, Paris, France
​1955​Retrospective exhibition, Galerie Allard, Paris, France
​1952​Retrospective exhibition, Salon d'Automne, Paris, France
​1951​Solo exhibition, Galerie Motte, Geneva, Switzerland
​1938​Exposition Française du Caire, Royal Society of Agriculture, Cairo, Egypt
​1935​Salon in Cairo, Egypt
​1924​"Aquarelistes indépendants" Galerie Marcel Bernheim, Paris, France
​1923​Salon des Thuileries, Paris, France
​1920, 1922, 1931​Salon d'Automne, Paris, France
​1920, 1922, 1923​Salon des Indépendants, Paris, France
​1917​First solo exhibition, Galerie Chéron, Paris, France

Awards and Honors

1944​Curator of the French exhibition in Algiers that assembled works from the Museums in Cairo, Alexandria, Beirut and Jerusalem
1933 ​President of the painting section of the Salon d'Automne, Paris


Modern Egyptian art, École de Paris, Pont-Aven, Nabi, Brittany, Fauvism, Cubism, Symbolism, family portraits, landscapes, townscapes.


Bardaouil, Sam. "From Monsieur to Effendi: Reflections on Georges Sabbagh, His Art and a Life Spent Between Two Worlds". in Tea with Nefertiti. Exhibition catalogue. (Doha: Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, 2012), 45-53. 

Bardaouil, Sam. "De Monsieur à Effendi: Réflexions sur Georges Sabbagh, son art et une vie passée entre deux mondes". Le Théorème de Nefertiti. Catalogue d'exposition. (Paris: Institut du Monde Arabe, 2013), 65-71.

Bardaouil, Sam. "Ni ici, ni là-bas: Mahmoud Moukhtar et Georges Sabbagh". Qantara, no 87 (Avril 2013), 34-37.  

Bréon, Emmanuel et al. (ed.), Georges Sabbagh: Alexandrie 1887 - Paris 1951, Thonon-les-Bains: Ed. de L'Albaron, 1990.   

Rāsim, Ahmad. Ṣabbāgh (Sabbagh). Cairo. 1936.​

Sabbagh, Georges. Les secrets d'un face à face avec la peinture. Paris: Association pour la fidélité à l'oeuvre de Georges Sabbagh (AFOSA), 1995.

Sabbagh, Jean, Sabbagh, Pierre. Georges Sabbagh, peintures, aquarelles, dessins. Paris: Beauchesne, 1981.

Further Reading

Georges Sabbagh et ses amis peintres de la Bretagne: Exposition du 3 juillet au 10 Octobre 1988, Perros Guirec-La Clarté-Ploumanac'h, Maison des Traouïeros, 1988.​

G.H. Sabbagh: l'Egypte, la France: Exposition du 7 au 25 avril 1951, Galerie Motte, Genève, 1951.