Paul Guiragossian is one of the region's most celebrated artists. Born in Jerusalem to Armenian parents who had survived the 1915 Armenian Genocide, Guiragossian eventually settled in Beirut after being evacuated from Palestine by the British. Within less than a decade, Guiragossian would establish himself as a key figure in Lebanon's burgeoning modern art movement.
Born into poverty, Guiragossian spent his early childhood under the care of the Order of the Sisters of Charity of St. Paul de Vence in Jerusalem. He later completed his education at Ratisbonne Seminary of the Salesian Community of Don Bosco in Jerusalem. Already interested in drawing at a young age, Guiragossian would devour art books in the city's bookstores and art supply shops as he immersed himself in the vast history of art. In 1947, Guiragossian and his family moved to Beirut, as did many Palestinian refugees, and eventually settled in Burj Hammoud, a neighborhood located north of the capital of Beirut and since 1915 inhabited primarily by Armenians. Once in Lebanon, Guiragossian earned a living teaching art in the Armenian schools in addition to working as an illustrator. In addition, the artist also began to produce portraits of the inhabitants of his neighborhood with charcoal on paper and oil on masonite. These early works reveal not only a portrait of a city but also an aesthetic concern with immediacy as Guiragossian's flowing, dynamic lines capture both the physical and emotional states of his subjects.
It was during this period of the fifties that Guiragossian began exhibiting. In 1956, the artist won first prize at a painting competition, and as a result, received a scholarship from the Italian government to study painting at the Academia di Belle Arti di Firenze. In 1962, Guiragossian received a second scholarship from the French government to study abroad at Les Ateliers des Maitres de l'Ecole de Paris. At the end of year, Guiragossian held a solo show at Galerie Mouffe in Paris.
Throughout the sixties and seventies, Guiragossian's artistic reputation continued to grow throughout Lebanon, the Arab world, and Europe. His technical versatility is apparent in his diverse works on paper and canvas, primarily in oil, watercolor, and pen. Guiragossian's pieces move between abstraction and figuration to capture the essence of the human form. His portraiture includes a substantial number of compositions of his wife and children, self-portraits, and anonymous figures. A significant number of pieces focus on the tender embrace of mother and child. In what would become an integral feature of his distinctive style, Guiragossian uses long, vertical brushstrokes to depict the bodies of his figures as abstracted and elongated so that the imagery has echoes of Byzantine icons. A true Modernist, Guiragossian began producing during the late sixties complete abstract paintings. Applying bright, bold color in blocks to the canvas, Guiragossian then left parts of the surface untouched, generating depth and movement through a creative embrace of negative space.
Since the fifties, Guiragossian participated in over a hundred exhibitions throughout Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, Japan, and the U.S.A. In 1991, the Institute du Monde Arabe in Paris honored the artist with an exhibition of his latest and largest, most abstract canvases. Further retrospectives of his work have been organized over the last decade, including the 2013 exhibition, Paul Guiragossian: The Human Condition at the Beirut Exhibition Center. His work is held in private and public collections throughout the world and has been honored by numerous international awards.
In 1991, the Guiragossians succeeded in realizing a long time dream of Paul and his oldest son Emmanuel by opening an art gallery, EMMAGOSS in Zalka on the outskirts of Beirut. This gallery provided an environment for the artists to showcase modern and contemporary art from the world while its studio offered a space for resident and visiting artists to educate people on how to create art, and most importantly, how to explore it and appreciate it. In 2011, the late artist's wife and five children established The Paul Guiragossian Foundation to preserve and archive materials related to the artist and his career.
|2013||Paul Guiragossian: The Human Condition, Beirut Exhibition Center, Beirut, Lebanon|
|2011 ||Retrospective at the Paul Guiragossian Museum, Jdeideh, Lebanon|
|2007||Dar Al Funoon, Exhibition of watercolors, Kuwait|
|2003||The Green Art Gallery, Dubai, United Arab Emirates|
|1999||The "Art of Portraits exhibition" in the Centre Culturel Français de Beyrouth, Beirut, Lebanon|
|1995||"China Inks of Guiragossian," Emmagoss Art Gallery, Zalka, Lebanon|
|1994 ||Tribute exhibition in EMMAGOSS Art Gallery, Zalka, Lebanon|
|1994 ||Paul Guiragossian and Theater tribute exhibition in Masrah El Madinat, Beirut, Lebanon|
|1991 - 1992||Solo exhibition, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France|
|1991||Retrospective, Centre Culturel Français de Beyrouth, Lebanon|
|1990 ||The Chahba Cham Palace, Aleppo, Syria|
|_____||Galerie Pays de Cham, Damascus|
|1989||La Salle des Pas Perdue, UNESCO, Paris, France|
|1987 ||Platform International Gallery, Washington D.C. United States of America|
|_____ ||Tekeyan Cultural Center, Los Angeles, California, United States of America|
|1982 ||Jordan National Museum of Fine Arts, Jordan|
|1980||Galerie Chahine, Beirut, Lebanon|
|1978||The National Council of Culture of Culture, Arts & Letters, Kuwait|
|1977 ||The National Museum of Damascus, Syria|
|1974||Studio 27, Beirut|
|1970||The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. United States of America|
|1969||Galerie L'Amateur, Beirut, Lebanon|
|1964||Retrospective, The American University of Beirut Alumni Club, Lebanon|
|_____||Galleria D'Arte Cairola, Milano, Italy|
|_____ ||Gartenhaus Gallery, Frankfurt, Germany|
|1963||Galerie du Journal de L'Orient, Beirut, Lebanon|
|1962||Solo exhibition, Galerie Mouffe, Paris, France|
|1960||Alecco Saab Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon|
|1958||Solo exhibition, Galleria d'Arte Moderna La Permanente, Florence, Italy|
|1956||Café La Palette, Beirut, Lebanon|
|1954||Café La Palette, Beirut, Lebanon|
Rewards and Honors
|1993||Medal of the National Order of the Cedar, Lebanon|
|1986||Knighted by the Pope Jean Paul II with Chevalier de l'Ordre" of St. Silvestre, Vatican|
|_____||Chevalier de l'Ordre" of St. Mesrob Mashdots, Antelias, Lebanon|
|1985 ||Mardiros Sarian Award of the Plastic Arts, Yerevan, Armenia|
|1984||Chevalier de l'Ordre, des Arts et des Lettres, French Republic, Ministry of Culture, Paris|
|1970||Said Akl Award|
|1969||First Prize of "Phillips," Beirut, Lebanon|
|1968 ||First Prize Sursock Museum, Beirut, Lebanon|
|1966 ||Second Prize for Painting, VI Spring Salon, Sursock Museum, Beirut, Lebanon|
|1964||Prize of Fine Arts, German Association of Arts & Culture, Germany|
|1959 ||First Prize, Paris Biennial, France|
|1958||Gold Medal, Painters of Tuscany Exhibition, Italy|
|1957||Gold Medal, the International Exhibitions at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna La Permanente, Florence, Italy|
|1956||First prize, the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA), Beirut, Lebanon|
|_____||The Florence Prize, the Italian Cultural Institute, Beirut, Lebanon|
Lebanese modernism, mother and child, portraiture, painting, Christian icons.
Baradouil, Sam. "Paul Guiragossian: The Human Condition, We Have Always Been Modern," in The Human Condition, exhibition Catalogue (Beirut: Beirut Art Center, 2013), 11-52.
"About." EMMAGOSS. Accessed November 6, 2014. http://www.emmagoss.com/dynamic_pages/index/aboutus
Tarrab, Josef. Paul Guiragossian. Beirut: EMMAGOSS, 1982.