My Hell

Fahrelnissa Zeid, 1901-1991

My Hell, 1951

One of the leading exponents of abstract art, Fahrelnissa Zeid was born in 1901 on Büyükada island. Her siblings included the author Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı and the painter Aliye Berger, and her son was the painter Nejad Melih Devrim. One of the first female students at the Sanayi-i Nefise (Academy of Fine Arts), Zeid continued her studies in painting in Stalbach’s studio at the Académie Ranson in Paris, and later in the studio of Namık İsmail in Istanbul. In 1934 she married Prince Zeid bin Hussein, the ambassador of Iraq in Ankara, and became a princess. She held her first solo exhibition in 1944 in her home in Maçka, and also exhibited in Paris, London, New York, and Brussels, where the couple lived for certain periods of time. In 1976 the artist moved permanently to Amman, where she established an institute of arts bearing her name and continued to produce art until the end of her life, always operating in close contact with this institute. Zeid died in 1991 in Amman.

Zeid’s abstract, lyrical compositions are so varied and rich, they cannot be reduced to a single style. Her artistic practice can be classified into certain periods: an early period of figurative compositions with spaces constructed according to the style of miniatures; a period of maturity with geometric and freely abstract works reminiscent of stained-glass surfaces; and a late period consisting mainly of portraits, in which psychological narrative comes to the fore.

“My Hell” is one of her most accomplished works in terms of its linearity, intricately fragmented surface, and synthesis of stained glass and painting. A wave of color seems to be washing horizontally across the surface, carrying the composition along with the myriad geometrical fragments of which it is comprised.




Oil on canvas

Credit Line

Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Collection

Şirin Devrim and Prince Saad donation