The Family Estate of Mahmoud Hammad Collection

Artist Biography

Mahmoud Hammad (Syria, 1923-1988) was a foundational contributor to the formation of modern art institutions in Syria. Trained in both painting and printmaking, he worked across media over the course of his career: as a painter, a printmaker, a medal engraver, and a sculptor. His knowledge of technique made him a consummate educator. From 1960 until his passing in 1988, he not only taught painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts (Kulliyat al-Funun al-Jamila) in Damascus, but also rose to become Head of the department, followed by serving as Dean of the school.

In 1967, Hammad received a UNESCO grant in recognition of his creative talents. Later in 1969, he was honored with the State Prize for Fine Arts. Collaborating with Professor Abdo Kass-hout in 1979, they secured the design competition for the The Unknown Soldier monument in Damascus, which saw its completion in 1994. His artistic creations are preserved in the National Museum of Damascus, the Ministry of Culture and Foreign Affairs, and can also be found in private art collections across various countries, including Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, France, Switzerland, former Yugoslavia, Russia, and the United States.

Image courtesy of the Family Estate of Mahmoud Hammad Collection, Arab Art Archive, al Mawrid Arab Center for the Study of Art

The Archival Collection

The Family Estate of Mahmoud Hammad Collection in the Arab Art Archive consists of over 1,600 items to date, including exhibition-related materials, press clippings, writings, correspondence, biographical documents, documents generated in the context of his work as a teacher and administrator in Damascus, Syria, photographs documenting his life and works, and some sketches and preparatory drawings. It also features materials pertaining to his wife, the late artist Durriya Fakhoury Hammad (1930-2015). The collection offers detailed insight into the terms and conditions of creative practice in Syria in the decades following the country’s independence in 1946. Particularly rich are materials related to Hammad’s career as an educator with a leading role at the Faculty of Fine Art in Damascus. There, he advocated for the rights of artists to engage in formal experimentation, took study trips to assess contemporary trends and best practices, and produced teaching materials having to do with art theory and technique. Also represented are sketches and plans pertaining to Hammad’s design work and slides documenting his paintings, medals, and other works of art.

The majority of the materials are in Arabic, although many exhibition materials are bilingual (often Arabic and French). Some material is in Italian, reflecting the fact that Hammad studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti (1953-1957) and subsequently maintained ties to Italian artists and critics.

Digitized content will be made available to the public through the NYU Archival Collections repository in 2024. The collection finding aid can be found here.