Fahrelnissa Zeid’s retrospective exhibition will bring together paintings, drawings and sculptures spanning over 40 years opens on June 13, 2017 – 8 October, 2017 at Tate Modern, London. Trained in both Paris and Istanbul, Fahrelnissa Zeid was an important figure in the Turkish avant-garde d group in the early 1940s and the École de Paris (School of Paris) in the 1950s. Her vibrant abstract paintings are a synthesis of Islamic, Byzantine, Arab and Persian influences fused with European approaches to abstraction. Many of her abstract works are monumental and demand attention. 

Struggle Against the Abstract, 1947, Istanbul Modern Museum, Estate of Fahrelnissa Zeid

Zeid’s reputation as an artist was cemented in the 1950s when she was living between London and Paris and exhibiting extensively internationally. The artist also began experimenting with painting on turkey and chicken bones, which she later cast in polyester resin panels evocative of stained-glass windows. In the later years of her life she unexpectedly returned to figurative painting, creating stylised portraits of her friends and family.

Indulge in Zeid’s obsession with line and dazzling colour in this exhibition. Rediscover one of the greatest female artists of the 20th century in this first major retrospective.​

Untitled, 1950’s Estate of Fahrelnissa Zeid


Fahrelnissa was born in Istanbul on the island of Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands, (which are part of Istanbul), in 1901 into a prominent Ottoman family. Her father was Muhammad Şakir Pasha (Kabaağaçlı), an Ottoman diplomat, brigadier, photographer, and historian, and also the brother of Grand Vizier Cevat Pasha. Her mother was Sare Ismet Hanim from Crete. She was the sister of writer Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı (the Fisherman of Halicarnassus/Halikarnas Balıkçısı) and painter Aliye Berger. She was also the aunt of artist Cem Kabaağaç and ceramist Fureya Koral.
She was educated at Notre Dame de Sion d’Istanbul and Pansion Bnagiotti. She was then one of the first women to attend the Fine Arts Academy (Güzel Sanatlar Akademisi) in Istanbul,later studying at the Académie Ranson in Paris under Roger Bissiere and Stahlbach.
Her first marriage was to novelist Izzet Melih Devrim, one of Servet-i Fünun writers, in 1920. This union produced two children: artist Nejad Devrim and director/actress Şirin Devrim. In Athens, November 1933, she married Prince Zeid bin Al Hussein , the ambassador of Iraq to Ankara and brother of King Faisal I.With Zeid she had only one child, a son, Prince Ra’ad. Her first one-woman show was held in Istanbul in 1944, followed by exhibitions in London and Paris. Her New York début came in 1950 when she exhibited a series of large abstract canvases at the Hugo Gallery. She went on to participate in almost 50 exhibitions in Europe, U.S.A. and the Middle East.
Her husband died in 1970, and in 1975 she moved to Amman, Jordan, where her son Raad lived, and where she established the Fahrelnissa Zeid Institute of Fine Arts. She died 5 September 1991 and is buried in the Royal Mausoleum, Raghdan Palace, Amman, Jordan.