Revolutionary Lebanese poet and artist Etel Adnan passes away at 96

Revolutionary Lebanese poet and artist Etel Adnan passes away at 96
2 min read
15 November, 2021
The famous Lebanese-American artist Etel Adnan had become known for her books and paintings, currently on display in some of the world's most prestigious museums.
Etel Adnan's creativity remained profuse until her death, despite her advanced age [Catherine Panchout/Sygma/Getty]

Revolutionary Lebanese-American poet and artist Etel Adnan died in Paris on Sunday at the age of 96.

Born in 1925 in Beirut, Adnan became one of the Arab world's leading artists and writers with an international reputation.

"This poetic and colourful soul, extremely sweet, sang our suffering, our joy and our love,"  said Jack Lang, director of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris on Facebook. She was a rare and complete artist whose talent shone with life and shimmering intelligence.”

Adnan's most famous literary work is her 1977 novel Sitt Marie Rose, set before and during the Lebanese Civil War, which earned the Franco-Arabic Friendship Award and has been translated into more than 10 languages.

In 2010, she was awarded the Arab American Book Awards for her story collection Master of the Eclipse.

Although she started painting in the late 1950s, her work only started to capture international attention in her 80s.

An exhibition of her work entitled Etel Adnan: Light’s New Measure, is on show at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York until 10 January 2022.

The French Centre Pompidou-Metz currently features an exhibition she inspired, entitled Ecrire, c'est dessiner ("Writing is to Draw"). The exhibition will run until 21 February 2022 and features several pieces by Adnan.

Adnan was born in Lebanon, then under French mandate, to a Syrian father who was a former officer of the Ottoman Empire and a Greek mother. She was educated in French-language schools in Beirut before studying philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris.

She lived in California for many years during and after the Civil War and later identified as a lesbian. 

She spent most of her late years in France, between Paris and the countryside where she would often work. Adnan is survived by her partner, Lebanese-American artist Simone Fattal.