Google on April 23, 2022, dedicated a doodle on its homepage to celebrate Naziha Salim, the artist who was the most influential figure in the world of Iraqi contemporary art. On this day in 2020, the United Arab Emirates-based Barjeel Art Foundation spotlighted Ms. Salim, in their prestigious collection of female artists. Former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani once called her “the first Iraqi woman who anchored the pillars of Iraqi contemporary art”.
The artist, who was also a professor and author, was known for depicting rural Iraqi women and peasant life in her work. Her art was also centred around family, including her own; and women at work.
The doodle, divided into two halves, depicts Ms. Salim with her brush on one side and a combination of the subjects of her artwork on the other. She was born into a family of artists, with her father being a painter, her mother an experienced embroidery artist, and all three of her brothers being immersed in the world of art in their own ways. Her brother Jawad Salim, was known as one of Iraq’s most influential sculptors.
Having an affinity for creating her own art since childhood, Ms. Salim enrolled herself at the Baghdad Fine Arts Institute to study painting and graduated with a distinction. Determined to flourish in the field of art, she became one of the first women to be awarded a scholarship at the esteemed fine art school École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She fixed her focus on honing the fresco technique of making mural paintings while in Paris, after which she spent some more years exploring art and culture abroad.
After eventually returning to Iraq, she worked and taught at Baghdad’s Fine Arts Institute, where she was a professor until her retirement. Google said that Ms. Salim is credited with being one of the founders of Al-Ruwwad, also known as the ‘Avant Garde’ group, “a community of artists that study abroad and incorporate European art techniques into the Iraqi aesthetic”. Al-Ruwwad was also the pioneering group to go to Europe and bring back techniques to be assimilated into a uniquely Iraqi aesthetic. She also authored the book Salim Iraq: Contemporary Art in 1977, which is to date considered an essential resource to study the blooming of Iraq’s modern art movement.
Today’s doodle artwork, Google said, was “an ode to Salim’s painting style and a celebration of her long-standing contributions to the art world”. MS. Salim’s work is currently showcased at the Sharjah Art Museum and the Modern Art Iraqi Archive, where “one can see the magic she created from dripping brushes and brimmed canvases”.