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Google Doodle Pays Tribute to Painter and Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid

The Turkish artist’s brilliant, abstract canvases were the subject of a major Tate Modern retrospective in 2017

Works by Fahrelnissa Zeid, Tate Modern, London, 2017. Courtesy: Getty Images/Anadolu Agency; photograph: Ray Tang

Works by Fahrelnissa Zeid, Tate Modern, London, 2017. Courtesy: Getty Images/Anadolu Agency; photograph: Ray Tang

Works by Fahrelnissa Zeid, Tate Modern, London, 2017. Courtesy: Getty Images/Anadolu Agency; photograph: Ray Tang

Today’s Google Doodle (7 January 2019) marks the 118th birthday of the Turkish artist Fahrelnissa Zeid. The graphic placed on the Google homepage nods to Zeid’s 1948 work Resolved Problems: a kaleidocopic burst of red, yellow, purple and green shards.

The life of the painter and princess was surely one well lived: born to an aristocratic Ottoman family in 1901, Zeid became one of the first women to study fine arts in Istanbul. She later married into the Hashemite royal family, and participated in the Turkish radical art collective d Group.

Discussing her shift towards abstraction, Zeid once recounted the moment which changed her visual language: ‘I did not intend to become an abstract painter; I was a person working very conventionally with forms and values […] But flying by plane transformed me… The world is upside down. A whole city could be held in your hand: the world seen from above.’

Zeid’s journey from the late 1940s to her brilliant, abstract canvasses was the focus of a major Tate Modern retrospective in 2017. In the artist’s work, bodily forms gradually left the frame, as the artist submitted to a mass of intensely coloured, interlocking forms – owing as much to European abstraction as to the lattice patterns of traditional mashrabiya windows. Zeid passed away in 1991.

‘It seems extraordinary that an artist of such singular vision, who enjoyed significant success in her lifetime, should have been all-but-forgotten following her death in 1991,’ wrote Chloe Stead of Zeid in a 2017 frieze review. ‘Fortunately, as institutions begin seriously to address historical discrepancies in their collections, Zeid’s work – and that of other previously neglected female painters – is finally getting the attention it deserves.’

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