Who is Etel Adnan? Lebanese artist and poet celebrated with Google Doodle

The esteemed creative has won numerous awards for her writing and art

The Lebanese-American artist and writer Etel Adnan was celebrated by Google. Illustration: Google
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Google has honoured the Lebanese-American poet, essayist and visual artist Etel Adnan with a Google Doodle.

The illustration depicts Adnan painting in a studio, surrounded by her work, piles of books, a bowl of fruit and a Lebanese flag. She is seen sitting in front of an open window with a picturesque mountain view, which could be her native Lebanon or California, where she moved in the 1950s.

Painted in bright and bold colours, the illustration takes inspiration from Adnan’s distinctive style.

Born in Beirut in 1925, Adnan grew up in Lebanon, moved to Paris aged 24, where she studied philosophy, before shifting base to the United States where she continued her graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley and at Harvard University. Adnan died in Paris in November 2021 at age 96.

Adnan began her career as a writer, but later shifted to visual arts, particularly abstract oil paintings. Her unique style is synonyms with bright colours, strong shapes and emotive compositions, used to convey the nuance and power of light and nature.

Her works were often created intuitively, with Adnan directly applying paint on to the canvas. Throughout her career, Adnan continued to write and also exhibited her work internationally.

Her writing comprises both prose and poetry exploring various themes, including exile, political, social and gender injustice. Adnan’s writing often played and experimented with form, focusing on surrealist imagery and metaphors.

Both her writing and art were honoured with a number of awards, including being named a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 2014. In 2003, the academic journal Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States described Adnan as “arguably the most celebrated and accomplished Arab-American author writing today”.

This year, the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture in Saudi Arabia, also known as Ithra, opened a retrospective exhibition of Adnan’s work titled Between East and West. The retrospective showcases 41 of Adnan’s works across a range of mediums and pieces from the start of her career in the 1950s to some her final works in 2021.

Two works by Adnan, California and Untitled, were among the most expensive works by an Arab artists sold at auction last year. Christie’s auction house sold California for $352,800 in May, while Untitled sold for $417,097 in October.

Updated: April 15, 2024, 1:25 PM