Kings and commoners
Now Zad Jabbour is concentrating on Wellington in a new exhibition of his realism style oils at Cuba Street’s Kiwi Art House Gallery.
Jabbour was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1943, the son of a well known artist. He learnt to paint when young as an apprentice to his father, the pair travelling the Middle East repairing church frescos and painting church murals. Jabbour continued his art education studying in France before returning to Lebanon where he established an art school and art gallery while teaching Byzantine iconography at a Lebanese University. However things changed with the outbreak of civil war. After a bomb exploded outside his studio he decided to take his wife and son and leave.
“The war ruined everything for us,” he says. “We just had to get out of Lebanon, and quickly.”
Jabbour went to Abu Dhabi where his portrait painting skills were in demand by the royal family. He became resident artist at the Al Mushref Palace painting murals for the palace and portraits of the family of Abu Dhabi’s ruler and first President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
“I painted 24 portraits of the royal family, the largest, two metres by a metre in size, of Sheikh Zayed himself. I had to use photographs because they don’t give you the chance to actually meet members of the royal family.”
Since moving to New Zealand with his family in 2006 Jabbour’s art has taken a new direction. His style is still realism, but he now concentrates on painting people in their daily lives. His Wellington exhibition includes portraits of Wellington artists as well as paintings of scenes captured in the city’s cafes.
“As a painter I’m only now starting to find my way here, but we’re really fortunate to be living in such a peaceful country as New Zealand.”