1911 – 1975
Born in Dbayeh in 1911 and a barber by trade, Khalil Zgheib started out as a self-taught painter, holding a number of exhibitions in Lebanon and abroad and obtaining several awards including the first prize for painting at the Sursock Museum's 1967 Salon d'Automne.
Khalil Zgaib was born in Dbayeh, on the outskirts of Beirut. A barber by trade, he was totally self-taught and started painting in 1954. In 1955, he held an individual exhibition at AUB. He participated in the Salons of the Sursock Museum, Beirut (1961, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1974); in a group exhibition at Galleria La Braccia, Rome (1962) and at Delta Gallery, Beirut. In 1956, he won a prize from the Ministry of National Education in Beirut and in 1968, he was awarded the Sursock Museum's First Prize for Painting.
The artist was shot by a sniper at his house during the war in Beirut. In 1982, the Sursock Museum paid tribute to Zgaib along with other artists who had died since 1975.
Naif painter in the highest sense of the word, he is the observer and narrator of the popular customs and traditions of his country bringing back to life an imaginary world full of nostalgia - nostalgia for his village, for the paradise of childhood, his earthly paradise, the Garden of Eden. In an endeavour to maintain the close link between the space and time of his inspiration, he fixes in his canvas specific moments; he tells of unforgettable events in all their most anecdotal detail - feast days, weddings, the harvest-time-in order to let us share his happiness, his dazzled feeling for the world.
When he paints trees or flowers, he constructs for himself a microcosm, a replica of the universe; and those same trees and flowers become its mainstay, its axis, the central turning-point…
From the bottom of his heart, without any pretension but rather with a great deal of sincerity, Khalil Zgheib translates his inner reality into painting that is almost as precise as drawing, a meticulous application of pure bright colours that are chosen, without the least blending, for their harmony alone, in order to give the greatest effect of purity and intensity.