Portraiture as a search for the Man, by Ethel Adnan
Portraiture as a search for the Man:
Extracts from an article The Uncontested Master of Nature (Le Maître incontesté de la nature), by Ethel Adnan.
In the work of George Corm there is an overriding number of portraits. It is certain that most of these were done on order; the artist was always faithful to his subjects, for when these were superficial people he produced works that were essentially worldly, not without beauty, well executed, but of no great interest. However, his artistic instinct came fully to the fore when he was confronted with outstanding personalities, in whom he found his proper measure. It is a remarkable fact that his best portraits are not only those of kings, princesses and poets but also ones of simple people, peasants, Egyptian fellaheen. These representatives of the common people have an aristocracy about them similar to that of the artist, for their worth comes not from money or social position but from a kind of human nature that is fully exposed. The young Lebanese artist, exiled and in this sense also exposed, finds himself among these beings who are proud, with a strong look in their eyes full of fire, beings whom he pursues with his pastels and his colours.
I shall go further and state that in the art of portraiture Georges Corm found an absolute liberty. In front of the human faces, the absence of national tradition in painting has no more play. The human subject overwhelms by his presence any alienation that the painter might feel about his historical situation in relation to Art. He has no reason anymore to wonder what school he should follow; at least, if he does ask himself any questions, they matter little.
When doing the portrait of Abdul Aziz Ibn el Saoud, his chief concern was to give this person and his history their immediate and present greatness. The same holds true for the others. Faced with these men and women seated before him, he hastened to seize the life in them with an urgency to counter that anxiety that a Lebanese artist could not fail to feel when thinking of his Parisian comrades who could come with the aura of celebrated museums and of famous traditions. These long years of labour were, therefore, years of liberation.
Georges Corm was a humanist and he said so in his Essay on the Art and Civilisation of the Present Time (Essai sur l’Art et la Civilisation de ce temps). For him, painting a portrait was a more important study, at least at the beginning of his career, than doing a landscape because in the hierarchy of beings man is at the summit. – certainly, a Christian point of view coming from this son of the mountains of Lebanon. He must have felt the nobility of his office when he was painting Khalil Moutran or the famous Madame C H.