Marie Hadad

Article by William MATAR

Article by William MATAR

Marie Hadad was born at Mekkine in Lebanon in 1889 and distinguished herself on the Lebanese cultural scene particularly during the nineteen-thirties and ‘forties, passing away finally on New Year’s day, 1973. After having published a collection of stories, Les Heures libanaises, for she was of French education, she exhibited in Paris at the George Bernheim Gallery in 1933 and at the Rotgé Gallery in May and June of 1937. In 1939 she exhibited at New York International Fair and at the International Exposition of Cleveland. She had a direct method of painting while looking for specific identity and forms, not however without attention to detail. She went directly to the motif in her Lebanese paintings, expressing what was around her. Perhaps they were influenced by what the French public expected of Lebanese painting, but this was counterbalanced by her sincerity. Both her writing and her painting showed a reality truly experienced without intervening psychology.

Her strong, massive structure leaves no room for smoothness in her representational technique applied to all her subjects. So folklore and anecdote vanish from her canvases of landscapes and Bedouins. Farroukh also avoided anecdote, approaching the same subjects in a similar way but with reference to the background of Lebanese painting. Those were the times of the French Mandate when one had to give a picture of oneself to those present in the country who imposed their own image.

Marie Haddad was one of a number of women taught by Kober during the ‘thirties who applied astonishing force to an understanding of reality, and intellectually she was as important as Farroukh, Onsi and Gemayel. But during the ‘forties her promotion of the Dahesh sect by translating into French the works of its founder, who had been deprived of his Lebanese nationality, led this sister of Michel Chiha to publicly oppose President Bechara el-Khoury. She evidently found in Dahesh a contrast with her brother, a figure in the cultural and political life of Lebanon, while her husband was a convinced disciple of the sect.

Many of the writings, documents, and pictures of Marie Haddad were deposited in New York after her death. While representing in Paris during the nineteen-thirties her country under French mandate, she was not tied down, thanks to the ability and her connection with the social structure of the time. She wanted to go further, seeing how void was Beirut society before the magic of Dahesh.

Was she looking for some truth behind the illusion? She had a truth of her own to bring against this society of illusion, so she brought Dahesh to Bechara el-Khoury to ease his nervous depression, and he tried also to help Michel Chiha. Only the diary of Marie Haddad and an in-depth biography might lead to an understanding of her relationship with Lebanese society.