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A Greater Beauty: The Drawings of Kahlil Gibran

A Greater Beauty: The Drawings of Kahlil Gibran features over one hundred drawings by the prolific Lebanese-American artist, poet and essayist, and coincides with the 100th anniversary of Gibran’s world-renowned publication The Prophet. Though best known for his poetry and prose, Gibran viewed himself equally as a visual artist, producing paintings, watercolors, sketches, illustrations, book covers, and other material as a complement to his written work. A Greater Beauty presents an overview of Gibran’s drawings and sketches alongside manuscript pages, notebooks, correspondence, magazine illustrations and essays, and first editions, providing a glimpse into the artist’s production in the context of his work as a whole.

In his writing, Gibran broke with the rigid conventions of traditional Arabic poetry and literary prose, and his non-sectarian approach, which combined elements of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Jungian psychology, was a revelation to Arabic-speaking and immigrant communities in the United States. Gibran took a similar approach in his subject matter, practicing an idiosyncratic fusion of symbolist pantheism and spiritual mysticism to create a uniquely egalitarian, universalist aesthetic that appealed to a broad, international audience. Although Gibran’s English-language writing is poetic in tone and, in contrast to his earlier writing in Arabic, not overtly political, his philosophy was guided by a deep opposition to Ottoman rule and his support of a Syrian brother and sister-hood beyond national borders. He called for freedom of spirit as the basis for political and material freedom and, along with his Arab Romantic cohort in New York, mobilized his own diasporic identity as a kind of rebellion.

A Greater Beauty: The Drawings of Kahlil Gibran is organized by Claire Gilman, Chief Curator, with Isabella Kapur, Curatorial Associate, and Anneka Lenssen, Associate Professor of Global Modern Art, University of California, Berkeley.

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