About the artist
Ismail Shammout was born in 1930 in Lydda – Palestine. During the Nakba of 1948, he and his family were forced out of their home during the assault of Jewish Zionist militant groups on their town. A long march on foot allowed them to settle in the refugee camps of Khan Younis in Gaza where he lived under very harsh conditions. In 1950 he managed to travel to Cairo to study arts from where he later earned a scholarship to study fine arts at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome. After he finished his studies, he moved to Beirut in 1959 where he married his fellow arts student from Cairo, the Palestinian artist Tamim El-Akhal (born 1935). Both lived and worked in Beirut until 1983 then moved to Kuwait, then to Germany and finally to Amman in 1994. Shammout died on July 3 rd 2006.
Shammout, who himself experienced expulsion and refuge and accompanied later the birth of the Palestinian Revolution in the 1960s, became since the very early days of his professional live along with his partner Tamam El-Akhal the “artistic face” of the Palestinian Freedom Struggle. He has been long recognized as Palestine’s leading modernist painter. His experience of dispossession and the memories of beloved Palestine, the dreams of return as well as the dignity and pride of his people formed the soul of his entire art. The simplicity of the themes and his outstanding artistic skills let his works enjoy a widely spread popularity which significantly shaped modern Palestinian Art.
His very first exhibition took place in Gaza in 1953, where he exhibited his iconic masterpiece “Where To?”. Since then, his works have been exhibited at various locations throughout the world, including renowned museums and art exhibition halls in Europe and the Middle East.
At an exhibition in Cairo, 1945 with the Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser (left) and Ismail Shammout (right).