Jibran Khalil Jibran

Jibran Khalil Jibran

Untitled (Rose Sleeves), 1911, oil on canvas. Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia.

Emma Maloof

Emma Maloof

Hostess gown design, featured in a General Electric radio phonograph advertisement. Better Homes and Gardens, Vol. 26 Iss. 1, September 1947. ProQuest.

Marie Azeez El-Khoury

Marie Azeez El-Khoury

Mary Nash Wearing Marie Azeez El-Khoury Jewelry, 1923. Vogue, photographed by Edward Steichen.

Assad T. Ghosn

Assad T. Ghosn

“Untitled Portrait of Three Women.” c. 1940. Courtesy private collection.

In the process of development, however, it (art) must necessarily undergo certain changes in form and technique, even in spirit...The change must, therefore, be in the native expression, as well as in the material for assimilation.

– Ameen Rihani, “The Syrian in American Art,” The Syrian World, November 1930. Khayrallah Center Archive.

Photograph of writer Ameen Rihani in Cairo, Egypt
Portrait of Syrian newspaper owner Naoum Mokarzel by painter Assad Ghosn

Assad Ghosn, Portrait of Naoum Mokarzel, c. 1904-1941.

Courtesy private collection.


Amid the flourishing Arab American cultural life in the early twentieth century, amateur and professional artists, art dealers, critics, and businesses-turned-galleries formed an innovative creative hub that spanned the country.

At the core of this vibrant network was Arab American visual and material culture. Both within and outside the United States, artists’ works were an amalgamation of diasporic experience; a reflection of the many traditions, locations, and styles they engaged with at home (including Arab art) and throughout their journeys. 

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Jibran Khalil Jibran

"I am painting, or I am learning to paint. It will take me a long time to paint as

I want to, but it is beautiful to feel the growth of one’s own vision of things.”

–  Jibran Khalil Jibran writing to Mary Haskell, Oct. 2, 1908

As the pioneer of Arab American art, Jibran Khalil Jibran’s artistic genius was first realized at the early age of twelve by educators and prominent local artists. By 1904, he had his first major exhibit in Boston, displaying his realism-infused sketches and drawings. On July 1, 1908, under the sponsorship of Mary Haskell, Jibran travelled to Paris to study oil painting at the Académie Julian in Paris, where he exhibited his famed painting, The Autumn (1910), at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1910. He exhibited multiple paintings at the Union Internationale des Beaux-Arts later that same year.

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Self-portrait by artist Jibran Khalil Jibran

Jibran Khalil Jibran, Self-Portrait, oil on Masonite, c. 1911. Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia.


Selections of Jibran's Artworks

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Marie Azeez El-Khoury

Marie Azeez El-Khoury, also known as “The Mother of Emeralds,” was an internationally renowned jewelry designer, art collector, member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Board, and freelance writer living and working in Manhattan. Her unique and eye-catching gem designs were widely sought after and were featured in Vogue, The New Yorker, The Christian Science Monitor, Harper’s Bazaar, and other notable magazines. Her pieces were worn by high profile women, including ballet dancer Désirée Lubovska, Portia Grafton, and actresses Alice Brady and Mary Nash.

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Newspaper photograph of jeweler Marie Azeez El-Khoury

Marie Azeez El-Khoury, Daily News, New York, August 21, 1938.


Selections of El-Khoury's Work

Click on image for more details. Scroll using left or right white arrows to see more designs.

Portrait of painter Assad Ghosn and his wife Sadie Gorayib seated at a table

Assad Ghosn

Early twentieth century portrait artist Assad T. Ghosn journeyed from Greater Syria in 1891 to study oil painting at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma in Rome, Italy. Upon his emigration to the U.S. in 1904, Ghosn opened a studio in Brooklyn before settling in Richmond, Virginia, specializing in oil paint portraits from both life studies and photographs. Over the course of his career, Ghosn was commissioned by state representatives, corporations, churches, and both prominent and community families on account of his painterly skill in realism and individual identity. He exhibited his many landscape and still-life paintings, portraits, and Oriental genre scenes in Italy, New York City, and at the Corcoran Galleries in Washington, D.C.


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Portrait of Assad Ghosn and his wife, Sadie Gorayib, no date. Courtesy private collection.


Selections of Ghosn's Artworks

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Color a Ghosn Painting

  1. Select the color from the palette on the left by clicking on a swatch.

  2. Click a space in the painting to fill it with that color.

  3. Download your masterpiece when you finish!

  4. Depending on your internet connection, the interactive may take a few seconds to load.

  5. To scroll past the interactive, hold your mouse to the side.

Nicholas S. Macsoud

Nicholas Saleem Macsoud (March 7, 1884 - July, 1972, Zahlé, Lebanon) was a notable painter who established himself in Brooklyn, New York. Macsoud, who emigrated to New York in 1899, studied art at the National Academy of Design in New York and is known for his landscapes and skill as a miniaturist. Throughout his career, Macsoud was treasurer of the Brooklyn Society of Artists, president of the Brooklyn Society of Miniature Paintings, and was elected to the Salmagundi Club.

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Newspaper photograph of painter Nicholas Macsoud and officers of the Brooklyn Society of Artists

Nicholas Macsoud, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 6, 1918.


Selections of Macsoud's Artworks

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Advertisement for lingerie designer Emma Maloof’s New York City clothing store

Emma Maloof

Though little in the archival record illuminates the details of her personal life, Emma Maloof’s distinction as a fashion designer is apparent throughout early women’s magazines and newspaper journals. Born in 1892 in Zahlé, modern-day Lebanon, Maloof’s educated, middle-class family emigrated to New York in 1894. Among her siblings was brother Alexander Maloof, the prominent musician and conductor. According to immigration records, her mother, Hanna, made a living to support the family doing “fancy needlework.” Exposure to the industry and having some access to the necessary capital to start a business could be reasons for Maloof’s entrance and prominence into the fashion industry.

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Advertisement for bridal nylon tricot négligée and matching nightgown designed by Emma Maloof. Harper’s Bazaar, Vol. 85 Iss. 2886, May 1952.


Selections of Maloof's work

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Ameen Rihani

Ameen Rihani, who was a prominent Lebanese American intellectual, writer, and orator, was also a celebrated sketch artist and art critic. As a member of literary clubs and societies in New York, Rihani was surrounded by artists from across the globe, which may have inspired his own artistic pursuits. In 1915, Rihani met Bertha Case, an American artist whom he would later marry and through whom he was exposed to the European artistic influence of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Paul Cézanne.



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Portrait sketch of writer Ameen Rihani

Portrait of Ameen Rihani by S.J. Woolf, 1920. Ameen Fares Rihani Collection, Khayrallah Center Archive.


Selections of Rihani's Artworks

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Newspaper photograph of painter Esau Halow

Esau J. Halow

Esau Joseph Halow (c. 1892-1935) was a prominent painter who emigrated with his family to the United States from Tripoli circa 1899. Initially arriving in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Halow and his family later settled slightly east in Altoona, Pennsylvania where he attended public school, graduating from high school in 1916. After graduating, Halow worked briefly as a rug merchant, as his father had, and then buying and selling artworks. On July 28, 1918, Halow was sent to Fort Jackson for basic training in Columbia, South Carolina, where he worked as a painter in the camouflage department. After his service ended later that year, Halow moved to Philadelphia, then soon found his way to New York in the early 1920s where he studied art.


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Esau Halow, April 18, 1935. Ameen Fares Rihani Collection, Khayrallah Center Archive.


Selections of Halow's Artworks

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Arab American Women Artists

The present-day collection of mahjari objects reveals the frequent exclusion of women’s art within the archives and highlights their marginalization within the art world. While Marie Azeez El-Khoury and Emma A. Maloof prove to be exceptions, newspapers and magazine articles reveal fragments of the contributions made by Arab American women artists. For example, Missouri artist R.D. Zammer traveled nationally with the American Red Cross speaking of her humanitarian work and selling her artwork at local Elks Lodges to raise funds for the organization. Comparably, artist Amelia Johns, who was selected to design commercial posters for the Egyptian film Wedad (1936) American tour in 1938, was celebrated for her artistic talent in her hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, but is virtually absent from the mainstream contemporary canon.

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Art poster for Egyptian film Wedad (1936) and accompanying photograph of the poster’s artist Amelia Johns

Movie poster for the Egyptian film Wedad (1936), starring Umm Kulthum. Designed by Amelia Johns, c. 1938. Wikimedia Commons and The Syrian Lebonite Voice c. 1938. Courtesy of the Southern Federation of Syrian Lebanese American Clubs.

Article The Syrian in American Art by writer Ameen Rihani and reproduction of painter Nicholas Macsoud's The Holy Sepulchre

Ameen Rihani, “The Syrian in American Art,” The Syrian World, November 1930 and Nicholas Macsoud’s The Holy Sepulchre--Jerusalem featured on the cover of The Literary Digest, April 7, 1928.

Art Criticism

One of the most prominent voices on Arab American art was Ameen Rihani. In addition to literature, Rihani published extensively on artists, various styles, and artworks from across the world. His critiques, which were published in The Syrian World as well as fine art magazines The International Studio and The Print Connoisseur, were published from the 1910s through the 1930s. Some of the artists he wrote about included Paul Dougherty (1877-1947), Edward Adam Kramer (1866-1941), Frederick Garrison Hall (1879-1946), William Oberhardt (1882-1958), Anders Zorn (1860-1920), William Simmons (1884-1948), Jonas Lie (1880-1940), and Esau Halow (1892-1935).


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Exhibition Spaces

The turn of the twentieth century proved to be a period of transition for Arab American artists leaving behind vibrant art scenes to emigrate to the United States. Wanting to establish the validity and artistic value of their fine art, artists turned to their newly formed communities for support in exhibiting and promoting their artwork. Answering their call, restaurants, hotels, clothing stores, local shops, and small town galleries opened up their vacant windows and wall space for public display. For instance, Brooklyn-based artist Elias Howat exhibited his oil painting of famous Syrian operatic soprano Mme M. Kalzoom at the Lebanon Restaurant located on Washington St. in “Little Syria,” Manhattan. J. Sheber Shaddy took to the large display windows of the F.H. Rogers clothing store in Barre, Vermont to hang his Roman-inspired painting where “the attention of more than one passerby has been arrested by its presence in the window.”

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The outside of a Lebanese restaurant in New York’s Little Syria that displayed paintings by Lebanese artists in the 1920s

Berenice Abbott, Exterior of Washington Street Lebanese restaurant, 1928, which displayed paintings by Lebanese artists in New York City. Metropolitan Museum of Art.





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