To Discover Beauty: The Art of Kahlil Gibran

Kahil Gibran Painting

Selections from the Collection of the Telfair Museum of Art

“One of my dearest dreams is this – somewhere, a body of work, say fifty or seventy-five pictures will be hung together in a large city, where people would see and perhaps love them.” - Kahlil Gibran

Best known for literary works including The Prophet and Sand and Foam, Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) was also an accomplished visual artist.  Born in Besharri, Lebanon, Gibran immigrated with his family to Boston’s South End in 1895.  During his teenage years, Gibran’s introduction to publisher and photographer Fred Holland Day proved to be influential.  Day exposed Gibran to the art of the pre-Raphaelites and the Aesthetes, as well as to contemporary literary movements.  This early exposure had a lasting affect on Gibran, and it would shape his creative works throughout his life.  In fact, it was during Gibran’s first public exhibition in Fred Holland Day’s studio that he met Mary Haskell, the woman who would become his most ardent supporter.  

Gibran’s work incorporates components of two major late 19th-century art movements: Aestheticism and Symbolism.  Like the Symbolists, Gibran strove to relay personal, often deeply spiritual feelings in visual form.  Similar to the Aesthetes, he sought beauty and poetry in all things as an antidote for the rampant materialism of the world around him.  Gibran’s quest for humanity’s eternal and undeniable truths is a consistent theme linking his literature and artwork.   Significantly, Gibran’s artwork, including paintings and drawings, has been incorporated into his collection of literary work.  

In his art, Gibran utilized classic, idealized human figures, often nude, to express universal themes.  Suggesting a link between the physical and spiritual realms, his otherworldly figures seem to float in mid air, free of material bonds.  The spiritual nature of Gibran’s figures is suggested through his use of soft, muted, and sometimes blurred outlines around them.

The Telfair’s collection of over eighty Gibran works was donated by Mary Haskell.  Due to her generosity, the Telfair boasts the largest public collection of paintings by Gibran in North America. 

Works on loan from the Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia. Sponsored by the Wallace Foundation.

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