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  • Writer's picturePaul G. Chandler

Baba’s Art School – 101: #15

Updated: Feb 14

“You can’t begin too soon to encourage an appreciation of art! And each artwork has a story.”

Baba showing his grandkids Boutros Al Maari s "Couple and a Dove"

“Take Hope, Hold Joy, Be Love”

“I love his red hat,” exclaimed my grandson, as this Baba showed him and his little sister this wonderful whimsical painting in our collection titled “Couple and a Dove” by Boutros Al Maari.


What a strange juxtaposition today is. It is Valentine’s Day of course. And for those of Christian tradition it is also Ash Wednesday. One is a celebration of love and joy, and the other a reminder of our mortality, and of all those who suffer and experience hardship.


Boutros Al Maari is a celebrated artist from Syria, raised in an historic Christian tradition. He is often referred to as the “Chagall of Syria” due to his artistic style. Born in 1968 in Damascus, Syria, he graduated with a PhD in Social Anthropology from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris in 2006, and a degree in Printmaking in 1991 from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Damascus University, where he worked as a Professor of Fine Arts. He is also a writer and illustrator of children’s books. His work has been exhibited throughout the Middle East and Europe, and acquired by the Ministry of Syrian Culture and Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, and sold at Christie’s.

He and his family left Syria in 2012 during the early days of Syria’s horrific civil war, which continues today, and has led to over 14 million Syrian refugees and up to 2 million people losing their lives. Al Maari now lives and works in Hamburg, Germany.


Al Maari’s paintings illustrate life’s paradox…that it is filled with both joy and pain. His paintings are often humorous evocations of life, usually with a nostalgic aspect to them, depicting the Orient. This is illustrated by the man in this painting wearing a tarbouche (often referred to as a fez), a felt hat in the shape of a truncated cone, red in color, with a tassel on top. The fez was the traditional head wear throughout the Middle East and North Africa during the Ottoman Empire, which ended in 1923.

Boutros Al Maari, "Couple and a Dove,” 2016, Acrylic on canvas, 18x40 cm

Al Maari became known first for his colorist art with bright tones. However, after experiencing the horrors of civil war in his beloved Syria, his paintings started to turn black, both in their tones and themes. “Human pain is the same, every­where and forever,” says Al Maari. And his black paintings began to depict tragic and painful scenes from the pre­sent day, while his col­ored paint­ings portray idyllic days from the past.

Boutros Al Maari, Wâ Habîbati, 2018, Triptych. Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 245 cm. © Boutros Al Maari.

This imaginative painting by Al Maari, "Couple and a Dove," at its deepest level, captures the paradox of today’s celebrations – that life is a mixture joy and woe. Al Maari’s paintings remind me of those inspiring words of another artist-poet from what was known as greater Syria in the early 20th century, Kahlil Gibran:


“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”


Al Maari’s distinctive paintings, while profoundly capturing an understanding of life’s juxtaposition of happiness and hardship, are essentially about hope.” Through the depiction in this painting of the “holy dove” with an olive branch in its mouth, Al Maari is reminding us that Divine hope is our constant companion, regardless of what life presents us.


On this Valentine’s Day, let us be inspired by Boutros Al Maari and “Take Hope, Hold Joy, Be Love.”

Boutros Al Maari

For more information about Boutros Al Maari:


Facebook: boutros.almaari

Instagram: boutros.almaari

Galerie Claude Lemand:


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