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Jordanian artist Mohanna Durra dies aged 83: ‘More than a painter’

Jordanian painter Mohanna Durra has died. He was 83.

“More than a painter, he was a monument to culture in our country and in the region,” wrote Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan on Twitter. “We all learned so much from you Mohanna, we will always be grateful that you were in our lives.”

Durra was a pioneering figure in Arab art, being one of the first to introduce Abstract and Cubist styles to the scene in Jordan. He was also an educator, establishing the Jordan Institute of Fine Arts in 1970 and opening an art studio for students in his home country.

His works are filled with movement and light, with overlapping planes of colour and abstract form that emphasise dynamism and depth to his compositions.

The Jordan Media Institute also shared a post mourning the death of Durra, whom they described as one of the Institute’s biggest supporters.

Born in Amman in 1938, Durra had a Lebanese father and Turkish mother. His father, upon seeing his son’s talent for drawing, encouraged him to study art with George Allief. Through his training with the Russian artist, the young Durra learned watercolour, drawing and painting.

He also trained under William Hallowin in Amman, gleaning Dutch painting techniques for the best use of light on canvas.

From 1954 to 1958, Durra studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. In this respect, he was also a pioneer, being one of the first Jordanian artists to receive a formal art education.

He then spent time in Rome as a diplomat with a post at the Jordanian embassy. During this time, he also further developed his Abstract and Cubist style. He eventually returned to Amman to teach and continue his practice.

His work has been exhibited around the world, including at the 43rd Venice Biennale in 1988.

The cause of Durra’s death has not yet been announced.

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