Kahlil Gibran’s artistic expression took two distinct and seemingly unrelated paths as he produced in parallel numerous symbolist paintings and a series of portraitures. The former survived in the illustrations of his seminal book The Prophet and a sundry of other publications, while Gibran’s portraiture works have remained relatively unknown.
In his lifetime however, Gibran was considered a talented portraitist to the elite of the cultural and social establishment. His subjects included Debussy, Rodin, W B Yeats, John Masefield, Siegfried Sassoon, Laurence Housman, Sarah Bernhardt and many other characters that populated the early part of the 20th Century, and as such, this collection of portraits is a visual record of the cultural life of that period.
Portraiture had always been Gibran’s medium for connecting with people. It featured prominently in his courtship with the poet Josephine Preston Peabody and Emilie Michel, in his attempted courtship with the writer Charlotte Teller and the actress Marie Moro, in his expression of love towards Mary Haskell, and in his expressions of gratitude towards various benefactors, long before it became an artistic project.
The present work is the first systematic endeavor to assemble and assess this body of work that occupied Gibran from his early apprenticeship in Paris until the late stages of his life.