Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet, The Artist, The Man | State Library of New South Wales

Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet, The Artist, The Man

Introducing the works of Kahlil Gibran

This free exhibition features artworks from Gibran’s teens right up to the year before his death in 1931, including L’Automne (1909) which was selected for the famous Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts for its Spring salon in the Grand Palais in 1910, and the original watercolours used as illustrations in the first edition of The prophet. Other writings on display have been selected from Gibran’s personal collection at the Gibran Museum in Bsharri, North Lebanon.

The Man

Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931) was born Gibran Khalil Gibran in Bsharri, Lebanon (part of Ottoman-ruled Syria at that time). From an early age, Gibran felt compelled to draw and write. He wrote first in Arabic and later in English, eventually becoming regarded as a poet in Arabic and a philosopher in English. Gibran used art and literature as outlets for his restless artistic imagination, expressing his ideas in clear, simple words in order to appeal to as many people as possible.

The Artist

Gibran’s artistic skills transformed the trajectory of his life. Early on, he was influenced by Fred Holland Day’s philosophy of ‘art for art’s sake’, and with Day (1864–1933) as a mentor, Gibran reinvented himself as a fellow Romantic. The friendship and support — both emotional and financial — of Mary Elizabeth Haskell (1873–1964) enabled Gibran to develop his artistic interests. Gibran’s trip to Paris from July 1908 to October 1910 was a time of self-discovery; it really was the ‘city of light’ for the young man. On his return to America, Gibran pursued an artistic career. He had several exhibitions, most of which were received with lukewarm interest. By 1917 Gibran was becoming increasingly popular as a writer.

The Prophet

The prophet was Gibran’s third English-language book, and the twelfth of his 17 Arabic and English books published in his lifetime. It has not been out of print since it was first published in September 1923.

In conception, it was the first of a trilogy: The prophet was intended to cover man’s relationship to man, addressing the realities of human existence: birth, children, marriage, love, eating, work, pain and death. The second book, The garden of the prophet, was to address man’s relationship to nature; and the third, The death of the prophet, would focus on man’s relationship to the divine. Gibran was working on The garden of the prophet at the time of his death.

The prophet consists of 26 ‘counsels’. Gibran took many years over the book and considered it to be the most important of his works. 

From Bsharri to the State Library of NSW

Dr David Butcher, of Paris Art Consulting, traveled to Bsharri to condition report and oversee the packing of the 60 items currently on loan from the Gibran Museum for the exhibition Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet, The Artist, The Man.

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