M’hamed Issiakhem is one of the founders of the modern Algerian painting. Revered and honoured by his contemporaries and his country, his paintings pushed the boundaries of visual representation in Algeria while also influencing generations of Arab artists to come. In fact, his work and practice has been so appreciated across the world that Google made a doodle of the artist on what would have been his 90th birthday. We here at The Arab Edition have been fans of Issiakhem’s work for some time and wanted to share our favorite pieces by the Algerian painter along with a few facts about his life and achievements.
M’hamed Issiakhem spent most of his childhood in Relizane in Algeria. In 1943, after handling a grenade found at an American camp, the bomb exploded causing him severe injuries that lead to the amputation of his left arm. The accident also resulted in the death of his two sisters and nephew.
Issiakhem started his artistic training at the École des Beaux-Arts, Algiers, in 1948 where he studied fine art and miniature painting under the instruction of Eugène Bersier, Paul Nicolaï and Mohamed Racim. Then in 1951 he travelled to Paris, where he studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts until 1955. After graduating, he left France for Italy, West and East Germany, Spain, Yugoslavia, Belgium, USSR, and other locations, where he resided and worked until the Algerian independence in 1962.
Return to Algeria
Returning to Algeria, Issiakhem worked as a caricaturist for the daily Algerian publication Alger Républicain. He co-founded the Union Nationale des Arts Plastiques in 1963, and from 1964 to 1966 he was the director of the École des Beaux-Arts in Oran. In 1971, he was professor of graphic art at the École Polytechnique d’Architecture et d’Urbanisme, Algeria. From 1965 to 1982, he designed the imagery for Algerian bank notes and stamps.
Awards & Recognition
In 1973 Issiakhem received a gold medal at the International Fair, Algiers, for the work he created for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. In 1977, he completed a public commission for a fresco in Algiers Airport. In 1980, he received the first Lion D’Or of Rome from UNESCO for African Art. He died in 1985 after suffering from cancer.