Zenobia/Palmyra, 1990

Elias Zayat
Zenobia/Palmyra, 1990
Oil on wood
40 x 33 cm
Installation view
Atassi Gallery Collection
Photo by Alfredo Rubio


Painter and icon restorer, Elias Zayat's art is influenced by religious and popular iconography. He began his artistic training at the age of 17 with the leading Syrian artist Michel Kurché. Zayat uses Christian and Byzantine iconography with a nod to Sufism to depict contemporary themes. He paints figurative forms with intense colours and wavering lines using oil and tempera.

Zayat is one of the founders of the Faculty of Fine Arts in Damascus, where he taught until his retirement. He has published several studies in the history of art, iconography and art criticism.

His works have been shown at several solo exhibitions, including After the Deluge, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (2015); Elias Zayat: Homage to Gibran, Four Seasons Hotel, Damascus (2010); Dance and the City, Atassi Gallery, Damascus (2002); Un Oiseau Sur Un Arbre, Al-Sayed Gallery, Damascus (1995); and Union of Bulgarian Artists Gallery, Sofia (1985). His group shows include Millennia of Creativity, Nabu Museum, Batroun, Lebanon (2018); Syria: A living History, Ismaili Center, Dubai (2017); Syrian Artists at the Week of Syrian Culture, Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London (2004); Modern Syrian Art, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris (2001); and Said Makhlouf and Elias Zayat, French Department, Damascus University (1969).

He has received several awards, including The Art and Literature Appreciation Award, Ministry of Culture and National Orientation, Syria (2013); Bronze Medal for Zabadani Valley, Moscow Youth Festival Award, Russia (1975); and First Award in ‘Student Art’ for Elm Trees in Ma'loula, University of Damascus (1954).

His works are part of the collections at Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation, Beirut; Nabu Museum, Heri, Lebanon; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; and National Museum of Damascus.

Zayat studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia between 1956 and 1960 and the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo. He also majored in art restoration at the Academy of Fine Arts and Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest (1974).

He was born in 1935 in Damascus, where he continues to live and work.

SAF participation:
Sharjah Biennial 10


Zayat, Elias

6 paintings

Figures intertwine, almost floating, while recurring images of faces recall Zayat’s other endeavour – conservator and restorer of orthodox icons.