One of the pioneering artists after the independence movement, Naim Ismail was known for his abstract style, geometric motifs and depiction of daily life that often combined Islamic influences and symbolic forms.
Born in Antioch, Naim Ismail (1930–1979) moved south during Syria’s annexation by Turkey in 1939 with his family and three brothers Adham, Sidqi and Aziz, all of whom became prominent artists and thinkers later in life. After receiving formal art training in Istanbul and Rome, Ismail settled in Damascus to work as an artistic director for publications. In the 1970s, he was appointed the Director of Fine Arts in the Ministry of Culture until his death in 1979.
Ismail was concerned with creating work that was both visually aesthetic and able to express socio-political issues. His paintings combined narrative scenes and symbols which often conveyed messages, like unity, struggle, birth and blessings. A prolific producer, Ismail created hundreds of pen drawings, paintings, frescoes, mosaics, publication covers and advertisements. His public works include the main façade of the trade union building in Damascus and the front of the Euphrates Dam in Tabqa. During his life and posthumously, his work has been exhibited and acquired by private and public collections such as the Barjeel Art Foundation.