Nazem Al Jaafari dedicated much of his life and work to the city of Damascus. Documenting people, activities, architecture and fashions, he sought to protect its history from modern construction through painting scenes and portraits using realistic techniques with elements of Impressionism. "I did not leave a small or large alleyway without drawing it [in] its minute details,” he explained. “I drew its churches and mosques, its domes, its markets, its houses, its rooms and its gates (...) I document and establish an archive that preserves it in the memory of generations."
Born in Damascus, Nazem Al Jaafari (1918–2015) graduated from the Department of Painting, Faculty of Fine Arts, Cairo in 1947, as part of a group of students that were sent to study in Egypt under the French Mandate. After he returned to Syria, he worked as an art teacher in local high schools and eventually at the Faculty for Fine Arts in Damascus.
Described as an obstinate figure, he spent much of his artistic life in semi-isolation, stemming from an incident in 1951, when the Ministry of Education awarded him a prize to be shared with another artist. His dismay with the artistic community for not acknowledging him fully lasted for the rest of his life.
Instead, he sought exhibition opportunities outside the country, showing his work in South America and Europe. In 2006, he was celebrated with a retrospective at the National Museum in Damascus and in parallel two publications were released about his life and work.
Al Jaafari is reported to have completed between 3,500–7,000 works, keeping most of them in his collection to donate to the Ministry of Culture for a museum in his name. Since his request was never answered, there were accounts that he sold a majority of his works to an unnamed Lebanese patron shortly before his death.