Etel Adnan: Feeling the World Through Art & Writing

On this day in 2014, Etel Adnan released her book of poetry, Premonition. It explores the central idea that the intersection of life and art is the only sure thing in a world propelled by human unpredictability.

Premonition is a short, 64 page novel. During her career, which spanned over 50 years, Etel wrote in English, Arabic and French. Beyond the path she has taken as a writer, Etel is a prolific artist who has had nearly 30 exhibitions in the past decade before her death in 2021 at age 96.

Etel was born in Lebanon and studied in both France and America. She lectured at universities, taught philosophy classes and ultimately pursued journalism when she worked for a French newspaper in her hometown of Beirut, Lebanon, focusing on the cultural and political.

Her art had many different influences, from Iraqi and Palestinian Hurufiyya artists to Japanese leporellos. Etel’s first works were abstract and vibrant. She would apply oil paint liberally to canvases, as she was interested in the “immediate beauty of color.” Her paintings have been included in “Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction,” hosted by MoMA where she was featured among other prominent women in art. 

Last year, the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan held an Etel Adnan exhibition titled Light’s New Measure. In an article by Isabella Marie Garcia for FF2, Isa wrote, “The exhibition spanned the first and second levels of the building’s famous rotunda (along with a sixth level featuring video presentations). Etel Adnan was famed and recognized for being a long-renowned literary figure in the Arab writing community. Now, her name is posthumously gaining global awareness across the entire world.”

Isa described the exhibition by sharing that, “The most-captured feeling emanating from the work was one of saudade: a deep emotional state of longing for what one loves but is absent from one’s life. Whether yearning for Mount Tamalpais in Northern California (that she could no longer visit in her elder age) or a melancholic realization about the future of Mother Earth, Etel strove to express this intense and often painful desire for beauty. The gem-like works are stronger in pairs and groups, peaking to express the heart of a woman who felt the world around her all too deeply.” 

When Etel passed away last November, Isabella Marie wrote another article celebrating the painter and poet’s life. She commented on Etel’s final book, Shifting the Silence, writing, “multi-disciplinary artist Etel Adnan declares: ‘I am not in a hurry to live, I am not in a hurry to die; I am just talking to you.’ The stream of consciousness that flows throughout the intimate prose of the publication is one that collapses together the looming uncertainty of death with the calm simplicity of living the everyday. Etel Adnan would pass away at the age of 96 last week, on a plain Parisian Monday, the news revealed to the world by her longtime partner Simone Fattal. She leaves a passionate career in her wake, a life that meshed together politically-forward journalism with free-thinking poetry and later on, the interdisciplinary commingling of visual art in the form of paintings, leporellos, and tapestries.”

Rest in peace, Etel Adnan. 

© Anna Nappi (3/5/22) Special for FF2 Media.


Read Isa’s review of the Etal Adnan exhibit at the Guggenheim.

Read Isa’s posthumous tribute to Etal Adnan here.


Featured Photo: Isabella Marie Garcia (“Isa”) at the Etal Adnan exhibit at the Guggenheim. Photo Credit: Jan Lisa Huttner (10/14/21) Authorized for responsible use as long as this URL is included in credits.

Bottom Photo: “Etel Adnan” by gufm is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0. To view the terms, visit

Tags: Anna Nappi, Etel Adnan, Etel Adnan's: Light New Measure, Isabella Marie Garcia, premonition

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Anna is currently a senior at Brandeis University studying Film, Journalism, and Psychology. At Brandeis, she writes for the student newspaper and is the undergraduate degree representative of the Journalism program. From theaters to museums to concert halls, she loves exploring the art world in Boston as well as in her Maine hometown. Anna is passionate about FF2’s mission and excited for the opportunity to work alongside a wonderful team dedicated to supporting women artists.
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