Feature

The artist who painted Assad

Artist Nader Haj Kadour is happy to have his life’s work destroyed.

Artist Nader Haj Kadour is happy to have his life’s work destroyed, says Raja Abdulrahim in the Los Angeles Times. The Syrian painter has spent the last four decades creating hundreds of portraits of President Bashar al-Assad and his father, the late President Hafez al-Assad—pictures that adorned walls, storefronts, and car windows all over Syria. “I wanted to paint landscapes or paint animals,” says Haj Kadour, “but the requests for the president’s portrait were constant.” The 66-year-old started his career during compulsory military service in his 20s, painting for soldiers who wanted to curry favor with Hafez al-Assad. “When they saw I was painting the president and making him look better than he looks and painting with emotion, they began coming to my army studio and requesting my work.” By the time Bashar succeeded his father in 2000, Haj Kadour was painting two dozen portraits a week. He couldn’t stop without being accused of being “against” the president. Since the uprising began in 2011, Haj Kadour has turned his talent against al-Assad, drawing caricatures for the rebel activists while they tear down and rip apart 40 years’ worth of his work. Opposition figures have personally apologized for the defacement, but Haj Kadour actively encourages it. “I told them, ‘You don’t have to get my permission; go destroy them.’”

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