Arab Artist of the Month: Shakir Hassan Al Said

Expressionist Painting in Oil Pastels

‘The Articulate Cockerel’ by Shakir Hassan Al Said, Oil paint on canvas,60 x 44cm, 1954
Photo from Barjeel Art Foundation
Shakir Hassan Al Said’s painting ‘The Articulate Cockerel’ is featured at the Barjeel Art Foundation

Iraqi Artist Shakir Hassan Al Said
Photo from Mathaf Encyclopedia of Modern Art and the Arab World.

Iraqi artist Shakir Hassan Al Said (1925 – 2004) is recognized as one of the pioneers of modern art in Iraq. He taught Social Sciences before going abroad to study painting at the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad, and then went on to pursue his studies abroad in France.

On his return to Baghdad, he became an art educator in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Al Said co-founded the Baghdad Group of Modern Art (Jama’at Baghdad lil-Fann al-Hadith) in 1951 along with Jewad Selim, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra and the One Dimension Group (al-Bu’d al-Wahid) in 1971.

He was interested in Arabic letterism (al-hurufiyyah al-’arabiyyah) and the aesthetics of wear and tear that he displayed in his carefully textured wall paintings.

His early paintings display influences from European avant-garde movements such as expressionism and cubism, but also included Arabic-Islamic heritage and pop culture in his works. He mixed figurative and abstract elements, dividing them into grid-like patterns with different bright colors.

Source: Sonja Mejcher-Atassi, Shakir Hassan Al Said Biography, Mathaf Encyclopedia of Modern Art and the Arab World, 2020, <>

For this project, you will be using Al Said’s painting, ‘The Articulate Cockerel’ as a reference.

Take a look at the cockerel that he painted (print of the work is available in your Art Kit).

How accurately did he paint the cockerel? Are the parts of the cockerel that he didn’t include?

How did he use the colors?

It seems that Al Said was more interested in depicting the cockerel in its general form, without including too many details, and instead chose to express himself in many bright colors (expressionism).

You are required to reproduce Shakir Hassan Al Said’s beautiful artwork of the ‘The Articulate Cockerel’ by either using the template provided for you in your Art Kit to trace the cockerel, or by drawing your own.

You will be using oil pastels to complete your project instead of oil paints that the artist used.

This is an observational art project that aims at helping you to improve your skills in drawing what you see.

How accurately will you be able to mimic the colors that Al Said used in his artwork?

My own recreation of Shakir Hassan Al Said’s painting, “The Articulate Cockerel”

Materials you will use from your Art Kit:

  • A3 size Pastel Paper (off-white/beige color)
  • Oil Pastels Set
  • Pencil
  • Sharpener
  • Eraser
  • A3 size Cockerel outline template on tracing paper
  • A4 color print of Shakir Hassan Al Said’s original artwork

You will need to bring your own:

  • Table cover (for protection)
  • Paper towel


Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah features an extensive collection of modern Arab art. We encourage you to visit the foundation to see the featured artist’s work up close and personal!

Click here to find out more about Barjeel Art Foundation.


Published by Farah Nasrawi

A multi-hyphenate designer, an artist, a teacher