The Epic of Gilgamesh collection » Tarik Shareef
Director of Fine Arts, the Ministry of Culture

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a vast poem which comes from the Library of Ashurbanipal of Nineveh and dates from the 7th century B.C. it comprises twelve cantos of about three hundred verses each. The poem, however, is much more ancient, for a Babylonian fragment of it, which dates back to the beginning of the second millennium, has been preserved.

The hero of the poem-Gilgamesh –does not seem to have been purely imaginary.
It is generally agreed that he was a king of the land of Sumer. He reigned in the third millennium over the city of Uruk or Erech, probably succeeding king Dumuzi. Among the chiefs small Sumerian towns, Gilgamesh doubtless distinguished himself for his courage and the success of his enterprises. As happened in similar cases, a legend developed about him and he became the central figure in a series of marvelous adventures

Which from the subject matter of the poem.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is divided into three main parts. The first part depicts the heroic adventures of Gilgamesh and his companion, Enkido; the second part tells the story of the great flood, while the third part centers around death and the under-world.

This Epic deserves the prestige surrounding it in world literature, for it predates the Homeric Epics by more than 1500 years, and due to the type of story it tells, which is a mixture of adventure, tragedy and morals. The Epic of Gilgamesh is also considered a unique piece of Babylonian literature because of its humane significance, since humans-not gods-are positioned at the center-stage of the Epic. Moreover, not only is Gilgamesh the first "human" hero, but is also the first to show fear of the future and to try to avoid death, which is considered the be-all and end-all.

The tragic end of the Epic disappointed Gilgamesh and mankind, for gods had kept immortality for themselves. Man had to learn from the Epic to accept death as a fact, to work hard for the benefit of mankind, and to abandon the quest for immortality and submit to fate.

Walid Izzat voyage with the Epic of Gilgamesh
Perhaps it was his reading of the Epic Gilgamesh that caused Walid Izzat to proceed along the path of renewal. Until then, his paintings were realistic and impressionistic. He became acquainted with natural scenes, which reflected the variation of nature itself. He had also drawn portraits, which characterized by beauty and sensitivity. As a result, Walid Izzat felt that he had exhausted realistic subjects, and so he went on searching for new topics that lended themselves to the further development of his art. He found in the characters of The Epic of Gilgamesh the material he had been looking for. The Epic itself had influenced him to the same great axtent that it had influenced researchers who had studied it.

By reviewing the of the Epic of Gilgamesh, one can follow the Sumerian and Babylonian myths that had influenced the artist. Walid Izzat started with the story of creation as described by the Sumerian myths. He pictured Enlille, the god of wind, separating sky from earth "in order to create every useful thing" (painting no. 1), and the ship of heavens that carried Ennana, the spread benevolence and fertility (paintings 2 and 3). He portrayed Demoozi, the god that accepts death every year "so that there would be spring, and so that there would be greenery" (painting 4), and stood by a S umerian poet who was in pain of despair and sickness, imploring his creator and asking him to intervene for his sake (painting 5).

Walid Izzat portrayed the magnificent Epic of Gilgamesh starting with the hero Gilgamesh with the city of Aurrok in the background (painting 6), and accompanied Gilgamesh and Enkido in their adventures and close friendship (paintings 7-9).
He languished with Gilgamesh in his quest for the secret of immortality (painting 10-11), and portrayed the great flood and the recession of water (painting 12-13). In the end, Walid Izzat portrayed Gilgamesh in audience with Atonapeshtem, the savior of mankind from the great flood and his guide to the plant of immortality (painting 14).
This collection was an extraordinary and impressive surprise for, until then, watercolors were universally limited to less complex topics. Walid Izzat had successfully managed to harmonize color transparency with Epical myths.
His paintings reflected his characteristic talent in harnessing watercolors for expressing dramatic and humane topics. Walid Izzat succeeded in presenting a new and unprecedented form of artistic expression that had surpression that had surpassed everything he had presented before.

Walid Izzat had reached a level of perfection which no other artist had reached before, and had discovered the secret of watercolors. He had perceived that a simple touch is capable of giving the most powerful and significant impression.
It might not be strange that the events of the Epic should have affected the life of Walid Izzat himself. His life resembled that of Gilgamesh who had accepted to take on the most extreme challenges and tried to achieve immortality through challenging fate, thus surviving in the memory of mankind. And so did Walid Izzat giving in few years a glorious and exemplary art that overcame the ever-changing time.
The art collection of the Epic of Gilgamesh has been declared a masterpiece of modern art and a priceless Syrian National Treasure.

Following the loss of Walid Izzat, a special committee was formed to commemorate his artistic heritage. This committee published in 1973 a book entitled "A Voyage with Walid Izzat through the Myths of Sumeria and the Epic of Gilgamesh". This book presented Walid Izzat's Gilgamesh' collection and some original excerpts from the Epic.

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