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During this period, Saliba was awarded many commissions and a professorship in 1947 at the Collège de la Sagesse. But his crowing achievement came with the completion of the decorations commissioned by Patriarch Antoine Arida for the Maronite Church at Diman, the Archbishop’s summer residence. This commission not only caused a sensation in Lebanon but was the start of his professional association with the Maronite Church - an aspect of Douaihy’s career that ran parallel to, but separate from, his secular work.

By 1945, Douaihy had introduced in Lebanon a style of painting that was - though based on European traditions - refreshing, original, and pleasing, and one that could be identified as his own. Indeed, Saliba’s painting up until his early 30’s was a blend of descriptive painting with minor twists of minimalism. They were very personal interpretations of the landscape around him - the valleys and the mountains familiar to him since childhood, the colorful villages, villagers at work and ancient churches.

In 1950, Saliba Douaihy immigrated to New York City, fully prepared to understand and experiment. New York he recalled was a “great revelation”. It not only began to change his artistic concepts, but it also presented him with a totally unfamiliar atmosphere that forced him to think on a different scale and thus ultimately to abandon what he considered his provincialism.

It was in New York that he painted his ultimate, and one of his favourite subjects, Mar Qozhayya monastery (home page picture). The monastery was built into the narrow canyon of Kadisha at the outcropping of rock by the cave where the old saint spent his last years in seclusion. To this day, Maronites consider it a sacred place.

Saliba used to visit the monastery often and it was there, just before his New York voyage, that his “perception of form and colour was permanently formed”. In his painting of the monastery the essence of his later abstract work can be detected. He had painted the same scene in a more realistic and complex fashion earlier (picture below). A comparison of the two pictures illustrates the type of evolutionary process of reduction and simplification his work was to undergo from the time of his academic training in Paris in the 1930s to the end of his life.

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