Google is celebrating the legacy of late Lebanese American writer and painter Etel Adnan with an illustration on its homepage. The artwork—from the series known as Google Doodles—depicts the artist at her desk, paintbrush in hand, framed by the fruit of her 50-year-long career: painted interpretations of the sun, sea, and mountains as jewel-toned geometries; and a prodigious body of writing on the legacy of war, national and diasporic identity, and feminism in the Arabic-speaking world.

“Etel Adnan inspired all of those fortunate to have met her in person. She taught us how important memory is without nostalgia and made physical in words and images beauty rendered from the light and darkness of the 20th and 21st century,” Mary Sabbatino, vice president and partner at Galerie Lelong, Adnan’s longtime representation told ARTnews upon her death in 2021, at age 96.

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One Work: Etel Adnan’s “Untitled”

“As another poet wrote, ‘stop all the clocks/for she is dead,’” Sabbatino added.

Adnan was born in 1925 in Beirut, Lebanon, and began painting in the 1960s while teaching aesthetics and philosophy at a college in Northern California. By the 1970s and 1980s, she had published several poetry and essay collections, as well as the acclaimed novel Sitt Marie Rose. The book is based on the true story of Marie Rose Boulo, who was kidnapped and killed by a Lebanese militia group for her support of the Palestinian cause during the Lebanese Civil War.

It wasn’t until 2012, when curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev included her in Documenta 13, that her meditative abstractions found institutional traction.  

Etel Adnan, Untitled, 2010.
Etel Adnan, Untitled, 2010.
Collection of Karen E. Wagner and David L. Caplan, New York. © Etel Adnan

In 2014 she was included Whitney Biennial and later that year, was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, France’s highest cultural honor. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2021 staged one of the first major exhibitions of her work in the United States, titled “Etel Adnan: Light’s New Measure,” and including paintings, ceramics, accordion-style artist books, and tapestries.

In a 2014 interview with Bomb Magazine, Adnan reflected on the late-life recognition for her visual art: “I wish this had happened, let’s say, twenty years ago. It’s a nice feeling to have your work appreciated, but it’s almost a fashion for women to be recognized late in life. Agnes Martin, for example. It’s a trend, but we hope it will change.”