Born 1930, Jorf El Maleh, Morocco; died 1971, Paris, France
Jilali Gharbaoui started his artistic education at the Academy of Fine Arts, Fez (attending evening classes while working as a newsagent during the day). In 1952, he received a scholarship to study at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. After graduating in 1956, he continued his studies in fine art at Académie Julian, Paris. In 1958, he moved to Rome after receiving a fellowship from the Italian government. During his stay in Europe, Gharbaoui became interested in the work of the Impressionists, Dutch painting and German Expressionism, leading to his exploration of abstract painting.
Gharbaoui held his first solo exhibitions in Rabat and Casablanca in 1957, and held further one-man shows in Rome and Morocco until 1971. He also participated in numerous group exhibition and biennales in Rome, Paris, Casablanca and Madrid. In 1957 he was awarded first prize by the San Francisco Museum of Art. His work is held in international collections including Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Fondation ONA, Casablanca; Fond Municipal d’Art Contemporain, Paris; and Musée de Grenoble.
His oeuvre is defined by his compositional studies of light and colour. Gharbaoui’s work is often interpreted in relation to his introverted and reflective personality, more specifically his tendency towards depression (Gharbaoui attempted suicide in 1955) and substance abuse, which lead to his untimely death in 1971. Regarded as one of the founders of modern abstract painting in Morocco, in 1980 a retrospective of his work was held at Galerie l’Oeil Noir, Rabat.