GIBRAN, KAHLIL (1883-1931) [Almustafa, The Prophet].
[1923?] or after. Graphite on Dartmouth Bond paper (with watermark), 10 x 7 5/8 inches, initialed in pencil K.G. (l.r.). Minimal toning to edges, overall fine.
Gibran emigrated from Lebanon (in what was then the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate) with his parents and siblings, settling in the South End of Boston. The Boston publisher and photographer F. Holland Day funded his education, encouraging him to read Whitman and study the drawings of Blake. As early as 1898 some of Gilbran's drawings were published as binding designs; his first art exhibition was held in 1904 in Day's studio. In the intervening years, he had returned to Lebanon and studied at al-Hikma, a Maronite-run preparatory school and college in Beirut, during which time he started a student literary magazine and made a reputation for himself at the school as a poet. He returned to the United States in 1902.
Already an accomplished artist, in 1908-1910 he studied at the Académie Julian in Paris. At the same time, his literary interests blossomed. He was broadly influenced from the time of his Beirut studies by the writing of the Syrian writer Francis Marrash, whose works dealt with many of the themes of love, freedom and spirituality that were to become Gibran's hallmarks. Most of his earliest writings were in Arabic; he was an influential member Arab-American League of the Pen (al-Rabita al-Qalamiyya), a group of expatriate writers then active in New York, often referred to as "al-Mahjar," issuing numerous newspaper articles, poems and several books. In 1918, Gilbran published his first book in English, The Madman, a collection of seven parables, and this was followed by several English-language works, some with his illustrations, before The Prophet was published by Alfred Knopf in 1923.
It is this work, a collection of twenty-six prose poetry fables, which has brought Gibran enduring fame outside the Arab world; it remains one of the most popular works of poetry of all time. It sold out its first printing in a months, and has sold in vast quantities thereafter, almost entirely by word-of-mouth. It has been translated into at least 50 languages, and somewhere between 50 and a hundred million copies have been sold worldwide, by most estimates, making it among the most reprinted works of poetry ever written.
The frontispiece by Gibran of the Prophet Almustafa is an iconic image, and has often been taken to be a portrait of Gilbran himself (which, to some degree, it is). Several versions are known. This example was a gift to Barbara Young, his last companion and assistant, author of a biography of Gibran.
Kahlil Gibran to Barbara Young
by gift to Madeleine Vanderpoel
by descent to her son, Wynant D. Vanderpoel.
C Property from the Wynant D. Vanderpoel Trust
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