Three brothers were born in the village of Rachana, Lebanon in the 1920s. Their surname, Basbous, meant “light” in the old language of Aramaic. Their father, a priest, instilled in his sons an appreciation for art and for travel—he moved the family around constantly, illustrating Bibles with a feather reed.
The story reads like a fairy tale. After experiments in different careers and adventures in foreign places, all three brothers became artists. And all three returned to Rachana. They filled the streets and squares with sculptures, shining a light on the unassuming village, transforming the place into an open-air museum that was recognized as an UNESCO site in 1997. As the middle brother, Alfred, later said, “Rachana will be remembered in 200 years, 300 years, even one thousand years.”
It’s the pioneering work of the middle brother, Alfred Basbous
, that’s on center stage at a new exhibition in London. Born in 1924, he dabbled in masonry before trying his hand at sculpture. His early works—largely representations of animals and humans, carved from wood, metal, and stone, inspired in part by Greek mythology and ancient Phoenician sculpture—helped him to earn a scholarship to study at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1960. The next year, his work was featured in a group exhibition at the Musée Rodin.