The roots of Palestinian visual art can be traced back to pre-Islamic times when Byzantine pictorial iconography, with its two-dimensional patterns, was the dominant influence in Palestine. It reemerged after the influx of Christian monks in the nineteenth century. After 634 AD, with the advent of Islam and a Muslim majority in the area, Islamic traditions played a key role in Palestinian art from which the main conventions of today's art are derived.
1967 to Present
Palestinian artists were reinvigorated after the "Six-Day War" in 1967 and the subsequent Israeli occupation. The Palestine Liberation Organization created the Union of Artists for Palestinians in the Diaspora, while artists in the Occupied Territories formed the League of Palestinian Artists. Art took on more urgent political meaning, featuring images of resistance and reaffirming Palestinian culture. Attending exhibitions in the Occupied Territories became an act of defiance to occupation and a celebration of identity. In response, in 1980, Israel banned art exhibitions and paintings of "political significance." The grouping of the four colors of the Palestinian flag in any one painting was also forbidden.
Despite these restrictions, artists in the Diaspora, Israel, and the Occupied Territories prolifically produced art and held exhibitions, conferences and seminars. During this time, many prominent artists emerged, including Kamal Boullata with his novel use of calligraphy and geometric shapes, and Samira Badran, whose apocalyptic images critique the occupation. Suleiman Mansour, known for his use of metaphors, most famously Camels of Hardship depicting an old porter carrying Jerusalem on his back, led the New Vision movement after the outbreak of the first intifada in 1987. The movement boycotted Israeli supplies and instead used materials found locally, such as dyes, leather, wood, sand and clay.
Surrealism and abstraction began to be used more by Palestinian artists, often searching for a new way to express life under occupation while broadening their discipline. Installations, multimedia works, and photography have been utilized more frequently by artists, though painting remains the favored medium.
1917 Balfour Declaration
1929-36 Arab Discontent
1947 UN Partition of Palestine
1964 Formation of the PLO
1967 The 1967 War
1973 The Yom Kippur War
1974 Arafat's First UN Appearance
1977 Israel's Resurgent Right Wing
1979 Israel and Egypt Make Peace
1987 Palestinian Intifada
1991 Madrid Summit
1995 Oslo II & Rabin Assassinated
2000 Second Intifada
2001 Sharon Returns
2003 Road Map Hopes
2004 Arafat Dies
2005 Gaza Pull-Out
2006 Hamas Wins Palestine Elections
2007 Hamas & Fatah Form Unity Govt.
2015 The Vatican Recognizes State of Palestine in New Treaty
2016 US Abstains on UN Resolution Condemning Israeli Settlements; Motion Passes
2017 Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's Capital, Orders US Embassy to Move