Emile Hannouche was born and raised in Chtaura, a charming town found in the center of Bekaa’s fertile valley. During his early years, when Lebanon had just gained its independence, Emile’s father Melhem Hannouche acquired a magnificent building known today as the Hannouche Casino and Restaurant...Read More
The Emile Hannouch Museum
While the construction of the building housing the collection is very recent, its conception has been long in gestation. Conscious of the presented works’ historical significance, Emile Hannouche has for a long time wanted to share his collection and present to the public the extraordinarily wide range of Lebanese art from ancient to modern times. The building, located in the heart of the gardens, harbors the collection and features numerous interesting architectural elements. The main door to the in museum is flanked by a pair of twin support pillars from a 19th century Beirut residence, the ogive shaped windows on the second and third floors come from a 17th century palace on the Mont Liban. A 13th century Mameluke low-relief and a fragment from a Greek sarcophagus adorn the facade. Inside the central ground floor room we discover a significant fragment of a byzantine altar from 11th century Antioch. A glass showcase assembles a pottery group from diverse periods: Sumerian, Greek, roman, Nabataean, byzantine, Umayyad and Abbasside.
Japanese engravings are presented in the office, in particular a great number of prints from the Edo period, including works by Hokusai, the school of Utamaro and by Hiroshige. From the picture rails are hung in chronological order, works by masters of old and early modern Lebanese painting: Kennan Dib, Habib Srour, Khalil Saleeby, Philippe Mourani, also Bibi Zogbé, Georges Corm, César Gemayel, Moustafa Farroukh and Omar Onsi.in the stairway leading to the second floor. We remark a pair of 19th century support columns with capitals adorned by acanthus leaves in the roman style. Several significant archaeological pieces are exposed on this second level. Note an ensemble of roman capitals, a low relief representing Leda and the swan, as well as a Greek marble of a sleeping satyr, also displayed are an ensemble of statuettes from various periods: Neolithic, Hittite, Sumerian and roman.
The walls of this high-ceilinged hall present numerous pictorial works from the modernist period. To name but a few of the artists represented: Saliba Douaihy jean Khalifé, Helen Khal, Farid Aouad Paul Guiragossian, Shaffic Abboud, Yvette Achkar, Aref Rayess and Seta Manoukian, the superposed presentation of works is reminiscent of the so called, « à l'ancienne » hanging in 19th century middle-class residences and which permits interesting confrontations between the artists. This choice, where numerous works can be seen simultaneously, encourages a more global vision of art historical evolution in the region. By opening his collection, Emile Hannouche shows his desire to help the public become aware of the importance and relevance of early and modernist Lebanese painting. This museum is the symbol of a passion for Lebanese art and his love of the Bekaa plain region. The collection of the Emile Hannouche museum remains in evolution and will continue to complete itself in an ever increasing harmony and coherence.
Emile Hannouche’s interest in historic and modern painting goes back to his childhood. Encountering the prince of Kuwait, Sheikh Abdallah Al-Salim Al-Sabah decisively marked his early development. Already aged, the sheikh was fond of the young boy whom he sensitized to the world of art. An important political figure, he received politicians, journalists and artists. Many of these artists he patronized: Wehbi, Farroukh, Onsi, to name just these three. The Sursock family were regular visitors to the family's casino, awakening in the young Emile an interest in the decorative arts and Islamic art. Another determinant meeting was, at 11 years old, with Aref Rayess, with whom he established an enduring friendly relationship and who guided Emile in his acquisitions of modern as well as historic paintings. Rayess also introduced him to artists such as seta Manoukian and Jamil Molaeb. Emile Hannouche developed his collection through meeting with artists but also by buying from individual collectors who, contrary to him, tended to be more interested in western art than Lebanese. He frequented Janine Rubeiz Dar el fan in the company of Aref Rayess, but also the Lucy Tutunian gallery, the epreuve d’artiste gallery of Amal Traboulsi and Odile Mazloum’s Alwane gallery. Alongside painting, Emile Hannouche also collected, amongst other things, archaeology icons (especially Melkite), Japanese prints and Islamic art.
After the paving of the Damascus road, Chtaura became a passage for all travelers coming from Syria or from the holy sites of Palestine. Chtaura became a strategic site which rapidly developed a rich infrastructure of hotels, restaurants, banks and commercial activities. It was in 1920 that Augustin Gallonier, a French military officer, and his wife Yvonne decided to build their home in Chtaura. The house blends numerous influences under an Italian predominance, and was at the time of its construction a model of a certain modernity. Built in a non-urbanized area, surrounded by beautiful gardens, the residency soon became a halt-relay, the « Restaurant de Beyrouth et de Damas », much prized by many of the public figures that were architects of the French protectorate.
Melhem Hannouche, Emile’s father, acquired the property in 1948 at the moment of Lebanon’s independence. He created a casino whose success grew and grew. The magnificent gardens surrounding the property contributed to the site’s reputation. In 1975 the Hannouches fled their home due to the civil war by returned to the house only in 1976 to find it pillaged and having narrowly escaped being burnt to the ground. The Hannouche family moved back in and the casino resumed its activities which continue to this day.
The inauguration of the Emile Hannouche Museum in Chtaura took place on 22 September 2017 and showcased the Modern art collection of a man as quiet yet brimming with fascinating anecdotes of how his collection came to be. Emile decided to share his beloved collection of over 900 Lebanese paintings and unique Melkite pieces. The high-ceilinged walls of the museum are draped with Hannouche’s art collection. The pieces hang side by side in a 19 th century style, and allow the observer to view and compare the paintings simultaneously, while telling a story of evolution of art throughout time.
An Iconic Collector... Emile Hannouche discusses his lifetime love of icons.
In his beautiful home in Chtaura, a village near the Bekaa Valley, Emile Hannouche invites us to his mind-blowing collection of iconography, dating from the very early ages to modern times.