Born in 1925 in Beyrouth, Etel Adnan was a painter and writer. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in the middle of the 1950s then continued her studies at U.C Berkeley and Harvard. She taught philosophy at Dominican Collage in San Rafael, California.
The artist is the author of numerous novels, essays and poems. She also directed the francophone Lebanese Asafa. Painting will be the medium through which she finds her primary voice. When she started to paint in California, she wrote « I no longer needed to write in French, I was going to paint in arabic. » Her artistic practice is diverse: poetry, tapestry, ceramics, painting, leporello (accordion book). She uses writing and art to approach her personal experience of the war, grief and exile. Known for her abstract representations of mountains, oceans and vivid colors, she finds refuge in the beauty of landscapes and the quasi-spiritual aspect of tapestry.
In 1977, her novel Sitt Marie-Rose is published in Paris and translated into 10 different languages after its success. It is only in 2010 that her works begin to be exhibited and at the age of 80 they are in institutions such as the New York Guggenheim, Mudam in Luxembourg, and the Luma Foundation in Arles. In 2014 she participates in the Whitney Biennial.
In 2020 her book Time received the Griffin Poetry Prize. Her works are among private collections, notably at the Royal Jordanian Museum, the Sursock Museum of Beyrouth, the laden art museum of Tunis, the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the British Museum of London, the World Bank Collection and the National Museum for Women in the Arts of Washington, D.C. Some negatives of her tapestries are in permanent folders of the Contemporary Crafts Museums of New York and of Los Angeles.