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Google recently celebrated the life and work of the late Lebanese-American artist and writer Etel Adnan with a poignant Doodle, highlighting her profound impact on 20th-century art and literature.

The Google Doodle, unveiled on April 15, beautifully encapsulates the essence of Etel Adnan’s multifaceted career. The illustration depicts Adnan at her desk, paintbrush in hand, surrounded by her iconic abstract landscapes and the written works that established her as a literary giant.

Born in Beirut in 1925 to a Greek mother and Syrian father, Adnan absorbed a cosmopolitan mix of cultures and languages from a young age that would shape her unique artistic vision. She began her career as a writer, penning over a dozen celebrated books of poetry, essays and novels that grappled with themes of war, identity, feminism and the Arab world.

But it was during her time teaching philosophy in California in the late 1950s that Adnan discovered her passion for painting. Inspired by the light-soaked hills and horizons of the American West, she began creating vibrant abstract compositions with bold color blocks applied directly from the tube. Mount Tamalpais, visible from her home in Sausalito, became a central motif that she would paint from memory for decades.

Adnan’s most famous literary work, the 1978 novel Sitt Marie-Rose, powerfully captured the trauma of the Lebanese Civil War through the true story of a woman murdered for her political activism. The book won the France-Pays Arabes award and is considered a classic of war literature, cementing Adnan’s status as a leading voice of her generation.

But Adnan’s artistic process transcended the boundaries between painting, poetry and prose. Her “leporellos,” accordion-folded artists’ books combining paintings and Arabic calligraphy, became a signature form allowing her to master a language that was not her mother tongue. Tapestries inspired by the Persian rugs of her childhood were another way she connected to her roots and expanded the definition of art.

In both her paintings and writings, Adnan sought to convey a sense of cosmic connectedness and love for the world in all its beauty and tragedy. “I don’t believe in East and West,” she once declared. “I believe in a global world where we can all meet.” Her works, characterized by a meditative purity of focus, were her way of, in her words, “reflecting my immense love for the world, the happiness to just be, for nature, and the forces that shape a landscape.”

Though Adnan exhibited internationally since the 1960s, widespread recognition for her visual art came only later in life when she was included in Documenta 13 in 2012 at age 87. Major museums like the Guggenheim, Tate and Centre Pompidou began acquiring and exhibiting her work. The Google Doodle pays fitting tribute to this late-in-life flowering of acclaim.

When Adnan passed away in Paris in 2021 at the age of 96, the world lost a visionary artist whose life and work transcended borders, cultures and artistic disciplines. But her legacy endures through her paintings and writings — timeless monuments to the human spirit’s capacity for empathy, resilience and love. As the Google Doodle poignantly illustrates, Etel Adnan’s “cosmic love” for the world continues to reverberate, inviting us to expand our circles of understanding and connection.

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