Khalil Saleeby (12 March 1870 – 7 July 1928) Born in Btalloun, in the district of Aley, Khalil Saleeby is considered the founder of modern Lebanese art . He was the only child of Makhoul and Saada Saleeby. As a child, Saleeby started drawing with the heads of matchsticks before graduating to charcoal and ink. After completing his elementary studies in the village school, Saleeby traveled to Beirut in 1881 to continue his schooling with American and British missionaries. Later, in 1886, he enrolled in the Syrian Protestant College (now AUB), a notable accomplishment at the time. Saleeby remained in Beirut until 1890.
Unlike the majority of the region’s artists who pursued their artistic aspirations in Rome or Paris, Saleeby chose Edinburgh, where a cousin of his lived. There, Saleeby met renowned American painter John Singer Sargent (1856– 1925), who had a profound impact on the young artist.
With Sargent’s encouragement, Saleeby traveled to Philadelphia, where he met his future wife and muse, the American Carrie Aude. After their marriage, the couple lived in Edinburgh, Paris, and London before returning to Beirut in 1900.
His marriage, however, was not without controversy. On 3 July, 1897, the Atlanta Constitution Newspaper reported:
“SECRET MARRIAGE WELL KEPT”
Chattanooga Stenographer Weds a Syrian Artist Several Years Ago
“The many friends of the erstwhile Miss Carrie Erd, the chief stenographer of C.L. Loop, of the Southern Express Company, in this city, were genuinely surprised today when Miss Erd announced that she had been married for three years to Khalil Saleeby, a Syrian artist who came to this city several years ago and remained here until 1894.
“At that time he announced that he was going to Paris, France, to pursue his art studies. It was known that he and Miss Erd were great friends, but no one suspected the truth, and so faithfully did she keep her secret that not even her intimates knew of the wedding until she announced it today.”