Fattah, who died on Thursday, was best known for designing the

 

Martyr sculpture in Baghdad, regarded as an artistic masterpiece, combining fine art and architecture.

The sculpture, which includes 550 tonnes of steel, consists of two separate half-domes, decorated with Abbasid ornaments and a five-metre-high flag rising from its centre.

The sculpture is an artistic illusion. From a distance it appears to be one complete dome, but as the viewer approaches he/she sees the structure opening, to reveal a mast draped with the Iraqi flag.

A spring of water rises from the ground between the domes, to represent the eternity of martyrs' blood.

Unveiled in 1986, it was classified by the Art in America magazine as the most beautiful design in the Middle East.

Background

Ismaayl Fattah was born in the southern Iraqi city of Basra in 1934, and earned a diploma in painting in 1956 and in sculpture two years later.

In 1964, after gaining a degree in sculpture from Rome's Fine Art Academy, he returned to his native country where he became a university professor.

US soldiers by the Martyr
sculpture in Baghdad 

His works still decorate a number of Baghdad's streets and roundabouts to this day, including the al-Risafi sculpture (Maaruf al-Risafi is a prominent modern Iraqi poet) on a central Baghdad roundabout which acquired the name of the artwork and became known as al-Risafi roundabout.

As the 2003 war with Iraq was drawing closer, he was not able to continue his treatment for stomach cancer, so he left for the United Arab Emirates, where he received the necessary medical attention.

His close friend and colleague, director Sabri al-Rammahi, told Aljazeera.net Fattah had wished to die in his most beloved city, Baghdad.

"He is one of the pioneers of Iraqi art. We have lost one of Iraq's national symbols. Fattah represents a generation of great Iraqi artists that is fading out amid chaos and anarchy that will kill every artistic talent," al-Rammahi said.

"He called me shortly before he died, and said I feel I am dying, I want to die in Baghdad. He asked his family to take him to Baghdad, where he got what he always wanted."