Khalid Al-Qassab was born in Baghdad in 1924, three years after the coronation of Faisal I, the first king of modern Iraq. Al-Qassab became interested in architecture as a teenager when his parents hired an architect to design a new home for them in Baghdad. However, upon graduation from high school, he acceded to his parents’ wishes that he become a doctor.
He graduated from medical school in 1946; was granted a fellowship by the Royal College of Surgeons in London in 1954; and obtained a fellowship at the Memorial Hospital in New York to study cancer surgery in 1958. Until recently, he served as professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery at Baghdad University.
While studying medicine in Baghdad, he started painting and began his association with a group of friends who shared his interest in music, theater and art. In the early 1940s he founded “Société Primitive” or “S.P.” Another prominent member of the small group of 7 to 10 artists was Faik Hassan, one of Iraq’s most famous modern artists, who died in 1993.
Dr. Al-Qassab fondly recalls how members of the group were passionate about their artistic endeavors and would escape to the countryside every weekend to paint, regardless of the heat or sandstorms, traveling the country to capture its diverse natural beauty. The Société held its first exhibit in 1950 in Al-Qassab’s parents’ home in Baghdad.