Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)

Kahlil Gibran
1883 - 1931
updated June 14, 2020
Kahlil Gibran was born on January 6, 1883 in Bsharri, North Governorate Lebanon. He died on April 10, 1931 in New York, New York at age 48.

Kahlil Gibran
Gibran in 1913
Native name
جبران خليل جبران‎
Born January 6, 1883
Bsharri, Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, Ottoman Syria
Died April 10, 1931 (aged 48) New York City, United States
Resting place Bsharri, Lebanon
Occupation Writer, poet, visual artist, philosopher
Nationality Lebanese and American
Genre Poetry, parable, fragments of conversation, short story, fable, political essay, letter, aphorism
Literary movement Mahjar
Notable works The Prophet, The Madman, Broken Wings
Signature
Gibran Khalil Gibran (Arabic: جبران خليل جبران‎, ALA-LC: Jubrān Khalīl Jubrān, IPA: [ʒʊˈbrɑːn xæˈliːl ʒʊˈbrɑːn], or Jibrān Khalīl Jibrān, IPA: [ʒɪˈbrɑːn xæˈliːl ʒɪˈbrɑːn];[a] January 6, 1883 – April 10, 1931), usually referred to in English as Kahlil Gibran was a Lebanese-American writer, poet and visual artist, also considered a philosopher[4] although he himself rejected this title in his lifetime. He is best known as the author of The Prophet, which was first published in the United States in 1923 and is one of the best-selling books of all time, having been translated into dozens of languages.
Born in a village of the Ottoman-ruled Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate to a Maronite Christian family, the young Gibran immigrated with his mother and siblings to the United States in 1895. As his mother worked as a seamstress, he was enrolled at a school in Boston, where his creative abilities were quickly noticed by a teacher who presented him to Fred Holland Day. Gibran was sent back to his native land by his family at the age of fifteen to enroll at al-Hikma School in Beirut. Returning to Boston upon his youngest sister's death in 1902, he lost his older half-brother and his mother the following year, seemingly relying afterwards on his remaining sister's income from her work at a dressmaker's shop for some time.
In 1904, Gibran's drawings were displayed for the first time at Day's studio in Boston, and his first book in Arabic was published in 1905 in New York City. With the financial help of a newly-met benefactress, Mary Haskell, Gibran studied art in Paris from 1908 to 1910. While there, he became involved in secret circles promoting rebellion in the Ottoman Empire after the Young Turk Revolution; his books were eventually banned by the Ottoman authorities. In 1911, Gibran settled in New York, where he would start writing The Prophet in 1915, and where his first book in English, The Madman, would be published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1918. His visual artwork was shown at Montross Gallery in 1914, and at the galleries of M. Knoedler & Co. in 1917. He had also been corresponding remarkably with May Ziade since 1912. In 1920, Gibran re-founded The Pen League with fellow Mahjari poets. By the time of his death at the age of 48 from cirrhosis and incipient tuberculosis in one lung, he had achieved literary fame on "both sides of the Atlantic Ocean", and The Prophet had already been translated into German and in French. His body was transferred to his birth village of Bsharri (in present-day Lebanon), to which he had bequeathed all future royalties on his books, and where a museum dedicated to his works now stands.
As worded by Suheil Bushrui and Joe Jenkins, Gibran's life has been described as one "often caught between Nietzschean rebellion, Blakean pantheism and Sufi mysticism." Gibran discussed "such themes as religion, justice, free will, science, love, happiness, the soul, the body, and death" in his writings, which were "characterized by innovation breaking with forms of the past, by symbolism, an undying love for his native land, and a sentimental, melancholic yet often oratorical style." He explored literary forms as diverse as "poetry, parables, fragments of conversation, short stories, fables, political essays, letters, and aphorisms." Salma Jayyusi has called him "the single most important influence on Arabic poetry and literature during the first half of [the twentieth] century." At the same time, "most of Gibran's paintings expressed his personal vision, incorporating spiritual and mythological symbolism", with art critic Alice Raphael recognizing in the painter a classicist, whose work owed "more to the findings of Da Vinci than it [did] to any modern insurgent." His "prodigious body of work" has been described as "an artistic legacy to people of all nations."
The Gibran family in the 1880s. Left to right: Gibran, Khalil (father), Sultana (sister), Butrus (half-brother), Kamila (mother)
Gibran was born January 6, 1883, in the town of Bsharri in the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, Ottoman Empire (modern-day Lebanon), to Khalil Gibran and Kamila Gibran (Rahmeh). His mother, Kamila, daughter of a priest, was thirty when he was born; his father, Khalil, was her third husband. As a result of his family's poverty, Gibran received no formal schooling during his youth in Lebanon. However, priests visited him regularly and taught him about the Bible and the Arabic language.
Gibran's father initially worked in an apothecary, but with gambling debts he was unable to pay, he went to work for a local Ottoman-appointed administrator. Around 1891, extensive complaints by angry subjects led to the administrator being removed and his staff being investigated.
Kamila Gibran decided to follow her brother to the United States. Although Gibran's father was released in 1894, Kamila remained resolved and left for New York on June 25, 1895, taking Kahlil, his younger sisters Mariana and Sultana, and his elder half-brother Peter (in Arabic, Butrus).
Kahlil Gibran, photograph by Fred Holland Day, c. 1898
The Gibrans settled in Boston's South End, at the time the second-largest Syrian-Lebanese-American community in the United States. Gibran started school on September 30, 1895. School officials placed him in a special class for immigrants to learn English. Due to a mistake at the school, he was registered using the anglicised spelling 'Kahlil Gibran' His mother began working as a seamstress peddler, selling lace and linens that she carried from door to door. Gibran also enrolled in an art school at Denison House, a nearby settlement house. Through his teachers there, he was introduced to the avant-garde Boston artist, photographer, and publisher Fred Holland Day, who encouraged and supported Gibran in his creative endeavors. A publisher used some of Gibran's drawings for book covers in 1898.
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Kahlil Gibran Biography

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Kahlil Gibran
Most commonly known name
Male
Gender
Kahlil
First name
Unknown
Middle name
Gibran
Last name(s)
Kahlil Gibran
Nickname(s) or aliases
Unknown. Did Kahlil move a lot? Where was his last known location?
Last known residence
Kahlil Gibran was born on in Bsharri, Bcharre County, North Governorate Lebanon
Birth
Kahlil Gibran died on in New York, New York County, New York United States
Death
Kahlil Gibran was born on in Bsharri, Bcharre County, North Governorate Lebanon
Kahlil Gibran died on in New York, New York County, New York United States
Birth
Death
There is no cause of death listed for Kahlil.
Cause of death
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Burial / Funeral

Ethnicity & Lineage

Lebanese Christian.

Nationality & Locations Lived

Unknown

Religion

Unknown. Was Kahlil a religious man?

Education

Born in a village of the Ottoman-ruled Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate to a Maronite Christian family, the young Gibran immigrated with his mother and siblings to the United States in 1895. As his mother worked as a seamstress, he was enrolled at a school in Boston, where his creative abilities were quickly noticed by a teacher who presented him to Fred Holland Day. Gibran was sent back to his native land by his family at the age of fifteen to enroll at al-Hikma School in Beirut. Returning to Boston upon his youngest sister's death in 1902, he lost his older half-brother and his mother the following year, seemingly relying afterwards on his remaining sister's income from her work at a dressmaker's shop for some time.

Professions

Artist, Poet and Writer
First edition cover of The Prophet (1923)
In 1923, his book The Prophet was published, an early example of inspirational fiction including a series of philosophical essays written in poetic English prose. The book sold well despite a cool critical reception. It would gain popularity in the 1930s and again especially in the 1960s counterculture. At a reading of The Prophet organized by rector William Norman Guthrie in St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, Gibran met literary critic Barbara Young, who would be his secretary from 1925 until his death. Gibran also participated in the founding of the periodical The New East in 1925.
Sand and Foam was published in 1926, and Jesus, the Son of Man in 1928. The last book published in Gibran's lifetime was The Earth Gods, on March 14, 1931.
Death
Kahlil Gibran memorial in Washington, D.C.
Kahlil Gibran memorial in Boston, Massachusetts

Personal Life & Organizations

Poet, author

Military Service

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Average Age

Life Expectancy

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Gibran's mother, along with his elder brother Peter, wanted him to absorb more of his own heritage rather than just the Western aesthetic culture he was attracted to. Thus, at the age of 15, Gibran returned to his homeland to study at a Maronite-run preparatory school and higher-education institute in Beirut, called "al-Hikma" (The Wisdom). He started a student literary magazine with a classmate and was elected 'college poet'. He stayed there for several years before returning to Boston in 1902, coming through Ellis Island (a second time) on May 10. Two weeks before he returned to Boston, his sister Sultana died of tuberculosis at fourteen years old. The year after, Peter died of the same disease and his mother died of cancer. His sister Mariana supported Gibran and herself by working at a dressmaker's shop.
Debuts, growing fame, and personal life
Gibran held his first art exhibition of his drawings in 1904 in Boston at Day's studio.[24] During this exhibition, Gibran met Elizabeth Haskell, a respected headmistress ten years his senior. The two formed an important friendship that lasted the rest of Gibran's life. Haskell spent large sums of money to support Gibran and edited all his English writings. The nature of their romantic relationship remains obscure; while some biographers assert the two were lovers but never married because Haskell's family objected, other evidence suggests that their relationship never was physically consummated. Gibran and Haskell were engaged briefly but Gibran called it off. Gibran didn't intend to marry her while he had affairs with other women. Haskell later married another man, but then she continued to support Gibran financially and to use her influence to advance his career. She became his editor, and introduced him to Charlotte Teller, a journalist, and Emilie Michel (Micheline), a French teacher, who accepted to pose for him as a model and became close friends.
Plaque at 14 Avenue du Maine, 15th arrondissement of Paris, where Gibran lived from 1908 to 1910
In 1908, Gibran went to study art in Paris for two years. He attended the Académie Julian[32] art school, pursuing a symbolist and romantic style over the then up-and-coming realism.[citation needed] While there he met his art study partner and lifelong friend Youssef Howayek.
Portrait of Gibran (The Borzoi, 1920)
From 1911 until his death in 1931, Gibran lived in a New York City artist studio at 51 West 10th Street. While most of Gibran's early writings were in Arabic, most of his work published after 1918 was in English. His first book for the publishing company Alfred A. Knopf, in 1918, was The Madman, a slim volume of aphorisms and parables written in biblical cadence somewhere between poetry and prose. Gibran also took part in the New York Pen League, also known as the "immigrant poets" (al-mahjar), alongside important Lebanese-American authors such as Ameen Rihani, Elia Abu Madi, and Mikhail Naimy, a close friend and distinguished master of Arabic literature, whose descendants Gibran declared to be his own children, and whose nephew Samir is a godson of Gibran.


Gibran died at St. Vincent's Hospital, Manhattan, on April 10, 1931, at the age of 48. The causes were cirrhosis of the liver and tuberculosis due to prolonged serious alcoholism. Gibran started drinking seriously during or after publication of The Prophet. Several years before his death, he locked himself in his apartment, away from visitors, drinking all day. Gibran expressed the wish that he be buried in Lebanon.
This wish was fulfilled in 1932, when Mary Haskell and his sister Mariana purchased the Mar Sarkis Monastery in Lebanon, which has since become the Gibran Museum. Written next to Gibran's grave are the words "a word I want to see written on my grave: I am alive like you, and I am standing beside you. Close your eyes and look around, you will see me in front of you."
Gibran willed the contents of his studio to Mary Haskell. There she discovered her letters to him spanning twenty-three years. She initially agreed to burn them because of their intimacy, but recognizing their historical value she saved them. She gave them, along with his letters to her which she had also saved, to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library before she died in 1964. Excerpts of the over 600 letters were published in "Beloved Prophet" in 1972.
The Gibran Museum and Gibran's final resting place, in Bsharri
Mary Haskell Minis (she wed Jacob Florance Minis in 1923) donated her personal collection of nearly one hundred original works of art by Gibran to the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia in 1950. Haskell had been thinking of placing her collection at the Telfair as early as 1914. In a letter to Gibran, she wrote "I am thinking of other museums ... the unique little Telfair Gallery in Savannah, Ga., that Gari Melchers chooses pictures for. There when I was a visiting child, form burst upon my astonished little soul." Haskell's gift to the Telfair is the largest public collection of Gibran's visual art in the country, consisting of five oils and numerous works on paper rendered in the artist's lyrical style, which reflects the influence of symbolism. The future American royalties to his books were willed to his hometown of Bsharri, to be "used for good causes".

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1883 - 1931 World Events

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In 1883, in the year that Kahlil Gibran was born, on May 24th, the Brooklyn Bridge - one of the oldest bridges in the US - was opened to traffic. Bridge construction began in 1869 and took 14 years to complete.

In 1895, when he was just 12 years old, on September 3rd, in Latrobe, PA, the first professional football game was played. The game was between the Latrobe YMCA and the Jeannette Athletic Club. Latrobe won 12 - 0.

In 1907, when he was 24 years old, the second Hague peace conference was called by Russia in the Netherlands. While nothing was settled regarding the matter of peace among nations, many resolutions were passed (and accepted by many nations) about the conventions of war - especially the protection of noncombatants.

In 1929, Kahlil was 46 years old when on October 29th (Black Tuesday), the stock market crashed in the United States. Billions of dollars were lost and some investors committed suicide as a result, having lost their fortunes. This ushered in the 12 year, worldwide Great Depression.

In 1931, in the year of Kahlil Gibran's passing, in March, “The Star Spangled Banner” officially became the national anthem by congressional resolution. Other songs had previously been used - among them, "My Country, 'Tis of Thee", "God Bless America", and "America the Beautiful". There was fierce debate about making "The Star Spangled Banner" the national anthem - Southerners and veterans organizations supported it, pacifists and educators opposed it.

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