Nahil Bishara is often an overlooked pioneer woman artist in Palestine known for her impressionist-style paintings with her use of bold colours and brushstrokes depicting Palestinian folklore, landscapes and flower arrangements. She was skilled in many areas including sculpture, design and craftwork, with notable commissions including a bust of Pope Paul VI gifted on behalf of the Hashemite Kingdom on the occasion of the Pope’s visit to Jerusalem in 1964. Nahil was one of the few artists in Palestine from the early twentieth century who gained formal arts education which is evident in her abstracted and expressionist paintings unlike the realism of contemporaneous artists of her time. She experimented freely with different brushstrokes and techniques in the outburst of flowers and dabs of colour that evoke feelings and memories of Palestinian flora and landscapes.
Bishara showed a talent for painting and a determination to pursue an education in the arts from a young age. Impressed by her talent, W.A. Stewart a British Mandate official offered to send her to England to study art, however with the dangers of the second world war and separation from family, her parents restricted her travels. At the time, Bezalel Art School was the only academy in Jerusalem offering art studies however admitted Jewish students only. After an exceptional arrangement made possible by Stewart, Nahil became the first Palestinian admitted to Bezalel attending a number of courses between 1942-44. Her education didn’t stop there, and her conviction to travel was realized, venturing to Perugia in Italy and even Chicago to study sculpture and interior decoration respectively.
She was an advocate for arts and culture in the city; serving on the Board of Trustees of the Palestinian folklore museum at the Rockefeller Museum, steering for the establishment of a center for conservation of local arts and crafts for teaching students applied arts, as well as reviving factories in the ancient art of glass blowing in Hebron. [Ganit Ankori, 43]. Bishara’s works are found in the collections of the Vatican Museum, the National Museum in Jordan, Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture (Lebanon), Birzeit University Museum (Palestine) and Bank of Palestine.