When Hassan Massoudy was a ten-year-old student in Najaf, Iraq, his teacher told him that he had beautiful handwriting. This was the first time that he knew that he had a special gift.

Born in southern Iraq in 1944, today, Hassan Massoudy is considered one of the finest Arabic calligraphers in the world. He moved to Baghdad in 1961, where he studied fine arts, while also working to do calligraphy for signs and newspapers. At the time, the art of calligraphy was on the decline in Iraq. But that year, the great calligrapher Hashim Muhammad Baghdadi was in Baghdad, and he published his book The Methods of Arabic Calligraphy. Massoudy met him and realized that his beautiful handwriting could be art. He began to visit him in his studio and watch him. “He gave attention to every millimeter,” he said. “And he taught us about silence.” Soon, Massoudy moved to Paris, where at the Institute of Fine Art he discovered color and abstract art, and began producing calligraphy in bold, bright hues with broad strokes and movements. Today he is credited as inspiring a renaissance in Arabic calligraphy, both in Europe and the Middle East.