BAGHDAD -- Ismail Fatah al-Turk, an abstract artist best known for his turquoise Martyr's Monument of two halves of an egg, died of cancer Wednesday. He was 69.
Mr. Turk, who was being treated for his illness in the United Arab Emirates, died within minutes of arriving at Baghdad International Airport, said Qassim al-Sirti, a close family friend.
His Martyr's Monument, a giant sculpture of two egg halves, sits near a state-run amusement park in eastern Baghdad. Between the two halves is a twisted Iraqi flag, and the division of the egg is said to symbolize allowing the anguished souls of the dead to soar free.
''Al-Turk was a great artist who left a significant impression on Iraqi art, and he was one of the vanguards of the modern art renaissance," said Fadhel al-Azzawi, an Iraqi poet and art critic who lives in Berlin and who knew Mr. Turk.
Other friends said Mr. Turk lived for his art, which saved him from persecution under former dictator Saddam Hussein's regime.
''He did not have any political affiliation and was not in politics, which saved him from the wrath of Saddam Hussein," said Khalis Muheiddin, a retired Iraqi politician who lives in London.
Born in the southern city of Basra in 1934, Mr. Turk received a master's in fine arts degree in Rome in 1962. Returning to Iraq, he taught for years at the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad, retiring two years ago because of illness, said Sirti, who runs one of Baghdad's most prestigious galleries.
Mr. Turk is also known for bronze statues of Marouf al-Rasafi, an Iraqi nationalist poet of the 1940s, and of the famed Abbasid poet Abu Nawass.
He leaves two sons and two daughters from his first wife, Liza al-Turk. After her death, he remarried and had two more sons.