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Re-Envisioning Egypt 1919-1952$

Arthur Goldschmidt and Amy J. Johnson

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9789774249006

Published to Cairo Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5743/cairo/9789774249006.001.0001

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Twentieth-Century Egyptian Art: The Pioneers, 1920–521

Twentieth-Century Egyptian Art: The Pioneers, 1920–521

Chapter:
(p.426) 15 Twentieth-Century Egyptian Art: The Pioneers, 1920–521
Source:
Re-Envisioning Egypt 1919-1952
Author(s):

Williams Caroline

Publisher:
American University in Cairo Press
DOI:10.5743/cairo/9789774249006.003.0016

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter integrates important topics into the mainstream of early twentieth-century Egyptian history. It gives a general overview of 1919–52 visual artistic expression, which depicts how painting and sculpture were critical to the articulation of a national image. It also provides valuable insights into the cursus honori of Egyptian artists during these years, who emerge as truly international figures. Artistic pioneers of the 1920s and 1930s viewed Egypt in ways distinct from the orientalists who preceded them. In the process, they established Egypt as unique among Arab countries. By also examining 1940s approaches expressing the subjective, psychological world of the masses, this chapter demonstrates Egyptian artists' intensifying social concerns toward the end of the monarchy, rendering the visual arts a key barometer of societal dynamics.

Keywords:   twentieth-century Egyptian history, artistic expression, cursus honori, Egyptian artists, monarchy

When people think of Egypt and the visual arts, images from the more than twenty-five hundred years of the pharaonic period usually come to mind. Some might remember that Egypt for nine hundred years was a part of the Hellenistic-Byzantine world, or that for fourteen hundred years it has had an Islamic legacy: Others might include romantic images painted by European artists in the nineteenth century. Very few; however, link Egypt with modern painting or sculpture, the most recent of Egypt's visual offerings. It is small wonder that this is so. The regrettable assumption persists that representational art is alien to Islam in spite of the rich evidence of manuscript illustrations and figural surface ornamentation. Furthermore, painting on canvas as a new Egyptian art form is not well-documented, either in Egypt or the West, and its artists and its creations remain relatively undiscovered and unpublicized. Its beginnings, however, take place in the early decades of the twentieth century and form another creative aspect of this era.2

The period of 1919–52 can be divided into two parts. The first part, 1919–36, began with the fervor of the nationalist Wafdist Revolution and ended with the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936. In these years characterized by revolutionary energy and constructive vitality, emerging artists contributed new themes to the authenticity of the nationalist movement. Among these, the pharaonic theme most readily allied itself with the new emerging nationalism since it emphasized Egypt's own authentic and distinct historical and cultural past. This theme also distinguished Egypt from the European background of its British occupier.3 Thus, although (p.427) the images produced in this first period did not entail radically new and different art forms, they nevertheless laid the foundation for a manifestly modern Egyptian art movement. The second part of the period, 1936–52, began with the intellectual turmoil surrounding a Europe at war and ended with the revolution of ʻAbd al-Nasser in 1952. In these years the thematic emphasis moved from descriptions of the external, national context to one that was interpretative and individual. As such, the artistic approach now portrayed an understanding of indigenous and internal experiences.

1919–36

Modern Egyptian art began with the Pioneers—al-Ruwwad as they are referred to in Arabic—whose best work belonged to the years of the 1920s and 1930s. These were men born just before the turn of the century. They were trained by European artists in Egypt and Europe, and in European styles and techniques. Their manner of painting thus offers little that is different from the work of conventional western artists and sculptors. In depicting their own country and people, however, their views of their own context are more varied and intimate than the ones described by the foreign Orientalists of a century earlier. Individually, these Pioneers developed their own recognizable style and focus. Collectively, these artists depicted the Egypt they were born into during the early twentieth century: a land 80 percent agricultural, a country fighting for its political independence from Britain, and a society in which women were just being emancipated. These Pioneers in the visual arts were also part of a wider cultural expression, a new artistic revival whose object was to shape a national identity and to portray Egypt as enduring, distinct, and resurgent.

The story in its institutionalized form begins in Cairo. An acceptance of European fashions and artifacts had become an increasing part of court thinking and manners of the Muhammad ʻAli dynasty during the nineteenth century. In 1908, the same year in which a national university was founded, Prince Yusuf Kamal4 established and funded the School of Fine Arts in one of his palaces in the Darb al-Gamamiz district.5 The school was organized along European lines and the first faculty was appointed from the community of foreign artists. Guillaume Laplagne, a sculptor and one of the French art counselors to the royal family, was its first director, and Gabriel Biessy an Italian, taught painting. The school provided free instruction to talented Egyptian youths with no prerequisites other than the desire to learn. After graduation the successful students were sent to Europe on a scholarship for further study.6

(p.428) Mahmud Mukhtar, the only sculptor among the Pioneers, owes his development to this school.7 He was born 10 May 1891 in Tambara, a small village near alMahalla al-Kubra in the Delta, where his father was the ʻumda, or headman. A sensitive and creative child, he fashioned village mud into figurines of animals and people. When his father took another wife, he moved with his divorced mother to the Sayyida Zaynab district in Cairo in 1902. Mukhtar was deeply affected by his mother's displacement and subsequent struggle to maintain her dignity, and his attachment to her remained deep and strong. He was seventeen years old when the new School of Fine Arts opened in 1908 and, eager to learn, he walked in and asked Laplagne, the first person he met, if he could study art there. Laplagne, a sculptor himself, encouraged and oversaw young Mukhtar's work. Graduating in 1911 Mukhtar was the first Egyptian admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1913 his figure Aida became the first work of art by a modern Egyptian artist to be included in an international exhibition in Paris.

The Egyptian revolution of 1919 brought Mukhtar back to Egypt, and to the installation of his best known sculpture: Egypt's Awakening (fig. 15.1). Mukhtar had submitted a marble model of this work to the International Exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris of 1920, where it had won a gold medal. Saʻd Zaghlul, leading the Egyptian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference at the time, visited the exhibition, where he met Mukhtar and was impressed by the statue: a sphinx, rising on outstretched forelegs, and a woman standing next to it, her right hand on its head and her left hand throwing back her veil.8

In June 1921 the Egyptian government commissioned Mukhtar to recreate the sculpture in larger form. Work was begun 15 June 1922, and on 20 May 1928 King Fuʼad I unveiled the finished statue in the square in front of the main railroad station. It was later moved to Maydan Giza, where it faces the Nile at the end of a broad esplanade leading toward the main building of Cairo University. The sphinx, Egypt's unique past, and the woman, the country's vital present, face east, to a new dawn and a new future. As a representation it is both historical summary and prophecy of hope; it is Egypt rooted over the centuries beside the gift-giving river—monumental, authentic, and triumphant.

The statue stands also as the icon of the period. It carried a message which all Egyptians, literate and illiterate, aristocrat or peasant, could understand. Molded of pink granite quarried from Aswan, itself an enduring national element, the awakening gestures of both sphinx and woman were an embodiment of Egypt's aspirations for independence and revival (p.429) through its people rather than through its rulers. Its creator Mukhtar and its patron Zaghlul were themselves evidence of a new social mobility, creative men who had achieved their positions through energy and talent. The statue, from gestation to completion (1918–28), also encapsulated the significant nationalist events of its creative decade. For example, in March 1919 the British exiled Saʻd Zaghlul to Malta for leading a delegation (wafd) against British rule and stirring nationalist agitation. The whirlwind of protest that swept the country was the Revolution of 1919. In February 1922, Britain announced they would end the Protectorate and grant Egypt independence. In November 1922, Howard Carter, after long and patient perseverance, discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, a boy pharaoh buried with spectacular treasures, an event that electrified the world. In 1923 Huda Shaʻrawi, returning from an international feminist meeting in Rome, stepped from the train in Cairo and removed her face veil in public for the first time, thus becoming the standard-bearer for the women's liberation movement.9 Saʻd Zaghlul, hailed as the father of Egypt's political independence, died on August 1927, and was mourned throughout Egypt. His wife Safiya, referred to as Umm al-Misriyyin (mother of the Egyptians), a title given to her in 1919,10 continued to play a symbolic role within the nationalist movement. The statue personified all of these events.

Mukhtar, never in robust health, died on 26 March 1934. He was buried in the Bab al-Wazir cemetery. In 1963 his remains were re-interred in a newly built museum in his honor on the island of Gezira designed by Ramsis Wissa Wassef. The museum displays a range of Mukhtar's work. He sculpted portrait busts of prominent Egyptians and the new Cairene Egyptian elite,11 such as Dr. ʻAli Ibrahim, ʻAbd al-Khaliq Tharwat, ʻAdli Yakan, and Saʻd Zaghlul, all cabinet ministers and premiers who backed the 1919 Revolution.12 His other statues are of peasant men and women, a tribute to those Egyptian inhabitants who had persevered throughout the millennia with little change. Mukhtar used his French training to create statues of idealized personifications or “types.” Among the men are the shaykh al-balad (the village headman), the fallah (peasant) with his hand hoe, and “the guardian of the fields”; among the women are tall, slim figures who carry baskets or jars of water on their heads, or rounded draped shapes hauling water from the river or battling the fierce winds of the khamsin (spring storm).13

Yusuf Kamil and Raghib Ayad, companions of Mukhtar, were also in the School of Fine Arts' first graduating class in 1911. They were Pioneer artists, of modest backgrounds and means, who later went on to study art (p.430) in Rome.14 Yusuf Kamil (1891–1971), of all the Pioneer artists, best fit the mold into which he had been formed by his European teachers. Born in the Bab al-Sharʻiya area, a traditional district of Cairo, he maintained a studio in Matariya, in the rural outskirts. He admitted to being an “impressionist by inclination.” His paintings of the corners and streets of Islamic Cairo (fig. 15.2), and of scenes set in the Egyptian landscape, are the only Egyptian paintings to come close to the views and vistas of the nineteenth-century European Orientalist painters. His impressionistic palette and soft brushstroke technique appealed to the rising middle class.

As an artist and as a focus of national artistic development, Raghib Ayad (1892–1982) is stylistically more interesting. He was also born in Cairo, and after his graduation from the School of Fine Arts, he spent the years from 1920–30 in Rome. Ayad's return to Egypt marked his real beginning as an Egyptian artist. By devoting himself to scenes of popular life, he was a painter who gave to his work a certain autochthonal quality His paintings of the 1930s best express his themes and style which, once established, he continued to favor throughout his life.15

Ayad concentrated on Egypt's agricultural scene and people. By drawing the rural peasant going about his unchanged business, Ayad continued the celebration of daily life so marked in ancient Egypt. “With rough and warm vitality, Ayad drew the peasant at work in the fields, tending his animals, selling his produce at market, navigating the Nile. He depicted these activities as a continuation of the ancient past, and with reference to pharaonic friezes: in vertical levels of linear horizontal action, in profile, and in two-dimensional volume. This technique is best seen in his Market scenes of 1930 and 1938, and in Workers in the Field, 1938, all in Cairo's Museum of Modern Egyptian Art.16 Ayad's cattle and water buffalo have a flattened, linear, gaunt look to them, but the symbiotic relationship between man and animal, as the beast plows the fields, or turns the saqiya, the waterwheel (fig. 15.3), is vividly expressed. The past becomes the present, where only the date has changed. Instead of pharaoh hunting in the marshes with a small-scale daughter at his side, Ayad paints the rural mother standing protectively next to her son (fig. 15.4).17

In Coffeehouse in Aswan, 1933 (fig. 15.5) and Sudanese Dancing, 1937, Ayad offers a contemporary view of two age-old activities, and he does so with new insight.18 In the Coffeehouse it is a baladi (of the people) woman, with colorful headscarf and long-sleeved flouncy dress, and silver rings on her fingers and tattoos on her hands, who sits in the center of the picture. A narghile is next to her. She is tired. She ignores, and is ignored by, the (p.431) men around her. In Sudanese Dancing, Ayad records movement and happening: the spontaneous combustion of two women dancing to a musician drumming. In these representations there is none of the voyeurism of nineteenth-century European depictions.

In the 1940s he began a new theme. As a Copt, Ayad recorded the life of the Church in Egypt, in parishes and monasteries, and he did so in strongly outlined forms suggestive of old Coptic images and icons. These works reflect his deep religious roots simply but movingly. This new minority theme evoked the ceremonies, architecture, priests, and mysteries of Egypt's Christian rites. In The Monastery, 1936 (fig. 15.6) the curtain of the door of the iconostasis (sanctuary screen) is pulled back to show a priest standing at the altar. Monks standing by the screen and seated on benches participate in the service. In an unsigned Nativity scene in a private collection, the setting is an Egyptian village. Donkeys and cattle surround the mother and infant child to whom the oriental kings have come in obeisance. Behind the waiting camels is a cream plastered Coptic Church with dome.

In Alexandria, a Mediterranean city which from the outset has offered Cairo lively competition in the visual arts, the beginnings of modern Egyptian painting were with men who were members of the aristocratic elite and were trained as lawyers. Muhammad Naghi (1888–1956), in a career as artist, diplomat, cultural educator, and administrator, was the most cosmopolitan of the Pioneers.19 As soon as he had finished his four years of studying law at the University of Lyon (1906–10), he turned to art as a career. During the next decade, Naghi alternated between studies in Europe and the discovery of Egypt, between being a European cosmopolite and an Egyptian patriot. From 1910 to 1914 new horizons were opened to him with his exposure to Renaissance artists at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, and in 1918 he spent the year at Giverny with Claude Monet. In 1911 he lived with Shaykh ʻAli of the ʻAbd al-Rasul family in Gurna/Thebes, saturating himself with the atmosphere of mystery and grandeur of the pharaonic past (fig. 15.7). Between 1914 and 1920, he kept a studio in the Maison des Arts, below the Citadel in Cairo. His 1922 self-portrait in bust form introduces a lively and vigorous man (fig. 15.8). The colors, red and black, give life to the face and suggest the inner fire of an active and curious person.

As a diplomat, from 1925 to 1930, his assignments took him to Rio de Janeiro and Paris, where he became a friend of the French painter André Lhote, who introduced him to the works of Paul Gauguin, and where he was decorated with the Legion of Honor. After Paris, Naghi joined the (p.432) Egyptian delegation to the Congress of Popular Arts in Prague headed by Louis Hautecoeur. This distinguished French art historian and curator was in charge of fine arts in Cairo from 1927–30.20 A lively discussion about the existence of popular art in Egypt led Naghi to disagree with Hautecoeur and as a result Naghi resigned from the diplomatic service.21

In 1931 Naghi was sent on an artistic mission to Ethiopia. In many ways this was the richest period of his artistic life. In Addis Ababa he explored the sources of the Nile, which flowed majestically before him, and he was inspired to paint several pictures of this life-giving river (Blue Nile and Red Nile in 1934). He painted portraits of the Emperor Haile Selassie I and of members of his court, and of churchmen in ceremonial robes. In these paintings he used chromatic harmonies of warm colors contrasted with dark African shadows.

In the mid-1930s Naghi became increasingly engaged with cultural and administrative projects. He was aware of the importance of establishing groups of artists and writers and of their influence on cultural activities. In 1934 he traveled to Greece and Macedonia where he painted the house of Muhammad Ali. The following year he established the Atelier in Alexandria. In 1936 he was honored by an exhibition of his Abyssinian works at the Tate Gallery in London. From 1937–39 he was the first Egyptian director of the School of Fine Arts in Cairo,22 and from 1939–47 he directed the Museum of Modern Art in Cairo. In 1941 he established a student workshop in Luxor, which was to benefit subsequently many young Egyptian artists. He traveled to France, England, and Spain for UNESCO in its cultural mission to save the temple of Abu Simbel during 1945–46. From 1947 to 1950 he was director of the Egyptian Academy in Rome; and in 1952 he founded the Atelier in Cairo, and was its first president. Muhammad Naghi died in his studio in Giza in 1956 after the new revolution. The studio was dedicated as a museum and opened in 1991.

In the legacy that he has left, two groups of paintings stand out: those inspired by the Egyptian countryside and those inspired by Egypt's history His year in Luxor and frequent visits to the family estate in the Delta gave him the insights into agrarian village life that he transferred to canvas. In Shepherd Holding Sheep (fig. 15.9) the brown-skinned man in brown cotton gallabiya holds the white-furred animal by its legs around his neck.23 A white turban and vest add further highlights around his face. This minimal color scheme—whites and browns—gives focus to the man's strong face, while its ‘haloing’ highlights also hint at a connection with the Christian icon of the Good Shepherd. In Boy Asleep on Water Buffalo, the animal cropping clover (p.433) fills the picture.24 The young keeper lies across her broad and bony back. A few slashes of green, blue, yellow suggest the field around them. This simple subject graphically conveys the importance this beast has for the Egyptian peasant. In another painting, Homeward Bound,25 a girl in a red dress sits astride the gray haunches of a buffalo. One sees them from the back. Streaks of blues and greens on either side suggest oncoming dusk in a fertile field. Naghi used broad, long strokes of color to give form and movement to his compositions. He also used color to unite the various elements in his composition and to give them perspective. Naghi also painted the men of Qurna in ritualized stick-fighting,26 women baking bread,27 and, in an unusual view of Cairo, he painted a river view of earthenware pots on feluccas as seen from the Galaʼ Bridge in Giza.28 The main image concentrates on the river traffic, but it includes the tip of the island of Gezira, where feathery palm fronds are enlivened by a brilliant slash of flame trees in blossom.

However sensitive Naghi was to his sturdy Egyptian compatriots, he was not part of their world and did not live their lives. He recognized this graphically in an unusual autobiographical illustration: The Village.29 In it the Naghis have come to visit their agricultural estate at Abu Hummus. Muhammad and his sister or wife stand at the edges of the painting. Achair has been brought for Naghi's father. The village ʻumda sits on the ground beside him. Around these static posed figures of the men in western suits and the lady in dress with handbag, swirl the activities of village life: peasants in gallabiyas and cattle pass through on their way to the fields; a naked boy chases a goose; a cat rubs against the chair leg. Naghi is part of the scene, but he stands on the fringe.

It is as a historian, however, that his work is most novel. For thirty years between 1919 to 1950 the theme of freedom preoccupied him. He transformed this theme into epic and historic manifestations at once glorifying Egypt's past achievements and highlighting its future potential. In 1919 he returned from Giverny and painted Renaissance of Egypt or the Cortege of Isis, which has hung in the Senate Council Chambers since 1922.30 Like Mukhtar he identifies and glorifies Egypt as pharaonic. The painting is seven meters by three meters, and it is the first epic statement of the new Egypt. It is an allegorical representation of the nation and its people in a march toward their freedom. It exalts Isis, the mother goddess, whose triumphal cortege is accompanied by the sowers and reapers of fertile Egypt marching at its side. In the same year he painted a portrait of Juliette Adam. In itself the picture was a simple image of a woman in a yellow dress seated in a blue chair with a bowl of fruit at her feet. However, (p.434) she was an important subject. She was the editor of La nouvelle revue, an influential monthly, an intellectual who espoused Egyptian nationalism, and the patron of Mustafa Kamil, the founder of the Nationalist party, and an early proponent of the idea that Egypt should be for the Egyptians.

In 1941 Naghi painted the The Pledge of Allegiance to Muhammad ʻAlt (fig. 15.10).31 Five meters by three, the canvas shows Muhammad ʻAli at the Citadel receiving a delegation of notables led by ʻUmar Makram. They pledge allegiance to the Albanian commander as their governor instead of the unpopular representative appointed by the Ottoman court. The reference is to the crisis of 1804–1805.32 ʻUmar Makram was a highly respected and influential Cairene merchant and notable. In organizing the artisans in rebellions against Napoleon's invasion, he is remembered as an early hero of Egypt's struggle for independence. Naghi records visually that it was the people, as represented by these civilian notables, who legitimized Muhammad Ali's seizure of power. Naghi's use of reds, blues, and yellows intensifies the drama.

In Cyprus he supported freedom in two paintings he did in 1950. Naghi's wife was a Greek-Cypriote, and although Naghi was a Muslim, in favoring the Greek cause he put liberty above his allegiance to religion. His Enosis supports Cyprus' right to choose political union with Greece. His portrait of the Archbishop Makarios honors a man who was the hero of the battle against British imperialism for the liberties of the Cypriot people.

Along with these historic panels Naghi also created scenes that celebrated Egypt's contributions to world civilization. In 1935 he painted five large panels for the hospital in Alexandria on the theme of the history of medicine, featuring Imhotep, Moses, and Avicenna. In 1937 Naghi was charged with decorating the Egyptian pavilion at the International Exposition in Paris. He contributed a seven-panel mural entitled The Tears of Isis. Between 1939–49 he worked on School of Alexandria. Its theme exalted the cultural exchanges around the Mediterranean. Classical colonnaded buildings form a background to an assemblage of historical and modern figures, western and Egyptian, who as artists, scientists, and jurists have contributed to this common civilization. In 1954 it was exhibited at the Biennale in Venice, and was thereafter acquired by what is today the governorate of Alexandria where it adorns the main reception room. In renewing the great decorative tradition of painting, Naghi sought to make art instructive. He wanted these works to remind Egyptians of their past grandeur and also wanted art to have a social mission. He aimed at the formulation of a national art, which would integrate the artist with his community. Naghi's emphasis (p.435) on the pharaonic and Muhammad ʻAli periods gives visual articulation to the “programmatic narrative” deliberately crafted in the school texts as described by Barak Salmoni in chapter six of this volume.

Mahmud Said (1897–1964) was also from Alexandria. A quiet, shy man from a prominent family33 his niece Farida Zulfikar married King Faruq. The family residence was in the Anfushi district of Alexandria, near the Mosque of Abu al-ʻAbbas al-Mursi. Young Mahmud was tutored at home in Arabic, French, and English. Between seventeen and nineteen he took drawing lessons from Mme. Amelia Casonato, while also receiving instruction at the Zananiri studio in Alexandria. In 1918 he had his first exhibition in Alexandria. In the summers between 1920 and 1930 he haunted museums and Gothic churches on trips to Europe. He received no encouragement from his family, who saw no value in art except as something which foreigners seemed to appreciate. At his father's behest, therefore, he was trained for law, and in 1922 he became an assistant magistrate in the Mixed Courts at Mansura. For the next twenty-five years his life was torn between the values of his society, as represented by his career as a respectable counselor in the Court of Appeals, and by his passionate personal desire to paint. In 1919, he identified this struggle in two self-portraits, one as a young lawyer with slicked-back hair,34 and the other holding his palette, with tousled hair and intense gaze (fig. 15.11). Even after the death of his father he continued in law. It was not until 1947 that he resigned as a counselor in the Court of Appeals. He was thus fifty years of age before he devoted himself full time to painting, though by that time his identity as an artist had been established in a large and consistent body of work.

As such, the multiple conflicts between convention and personal freedom; social obligation and the expression of self; repression and desire; restraint and passion, show in his work. Mahmud Said produced a few canvases from a sojourn at Marsa Matruh and from his travels to Lebanon, but basically his work was firmly anchored in Alexandria. Typical of his class and his city, his cultural affinities were essentially European and his life was far removed from that of the majority of Egyptians. Even so, in a mixture of imagination and reality, his art subjects had a real Egyptian base. Of the early Pioneer artists he is the only one who sees his Muslim faith as a topic of art. In 1934, after an almost fatal illness, he portrayed himself bearded and in a brown gallabiya against a village background.35 It is an interesting composition underlining the verities of life: behind him on the left a woman is engaged in the ordinary task of hanging up the wash; on the right, a funeral procession moves toward the cemetery.

(p.436) In many paintings thereafter he exhibited a new sensibility, characterized by sensitivity to aspects of his religion that no other Egyptian painter had heretofore depicted. For example, Prayer, 1934 (fig. 15.12), is an evocative and moving depiction of worshipers in the collective act of submission in faith. The palette is of Egyptian colors. The ochre, brown, blue, green colors in the qamariyat (stained glass) window are echoed in the robes of the bending worshipers. Rays of light bathe the bowed men with a metaphysical dimension. He painted The Dhikr,36 a gathering of Sufi devotees, in which Muslim mystics turn in rhythmic trance, and The Zar, where men and women gather in a popular exorcism ceremony.37 In Shaykh in Prayer, 1941, Said registers the direct communication between man and his God. The rounded, enveloped form of the seated man, head bowed in meditation, contrasts with the straight, almost infinite, rows of stone columns and wooden beams of the unadorned mosque stretching behind him. A beam of light slants down diagonally upon the man.

Said painted portraits of his family—mother, father, sister, wife, and of his daughter Nadia as she grew up—and landscapes, of which his views of Alexandria are the most interesting. He visualized the deserted corniche at night in ghostly moonlight and the canal banks during the day (1929), where the curving forms of date palms and shore offset geometric, linear shapes of houses and diagonal tilt of boat masts in vivid juxtapositions.38 He favored men in blue gallabiyas riding on chunky white donkeys.

His most compelling subjects, however, were women, and paintings of women form the largest category of his work. On the surface, Said's intermingling of religious and female subjects might seem contradictory However, as a Muslim with an interest in its mystical dimension, Said was aware of the view that the whole world is under God's sovereignty; and that He delights in all his creation: “God is beautiful, and He loves beauty”39 and “Woman is a ray of God.”40 For Said, both as a Muslim and as a painter, women were a legitimate subject with which to render additional appreciation for aspects of Egyptian beauty. Said's women can be divided into two groups: the imaginary and typological, and the real and authentic. The women he draws in the first group are types, recognizable by their large dark eyes, flattened noses, thick lips and elongated faces. In their features and postures, Said captures the essence of the Egyptian baladi woman—earthy self-assured, savvy quick-witted.41 Of this group, his Life of the City, 1937 (fig. 15.13) is perhaps his most famous painting. In the center of the composition, three women stand in a monumental triangular arrangement. Their milayas are draped provocatively around them (p.437) and they fiddle with their transparent face veils. A shurbagi (soft drink vendor) frames them on one side; and on the other, a man and a child ride a white donkey. Behind them the Nile and the Mosque of Muhammad ʻAli suggest Cairo as a setting.

Said's nudes also fall into this imaginary/typological category. As an æuvre, whether sitting, or standing or reclining in boats, they portray the Egyptian woman as a beautiful brown Venus on the Mediterranean shores.42 His brush exalts the strong, simple, uncomplicated beauty of the fallaha. His interest in her body is an artistic one. He is not a cultural voyeur: he did not use women, as many European Orientalist painters have been accused of doing, to make political, economic, or cultural statements about their situation. In the second category, Said painted women as real individuals. He rendered them with great psychological insight and in a great variety of feminine guises: mothers, peasants, servants, relatives, courtesans, and patricians. In this presentation he personalized the Egyptian woman, and gave her attributes and functions other than those of just an Orientalist harem occupant. For example, one can compare his portrait of the Lady Yusuf Zulfikar43 with that of the Expectant Maid (fig. 15.14). Both women were at opposite ends of the social spectrum, but Said dissolves the class distinction when he painted their portraits in the same seated posture, and in similar orange dresses. Said was the first Egyptian artist to be honored with the State Appreciation Award for Art, in 1959.44

1935–50

In this phase a second group of artists completed the process of developing a truly Egyptian art. The first group showed that they had achieved mastery of western based formats; the second group transformed that expression into an art that broke free of the influence and forms of western art and European academic styles, and infused their own aesthetic with concerns and styles that were indisputably Egyptian. The first group of Pioneers, motivated and impelled by the independence movement of 1919, derived their inspiration and subject matter from their land, their culture and their history. Like the Pioneers of the first period, the artists of the second period were also stimulated and shaped by political and economic forces—this time by the events of the region and of the world as they affected Egypt in the guise of World War II. To the external, objective, literal depiction of Egypt under the first period Pioneers, those of the second period added visual representations of the subjective, psychological, and unconscious world of the masses.

(p.438) ʻAbd al-Hadi al-Gazzar (1925–65)45 and Hamid Nada (1924–90) are the best known of those artists who pioneered the new outlook. They emerged during the late 1930s and early 1940s, a period that had much to do with the development of their art and the novelty of their points of view. It was a creative and confusing time; politically and economically the 1930s and 1940s were a time of world turmoil. Egypt was unwillingly drawn into World War II as a major base for troops from all parts of the British Empire when the focus of the war shifted to Eastern Europe and North Africa. Egypt also became increasingly involved in the Arab affairs of the region: in Sudan, Egypt sought to end British control, and Egypt gave political and economic aid to Palestine as it became an Arab cause. In the 1930s Egypt's main source of income on the world market derived from the export of cotton, and Egypt was heavily dependent on these revenues. The Great Depression and then the war led to a fall in cotton prices, causing hardship to an increasing population. The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928, developed from a strict Islamic reform movement into a militant mass organization that viewed Islam as religion and ideology Anxiety and insecurity were felt by all, and this found expression in art.

Al-Gazzar and Nada were close friends, and their lives, training, and artistic expressions ran along parallel lines until the early 1950s.They were born within a year of each other, and they came from families with traditional, conservative values. Their fathers were Muslim shaykhs. Al-Gazzar's father taught at al-Azhar, the major center of traditional Islamic curricula. The boys grew up in Islamic Cairene quarters imbued with a traditional outlook. Al-Gazzar lived in the district of Sayyida Zaynab, an area surrounding the mosque named for a granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the patron saints of Cairo since the Fatimid period. Nada lived in the Khalifa district below the Citadel where the Mosque of al-Rifaʻi, the patron saint of snake charmers, is located. These were districts imbued by Islam in its formal and popular aspects, in which the inhabitants were immersed in a world where everything was explained by the action of spiritual forces.46 The two men, as students, enrolled in the Hilmiya Secondary School where they were nurtured by a remarkable man and teacher, Husayn Yusuf Amin (1904–84).47

Husayn Amin's interest in the arts led him to the academy of Fine Arts in Florence in 1924, and from thence to Brazil, via Spain, where he spent several years teaching drawing. Upon his return to Egypt in 1931, he gave up a successful career as a painter in order to teach at the Hilmiya Secondary School in Cairo. Amin belonged to a group of pioneers in art (p.439) education begun by Habib Jurji, who was both thinker and sculptor. Jurji, while studying in London, had been exposed to the new art teachings of Herbert Read which emphasized the importance of the “organic” process in learning. Dissatisfied with the fidelity to European norms that was characteristic of Egyptian art teaching, Jurji began his own educational experiment. He believed that there existed a deep-rooted indigenous artistic talent in all children that could be fostered by encouragement and appropriate technique.48 Amin also worked along these lines. He noticed young talent and encouraged its development. He worked with students who came from backgrounds totally excluded from the established mainstream of art culture and made them create spontaneously. Through self-discovery and self-analysis he helped them penetrate their subconscious and discover their own sensitivities and sensibilities. Their art was thus based on the cultural and social conditions surrounding them.

Amin, however, was more than just teacher and mentor to ʻAbd al-Hadi al-Gazzar and Hamid Nada. As an artist, cosmopolite and intellectual, Amin was also part of the intellectual community that characterized Cairo of the late 1930s and early 1940s, a time alive to intellectual discussion and new artistic influences. Amin was a friend of Yusuf Afifi, another educator with a dynamic personality, and close to Habib Jurji. Afifi had been also inspired by the teachings of Herbert Read and John Dewey, and taught art at the Saʻidiya elementary school, likewise aiming to free Egyptian art from western practices. Two of his students were Kamal Tilmissani (1917–67) and Ramsis Yunan (1913–60), who became protégés of Georges Henein, who was also in Husayn Yusuf Amin's circle of acquaintances.49

Georges Henein (1914–73),50 a well-traveled, multi-lingual Sorbonne-educated essayist, was friends with André Breton and other French Surrealist pioneers.51 Deploring Fascist censorship and the destruction of art works termed “degenerate,” Henein founded the Art and Freedom Group in January 1939, an association of artists. It had as its objective the defense of liberty in art and culture, and the need to link local art with international artistic movements. Fuʼad Kamil (1919–73), a secondary school art teacher, artist, writer, and critic who was trained at the School of Fine Arts (1929–33), joined the Group that included Tilmissani and Yunan, and became its spokesman.

Horrified by the realities of World War II, the Art and Freedom Group announced its aims in a series of articles and statements. First, they revolted against classical and academic styles, which they regarded as backward, stagnant, and arbitrary. They ridiculed “the portrayal of blooming (p.440) flowers and fresh fruits on clean dishes,” and made fun of “slender peasant women, with fresh complexions and nice figures.”52 Additionally they felt that the artist, in order to produce real art, had to engage with the “reality” of the human psyche and subconscious mind, a reality based on Freud's theories and analysis. They proclaimed themselves against everything limiting one's freedom, and chose surrealism as the liberating movement. Between 1938 and 1945 surrealism provided an escape from the dominant figurative trend of the earlier period's art. In their first show, in February 1940, the Egyptian surrealists announced their revolt against their society and against classical and academic styles. In this first exhibition most of the paintings revolved around the theme of the human psyche as it was affected by war. The group felt their duty was to open the public's eyes to the horrible realities of cruelty and ruin that were the products of war. They shocked their audiences with images featuring distortion, the absurd, and the unnatural. Their canvases featured strangely shaped tree trunks with breasts, staring hollow-eyed faces, separate and maimed body parts in wasted and empty landscapes.

By challenging both conservatives and nationalists they alienated the public and lost financial and political support. The group and their surrealist art, therefore, did not last long, but their influence was profound.53 This new art and ways of seeing and expressing reality dug up the artistic soil and planted new seeds. The surrealist moment provided a rupture that opened the door for the expressionist popular art of ʻAbd al-Hadi al-Gazzar and Hamid Nada.

Husayn Amin also believed that generating contacts and exchanges among other young artists could encourage young talents, and to this end he created the Group of Contemporary Art. Its professed aim was to foster the emergence of an Egyptian school of painting, free from the influence of western art. Amin's Group of Contemporary Art held its first exhibition in May of 1946.54 One hundred and ninety pieces were displayed in the Foyer of the Lycée Français in Cairo. The effect was startling and shocking, and both critics and public knew they were witnessing a radical rupture in Egyptian pictorialism. All the works represented subjects from popular life, and the emphasis was on the truth behind this life: its fatalism, its stupor, and its somber, dramatic, and cruel overtones. These young painters depicted visually the world of a people paralyzed by poverty, ignorance, and superstition, a world that they knew and of which they were a part. They expressed this through traditional visual symbolism. They used popular images of magic as symbols to illustrate their social commentary: (p.441) the tortoise to represent patience and peace; the rat as the furtive, sinister, subconscious (fig. 15.15);55 the bull suggesting sex and fertility; and the cat, symbolizing woman, ghosts, and eternity. As painters, these young artists were also united in feeling that the artist had a social role to play in society; and that he should depict the tragedy and loneliness of man.56

In the third exhibition in 1949 held at the Young Christian Association, Husayn Yusuf Amin, as promoter, and al-Gazzar, as artist, were arrested because of al-Gazzar's entry, Hunger, a name later changed to The Theater of Life.57 Eight women, variously garbed, stand in a row. One of them has a child. They look vacantly at the viewer. Each represents a different face of female Egypt. In front of them are empty tin plates. The message is one of sociopolitical criticism: Egypt is hungry; its women have not achieved the emancipation so eagerly anticipated in 1923. This use of art as social statement and criticism was a new departure. Muhammad Naghi and Mahmud Said intervened with the authorities to free Amin and al-Gazzar from jail.

Between 1948 and 1951 al-Gazzar's output was considerable. He submitted forty oil paintings for a show in his honor at the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art. The Wedding of Zulayka (1948)58 is an indictment of the practice of child marriage. The girl Zulayka stands small beside her mother who, with an enormous hand (of power and authority?), plucks a red flower from an upturned drum, symbol of deflowered hope. The child, with sad eyes and downcast head, stares mutely at a large white rat.

Gazzar's most famous painting is The Green Fool of 1951 (fig. 15.16). It is a simple view of a head in profile. He is green in color, and has a red flower behind his ear from which an earring dangles. The earring emasculates him. Outstretched arms frame his head, each bent at the elbows, an ‘eye’ in the center of each palm. The ‘fool’ often acted as an exorcist at mulids or religious fairs. Green is a color of fertility; it was used for Osiris, but green stands also for the Prophet Muhammad and his family, whose intercession may be sought. The raised praying hands and the eyes to ward off evil impart a Coptic and popular dimension to the image and thus make of it a condensation of Egyptian folk religion. Al-Gazzar's works give an extraordinary vision of the persistence and power of folklore, and in this lies their originality.59

His friend Hamid Nada also explored the strange popular world, full of superstition, astonishment, and human tragedies. His paintings of the early 1940s depicted those who visited tombs of saints, where they slept, ate, and collapsed in hysterical fits. Nada anthropomorphized the dead-end paralysis of these lives by creating solid, chunky figures that made (p.442) them look as if carved from wood. As such they are indistinguishable from each other; there is nothing that individualizes them. The Lamp of Gloom (fig. 15.17)60 illustrates Nada's style of these years. A disproportionally large lamp illuminates three people—child, mother and father—who stand paralyzed, staring vacantly into its shadowy glare. The Group of Contemporary Art disbanded in 1954, but by then ʻAbd al-Hadi al-Gazzar and Hamid Nada had moved away from the districts in which they had grown up. Their styles changed after the revolution of 1952.

Hamid Nada spent the year at Luxor in 1956, painting at the Atelier founded by Muhammad Naghi. His early interest in magic and symbols of popular superstitions led during the 1970s to paintings of a very personal and distinct kind of folk expressionism (fig. 15.18).61 Vestiges of surrealism surfaced in his late art, and his themes and figures became repetitive. The developments of his later years—the sudden deafness, his erotic desires—provide an insight into the elements that float about his canvases: receptive women wearing garter belts and hose, iron-frame beds, roosters, cats, strange crab-like creatures, stallions, the ever-present musicians on their drums. He died in 1990, still an influential Egyptian painter, but no longer an innovative forger of new directions.

ʻAbd al-Hadi al-Gazzar enrolled in the School of Fine Arts in 1944, receiving his diploma with honors in 1950. In 1954 he was given a state scholarship to study in Italy, and from 1957–61 he spent another four years of study in Rome. When he returned to Egypt he was appointed an assistant professor at the School of Fine Arts. After 1952 al-Gazzar became an enthusiastic supporter of the revolution. He moved away from the depiction of the soul, and the unknown, to symbolic representations of Egypt, and to the new relationship between man and technology. In 1962 he won first prize in the competition “The Revolution, Ten Years After” with his al-Mithaq (The Charter).62 It is a painting that brilliantly captures the ‘new’ Egypt and its inclusive political aims. Egypt, her skin the green color of the resurrected Osiris and crowned with the emblem of the republic, stands in the center, like a pharaonic tree goddess, holding in her hand the charter of the revolution. The farmer and the worker kneel before her while behind her, the priest and the imam embrace. The worker holds a wrench and around him are machine parts, symbols of Egypt's industrialized future. The fallah looks down at the cotton blossom and the mound of seeds in his hands. Next to him lies a paper headlined “Ownership of the Earth.” Draped over his shoulders is a mantle decorated with an inscribed border in which verse 13:11 from the Qurʼan, The Thunder, is clearly legible: (p.443) “Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” Al-Gazzar had turned his back on the survivals of the past to embrace the positives of the future.

Al-Gazzar's vision may have changed, but his emphasis on the common man had not.In 1965, before his untimely death, he visualized the Suez Canal quite differently from the way in which Mahmud Said had memorialized it twenty years earlier. The two paintings offer an interesting comparison of the styles and perspectives of the early groups of Egyptian Pioneers. Mahmud Said, of the first phase, in 1946, highlights the pomp and circumstance of the 1869 opening ceremonies (fig. 15.19).63 The Khedive Ismaʻil and the European royalty, his guests, are the most prominent actors in this staged world celebration, and the viewer sees them through drawn curtains. Said celebrates the Europeanization of Egypt, and he has signed his name in Latin letters. ʻAbd al-Hadi al-Gazzar's signature is in Arabic. In his version (fig. 15.20)64 it is the forced corvée labor of the peasants on whose backs this great waterway was achieved that dominates the scene, a scene without frames or borders and so immediate that the viewer is almost a part of it. For the first time since the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, ʻAbd al-Nasser had regained control of the Suez Canal in 1956, eleven years before the painting, and al-Gazzar pays tribute to the Egyptian exertion that made it the great transportational gateway between East and West. The artist shows the Egyptian fallah, with pickaxe and reed basket, toiling to cut through the rock and remove the earth in much the same way as he had toiled to build the pyramids.

Conclusion

Modern Egyptian painting and sculpture, in its institutional sense, is less than a century old. In the years between revolutions, 1919 to 1952, it broke away from its foreign tutor and matured into its own being. The major artists who helped in this development have been singled out. Other important and interesting artists worked during these years, but they did not have the force or the distinction to make the impression of those here:65 of Mukhtar, who in a land of great sculpture was the first sculptor to emerge since the Arab invasion; of Ayad who became interested in the life of simple folk and was the first to draw attention to the aesthetic value of popular art; of Naghi who painted national epics of grandeur and independence; of Said whose portraits celebrated the warmth and beauty of Egyptian women; of al-Gazzar and Nada, who reached into the subconscious and depicted the state and soul of the Egyptian masses. These (p.444) Egyptian artists took up themes native to Egypt and painted them with indigenous insights.

In these inter-revolutionary years the question of identity was broached and tackled. The Pioneer artists freed Egypt from its dependence on western themes, techniques, and styles. These early artists passed from external descriptions to internal motivations; they made the transition from pharaonic grandeur to Muslim prayer and popular spirituality. This opened the way to other themes. After the revolution of 1952, art would become a visual element in state policy. Artists were encouraged to depict the new Egypt. They found new themes in an identification of Arab roots, and in Islamic abstract art and calligraphy. Also during the ʻAbd al-Nasser years, as a result of the preparation of the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, a wave of very talented female artists emerged, among whom the most outstanding were: Effat Naghi (1905–94), the sister of Muhammad; Tahiya Halim (1919–2003), In Aflatoun (1924–89), and Gazbia Sirry (1925–), the only artist still painting. The efflorescence of art during the second half of the twentieth century would not have been possible without the artists of the first part of the century.

Notes

(1) A grant by the American Research Center in Egypt, February–May 1998, enabled research on this topic. Mme. Christine Roussillon, Dr. ʻAbd al-Ghaffar Shedid, Dr. Adel Sabet, Khalid Hafez, and Mahmud Menisi, were most generous in sharing their knowledge and insights. So were the many other artists, gallery owners, critics, and collectors with whom I spoke. Transliteration of Arabic names is always a problem. If the artist signs his/her name in Latin letters, that is the name I use; otherwise I transliterate from the Arabic, or use the name by which they are best known.

(2) The few general books in western languages on the subject are Aimé Azar, La Peinture Moderne en Égypte (Cairo: Les Éditions Nouvelles, 1961); Liliane Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art: The Emergence of a Style (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1988); and Contemporary Egyptian Art (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1995). The development of Egyptian painting is treated in more schematic form in Wijdan Ali, Contemporary Art from the Islamic World (London: Scorpion Publishing, 1989); Ezz El-Din Naguib, The Dawn of Egyptian Modern Painting, trans. Morsi Saad Eddin (Cairo: Ministry of Culture, 1992); Cairo: A Life-Story of 1000 Years 969–1969 (Cairo: Ministry of Culture, Egyptian Publishing Organization, 1970), images#302–372. Arts & the Islamic World: “The Arts in Egypt,” 2:2(1984); “Egyptian Art Scene,” 4:1 (1986); “Egypt: the Arts inView,” v.35, 2000. In Arabic, see Amr el-Bilassy ed., “Pioneers of Modern EgyptianArt: 15 Artists from Muhammad Nagy to Ahmad Abd al-Wahab,” Shell Co. in Egypt (April–June 1996); and “Modern Art,” Shell Co. in Egypt (July–December, 1995). The only book that serves as a catalogue to the art in the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art is Fatma Ismaʻil, 29 Artists in the Museum of Egyptian Modern Art (Cairo: Center Line, 1992).

(p.445) (3) Barak Salmoni in chapter six sheds further light on the development of this new historical consciousness.

(4) Born in 1887, the son of Ahmad Kamal, grandson of Ahmad Rifaat and great-grandson of Ibrahim Pasha.

(5) The School of Fine Arts, established in 1908, over the century changed its location from Gamamiz to Shubra to Giza, finally settling in Zamalek, and its name from School to College to Faculty of Fine Arts when it became part of the University of Helwan in 1972.

(6) Yunan Labib Rizk, “Enlightened Royals,” Al-Ahram Weekly, 6–12 January 2000.

(7) For further information on this sculptor see: Ministry of Culture Museum of Sculptor Mahmoud Mukhtar (Cairo, n.d.); Yunan Labib Rizk, “Egypt Incarnate,” Al-Ahram Weekly 21–27 February, 2002; Suhail Bisharat: “Mahmoud Mukhtar: Memories & Modernity” Arts & The Islamic Worlds (2000), 32–35; Ingrid Wassmann, “Written in Stone,” Egypt Today, May 1991.

(8) Yunan Labib Rizk: “Egypt Incarnate,” Al-Ahram Weekly 21–27 February 2002

(9) This event is detailed in Huda Shaʻarawi, Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, trans, and intro. Margot Badran (New York: Feminist Press, 1986).

(10) “Safiya Zaghlul,” Arthur Goldschmidt, Jr., Biographical Dictionary of Modern Egypt (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000). See also Margot Badran, Feminists, Islam and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).

(11) The complexity of Cairo's human scene in the 1930s is well-described by Magdi Wahba: “Cairo Memories,” in Studies in Arab History, ed. Derek Hopwood, (Oxford: The Antonius Lectures 1978–87, 1990), 103–15.

(12) See Goldschmidt, Biographical Dictionary. Dr. Ali Ibrahim, a prominent surgeon and intellectual, was also a collector of Islamic art, and his collection was the basis of the Museum of Islamic Art holdings.

(13) See Samia Kholoussi's discussion of the fallahin in chapter ten.

(14) Outstanding graduates were sent to Europe to finish their art studies. At first Kamil and Ayyad alternated expenses: one would teach and work in Egypt while the other studied in Rome. In 1925 Saʻd Zaghlul arranged state scholarships of £E 200 a year.

(15) In the late 1930s Ayad took a series of administrative posts: in 1937 director of the Arts Section of the School of Applied Arts (founded 1928–29); in the 1940s he was director of the Coptic Museum for a few years, and until 1949 the director of the Free Section of the School of Fine Arts; from 1949–54 he was director of the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art (founded 1931); in 1952 he founded the Mukhtar Museum. He was a catalyst in the founding of the Egyptian Academy in Rome, where he had individual exhibitions in 1927, 1937, and 1948.

(16) Illustrated in Cairo: The Life Story of 1000 Years, #331 and #332, and Karnouk: Modern Egyptian Art, 42

(17) Samia Kholoussi, in chapter ten, discusses the fallah as a literary subject.

(18) Both in the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, Cairo, and illustrated in Shell, Pioneers, 70–78.

(19) The major monograph on his life in French is Effat Naghi, ed. et al., Mohamed Naghi (1888–1956), Un impressioniste Égyptien (Cairo: Cahiers de Chabramant, 1988). His studio, near the pyramids, has been turned into a museum and exhibits many of his works, as does the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, both in Cairo. The correct transliteration of the Arabic name is Naji, but the artist signed his work as Naghi.

(20) He authored Les Mosquées du Caire (Paris, 1932).

(21) In 1937 Naghi followed through on his interest in popular Egyptian arts by establishing the “House of Arts” for their exhibition.

(22) He succeeded Gabriel Biessy who taught painting when the School was established in 1908.

(23) 1925, Naghi Museum, Cairo. Shell, Ibid., 15.

(24) 1943, Naghi Museum, Cairo. Shell, Ibid., 27.

(25) 1934, Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, Cairo.

(p.446) (26) Cairo 1000 Years, #322.

(27) 1929, oil on textile, Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, Cairo; Shell, Modern Art.

(28) No date, oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, Cairo; Shell, Modern Art.

(29) 1928–42, oil on canvas, Naghi Museum, illustrated in Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art #9. Karnouk gives the date as 1928; Effat Naghi, in “Chronological Index of the most important works of Muhammad Naghi,” in Mohamed Naghi, 63, dates it to 1937, while the date on the identification card at the Naghi Museum is 1942. Naghi married Lilika Tavernai 1937–39,57. If the painting is of a later date then the figure on the right is that of his new bride rather than his sister.

(30) Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art, 9.

(31) Museum of Egyptian Civilization. Shell, Pioneers of Modern Art, 16–17.

(32) Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid-Marsot, Egypt in the Reign of Muhammad Ali (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984) 44–45; 47–53, 68–69.

(33) Mahmoud al-Nabawi as-Shal, Mahmud Said (Cairo: Ministry of Culture, 1984), in English; Mahmud Said (Cairo: Cultural Development Fund, 2001).

(34) Museum of Modern Egyptian Art.

(35) 1934, oil on canvas, Mahmud Said Museum, Alexandria.

(36) 1929, oil on canvas, Shell: Pioneers of Modern Egypt Art, 88.

(37) Illustrated in Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art, #4.

(38) Shell, Pioneers of Modern Art, 74, 92.

(39) Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, Book 4, vol. 133–34

(40) Jalal al-Din Rumi: Mathnawi in J. A. Williams: The Word of Islam (Austin: University of Texas, 1994), 136.

(41) For further reference see Evelyn Early, Baladi Women of Cairo (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1993) especially 51–84.

(42) No date, oil on canvas, Mahmud Said Museum, Alexandria.

(43) 1934, oil on canvas, Mahmud Said Museum, Alexandria.

(44) His mansion on Bacchus St. in Alexandria was opened as a museum in April, 2000.

(45) Alain and Christine Roussillon, eds., Abdel Hadi al-Gazzar: An Egyptian Painter (Cairo: Elias Modern Press, 1990). See also Anna Boughiguian, “An Enigmatic Presence,” Al-Ahram Weekly, 20–26 January 2000.

(46) An insight into this world is offered by Nayra Atiya, Khul-Khaal: Five Egyptian Women Tell Their Stories (Syracuse University Press, 1982).

(47) Anna Boughiguian, “A Lost Master,” Al-Ahram Weekly, 14–20 October 1999. She ends her piece on a sad note: “what remains of the life of Hussein Youssef Amin is practically nothing.” For other references to Amin, see Aimé Azar, La Peinture Moderne en Égypte, 43–45 and 75–80; Alain and Christine Roussillon, Abdel Hadi al-Gazzar, 70–72; and Liliane Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art, 43–50.

(48) See figures #299,300 in Cairo: 1000 Years. His son-in-law, Ramsis Wissa Wassef, successfully implemented these spontaneous art principles in his weaving school at Haraniya, begun 1952.

(49) In 1936, Tilmissani published Declaration of the Post-Orientalists, which dealt with the state of the arts in Egypt. It emphasized the need to cultivate a unique Egyptian artistic identity and called for a break from the influence of foreign artists. “If I can arrive only to find the first traces of a new local art, only then will I consider myself an artist.” Quoted in A. Azar, La Peinture Moderne en Égypte, 48. The new approaches to traditional education had parallels elsewhere in Egyptian thinking. See chapters six and eight.

(50) Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art, 29–43, is the only source to refer to Henein as Hinayn. For more on the “Art and Liberty” Group see also Azar, 48–70; Roussillon, 66–69; Ezz el-Din Naguib, 99–125; and Samir Gharieb, Le Surréalisme en Égypte et les Arts Plastiques.

(51) French writer (1896–1966) whose writings on surrealism influenced Egyptian surrealists.

(52) Ezz el-Din Naguib, The Dawn of Egyptian Painting, 105.

(p.447) (53) After their last exhibition in 1945 the “Art and Liberty” Group was dissolved. Ramsis Yunan went to Paris in 1947 for ten years; Tilmissani turned to movies and went to Beirut, and Fuʼad Kamil took up abstract art.

(54) Other artists in the group included Samir Rafiʻ, Kamal Yusuf, Ibrahim Masuda, and al-Habshi.

(55) Al-Gazzar, Destiny, 1949, india ink on paper.

(56) Woman with Khul-Khaal, 1948, oil on canvas, private collection, Roussillon, 45; Karnouk, 46.

(57) 1948, oil on cardboard, Museum of Modern Egyptian Art; illustrated in Roussillon, 50; Karnouk, 31; Shell, Pioneers, 208.

(58) Oil on cardboard, private collection; Roussillon, 48.

(59) See Roussillon for al-Gazzar's many other images on the theme of popular belief and superstition.

(60) 1946, oil, Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art, 55.

(61) 1970s, crayon sketch, private collection.

(62) 1962, oil on wood, Museum of Modern Egyptian Art. See Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art, #18; Roussillon, 137.

(63) 1946, oil on canvas, Mahmud Said Museum, Alexandria.

(64) 1965, oil on celotex, Museum of the Sea, Alexandria; Roussillon, 152–53.

(65) For example, Saif (1906–79) and Adham (1908–59) Wanly were brothers from Alexandria who painted whimsical beach and circus scenes; Ahmad Sabry (1889–1955), an academic painter noted for his portraits, who taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts; Husny Banany (1912–88) graduated from and taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts, and is remembered for his landscapes; Salah Taher (1912–) who graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts, after a trip to the United States in the late 1950s became an abstract artist; Husayn Bikar (1913–) who graduated from and taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts is noted for his academic style; Hamid Abdullah (1917–85) was self-taught and left Egypt after the 1952 Revolution and used calligraphy in his art; Munir Canaan (1919–2000)was an independent, and autodidact who became an abstract artist.

Notes:

(1) A grant by the American Research Center in Egypt, February–May 1998, enabled research on this topic. Mme. Christine Roussillon, Dr. ʻAbd al-Ghaffar Shedid, Dr. Adel Sabet, Khalid Hafez, and Mahmud Menisi, were most generous in sharing their knowledge and insights. So were the many other artists, gallery owners, critics, and collectors with whom I spoke. Transliteration of Arabic names is always a problem. If the artist signs his/her name in Latin letters, that is the name I use; otherwise I transliterate from the Arabic, or use the name by which they are best known.

(2) The few general books in western languages on the subject are Aimé Azar, La Peinture Moderne en Égypte (Cairo: Les Éditions Nouvelles, 1961); Liliane Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art: The Emergence of a Style (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1988); and Contemporary Egyptian Art (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1995). The development of Egyptian painting is treated in more schematic form in Wijdan Ali, Contemporary Art from the Islamic World (London: Scorpion Publishing, 1989); Ezz El-Din Naguib, The Dawn of Egyptian Modern Painting, trans. Morsi Saad Eddin (Cairo: Ministry of Culture, 1992); Cairo: A Life-Story of 1000 Years 969–1969 (Cairo: Ministry of Culture, Egyptian Publishing Organization, 1970), images#302–372. Arts & the Islamic World: “The Arts in Egypt,” 2:2(1984); “Egyptian Art Scene,” 4:1 (1986); “Egypt: the Arts inView,” v.35, 2000. In Arabic, see Amr el-Bilassy ed., “Pioneers of Modern EgyptianArt: 15 Artists from Muhammad Nagy to Ahmad Abd al-Wahab,” Shell Co. in Egypt (April–June 1996); and “Modern Art,” Shell Co. in Egypt (July–December, 1995). The only book that serves as a catalogue to the art in the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art is Fatma Ismaʻil, 29 Artists in the Museum of Egyptian Modern Art (Cairo: Center Line, 1992).

(p.445) (3) Barak Salmoni in chapter six sheds further light on the development of this new historical consciousness.

(4) Born in 1887, the son of Ahmad Kamal, grandson of Ahmad Rifaat and great-grandson of Ibrahim Pasha.

(5) The School of Fine Arts, established in 1908, over the century changed its location from Gamamiz to Shubra to Giza, finally settling in Zamalek, and its name from School to College to Faculty of Fine Arts when it became part of the University of Helwan in 1972.

(6) Yunan Labib Rizk, “Enlightened Royals,” Al-Ahram Weekly, 6–12 January 2000.

(7) For further information on this sculptor see: Ministry of Culture Museum of Sculptor Mahmoud Mukhtar (Cairo, n.d.); Yunan Labib Rizk, “Egypt Incarnate,” Al-Ahram Weekly 21–27 February, 2002; Suhail Bisharat: “Mahmoud Mukhtar: Memories & Modernity” Arts & The Islamic Worlds (2000), 32–35; Ingrid Wassmann, “Written in Stone,” Egypt Today, May 1991.

(8) Yunan Labib Rizk: “Egypt Incarnate,” Al-Ahram Weekly 21–27 February 2002

(9) This event is detailed in Huda Shaʻarawi, Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, trans, and intro. Margot Badran (New York: Feminist Press, 1986).

(10) “Safiya Zaghlul,” Arthur Goldschmidt, Jr., Biographical Dictionary of Modern Egypt (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000). See also Margot Badran, Feminists, Islam and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).

(11) The complexity of Cairo's human scene in the 1930s is well-described by Magdi Wahba: “Cairo Memories,” in Studies in Arab History, ed. Derek Hopwood, (Oxford: The Antonius Lectures 1978–87, 1990), 103–15.

(12) See Goldschmidt, Biographical Dictionary. Dr. Ali Ibrahim, a prominent surgeon and intellectual, was also a collector of Islamic art, and his collection was the basis of the Museum of Islamic Art holdings.

(13) See Samia Kholoussi's discussion of the fallahin in chapter ten.

(14) Outstanding graduates were sent to Europe to finish their art studies. At first Kamil and Ayyad alternated expenses: one would teach and work in Egypt while the other studied in Rome. In 1925 Saʻd Zaghlul arranged state scholarships of £E 200 a year.

(15) In the late 1930s Ayad took a series of administrative posts: in 1937 director of the Arts Section of the School of Applied Arts (founded 1928–29); in the 1940s he was director of the Coptic Museum for a few years, and until 1949 the director of the Free Section of the School of Fine Arts; from 1949–54 he was director of the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art (founded 1931); in 1952 he founded the Mukhtar Museum. He was a catalyst in the founding of the Egyptian Academy in Rome, where he had individual exhibitions in 1927, 1937, and 1948.

(16) Illustrated in Cairo: The Life Story of 1000 Years, #331 and #332, and Karnouk: Modern Egyptian Art, 42

(17) Samia Kholoussi, in chapter ten, discusses the fallah as a literary subject.

(18) Both in the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, Cairo, and illustrated in Shell, Pioneers, 70–78.

(19) The major monograph on his life in French is Effat Naghi, ed. et al., Mohamed Naghi (1888–1956), Un impressioniste Égyptien (Cairo: Cahiers de Chabramant, 1988). His studio, near the pyramids, has been turned into a museum and exhibits many of his works, as does the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, both in Cairo. The correct transliteration of the Arabic name is Naji, but the artist signed his work as Naghi.

(20) He authored Les Mosquées du Caire (Paris, 1932).

(21) In 1937 Naghi followed through on his interest in popular Egyptian arts by establishing the “House of Arts” for their exhibition.

(22) He succeeded Gabriel Biessy who taught painting when the School was established in 1908.

(23) 1925, Naghi Museum, Cairo. Shell, Ibid., 15.

(24) 1943, Naghi Museum, Cairo. Shell, Ibid., 27.

(25) 1934, Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, Cairo.

(p.446) (26) Cairo 1000 Years, #322.

(27) 1929, oil on textile, Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, Cairo; Shell, Modern Art.

(28) No date, oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, Cairo; Shell, Modern Art.

(29) 1928–42, oil on canvas, Naghi Museum, illustrated in Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art #9. Karnouk gives the date as 1928; Effat Naghi, in “Chronological Index of the most important works of Muhammad Naghi,” in Mohamed Naghi, 63, dates it to 1937, while the date on the identification card at the Naghi Museum is 1942. Naghi married Lilika Tavernai 1937–39,57. If the painting is of a later date then the figure on the right is that of his new bride rather than his sister.

(30) Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art, 9.

(31) Museum of Egyptian Civilization. Shell, Pioneers of Modern Art, 16–17.

(32) Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid-Marsot, Egypt in the Reign of Muhammad Ali (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984) 44–45; 47–53, 68–69.

(33) Mahmoud al-Nabawi as-Shal, Mahmud Said (Cairo: Ministry of Culture, 1984), in English; Mahmud Said (Cairo: Cultural Development Fund, 2001).

(34) Museum of Modern Egyptian Art.

(35) 1934, oil on canvas, Mahmud Said Museum, Alexandria.

(36) 1929, oil on canvas, Shell: Pioneers of Modern Egypt Art, 88.

(37) Illustrated in Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art, #4.

(38) Shell, Pioneers of Modern Art, 74, 92.

(39) Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, Book 4, vol. 133–34

(40) Jalal al-Din Rumi: Mathnawi in J. A. Williams: The Word of Islam (Austin: University of Texas, 1994), 136.

(41) For further reference see Evelyn Early, Baladi Women of Cairo (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1993) especially 51–84.

(42) No date, oil on canvas, Mahmud Said Museum, Alexandria.

(43) 1934, oil on canvas, Mahmud Said Museum, Alexandria.

(44) His mansion on Bacchus St. in Alexandria was opened as a museum in April, 2000.

(45) Alain and Christine Roussillon, eds., Abdel Hadi al-Gazzar: An Egyptian Painter (Cairo: Elias Modern Press, 1990). See also Anna Boughiguian, “An Enigmatic Presence,” Al-Ahram Weekly, 20–26 January 2000.

(46) An insight into this world is offered by Nayra Atiya, Khul-Khaal: Five Egyptian Women Tell Their Stories (Syracuse University Press, 1982).

(47) Anna Boughiguian, “A Lost Master,” Al-Ahram Weekly, 14–20 October 1999. She ends her piece on a sad note: “what remains of the life of Hussein Youssef Amin is practically nothing.” For other references to Amin, see Aimé Azar, La Peinture Moderne en Égypte, 43–45 and 75–80; Alain and Christine Roussillon, Abdel Hadi al-Gazzar, 70–72; and Liliane Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art, 43–50.

(48) See figures #299,300 in Cairo: 1000 Years. His son-in-law, Ramsis Wissa Wassef, successfully implemented these spontaneous art principles in his weaving school at Haraniya, begun 1952.

(49) In 1936, Tilmissani published Declaration of the Post-Orientalists, which dealt with the state of the arts in Egypt. It emphasized the need to cultivate a unique Egyptian artistic identity and called for a break from the influence of foreign artists. “If I can arrive only to find the first traces of a new local art, only then will I consider myself an artist.” Quoted in A. Azar, La Peinture Moderne en Égypte, 48. The new approaches to traditional education had parallels elsewhere in Egyptian thinking. See chapters six and eight.

(50) Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art, 29–43, is the only source to refer to Henein as Hinayn. For more on the “Art and Liberty” Group see also Azar, 48–70; Roussillon, 66–69; Ezz el-Din Naguib, 99–125; and Samir Gharieb, Le Surréalisme en Égypte et les Arts Plastiques.

(51) French writer (1896–1966) whose writings on surrealism influenced Egyptian surrealists.

(52) Ezz el-Din Naguib, The Dawn of Egyptian Painting, 105.

(p.447) (53) After their last exhibition in 1945 the “Art and Liberty” Group was dissolved. Ramsis Yunan went to Paris in 1947 for ten years; Tilmissani turned to movies and went to Beirut, and Fuʼad Kamil took up abstract art.

(54) Other artists in the group included Samir Rafiʻ, Kamal Yusuf, Ibrahim Masuda, and al-Habshi.

(55) Al-Gazzar, Destiny, 1949, india ink on paper.

(56) Woman with Khul-Khaal, 1948, oil on canvas, private collection, Roussillon, 45; Karnouk, 46.

(57) 1948, oil on cardboard, Museum of Modern Egyptian Art; illustrated in Roussillon, 50; Karnouk, 31; Shell, Pioneers, 208.

(58) Oil on cardboard, private collection; Roussillon, 48.

(59) See Roussillon for al-Gazzar's many other images on the theme of popular belief and superstition.

(60) 1946, oil, Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art, 55.

(61) 1970s, crayon sketch, private collection.

(62) 1962, oil on wood, Museum of Modern Egyptian Art. See Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art, #18; Roussillon, 137.

(63) 1946, oil on canvas, Mahmud Said Museum, Alexandria.

(64) 1965, oil on celotex, Museum of the Sea, Alexandria; Roussillon, 152–53.

(65) For example, Saif (1906–79) and Adham (1908–59) Wanly were brothers from Alexandria who painted whimsical beach and circus scenes; Ahmad Sabry (1889–1955), an academic painter noted for his portraits, who taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts; Husny Banany (1912–88) graduated from and taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts, and is remembered for his landscapes; Salah Taher (1912–) who graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts, after a trip to the United States in the late 1950s became an abstract artist; Husayn Bikar (1913–) who graduated from and taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts is noted for his academic style; Hamid Abdullah (1917–85) was self-taught and left Egypt after the 1952 Revolution and used calligraphy in his art; Munir Canaan (1919–2000)was an independent, and autodidact who became an abstract artist.