Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1309, (25 - 31 August 2016)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1309, (25 - 31 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly


Leading Egyptian modern artist Mahmoud Said (1897-1964) was tremendously affected by his religiousbringing up, and had a delicate sense for everything that is religious and spiritual and in particular Sufism. He manifested the meanings of faith and mysticism in many of his masterpieces such as “The Zikr”, “The Prayer”, and “The Whirling Dervishes”. Said celebrated the sensuality of women, encapsulating the zeitgeist of the period with the liberation of women and the dramatic shift in social structure. However, it must be noted that the nude was a powerful political statement. Before Said’s time, the female form was taboo, and in particular the nude figure. But, there was a reason for his audacity. Said indeed was the uncle of Queen Farida, wife of King Farouk of Egypt, and was therefore able to push the boundaries of artistic practice commonly adhered to in his country. Between 1919 and his death in 1964, Said was a prolific oil painter.

Though Said never worked as a professional artist, his paintings of the cosmopolitan community of his hometown, the Mediterranean city Alexandria, are central to the history of modern art in Egypt. His vibrant canvases continue to allure viewers with their perplexing range of images from nude Egyptian women to stylized Lebanese landscapes and glamorous Alexandrian aristocrats.

Ahmed Rassim, the celebrated Arab poet and a friend of the artist, wrote the following: “In order to enjoy the paintings of Said, in order to feel the charm that emanates from his art, one must understand all that oriental art encompasses in powerful subtlety; one must (also) understand that oriental painting is, above all ... the survival, more or less suggestive, of an intense emotion felt by the artist himself.”

“Said was more concerned about expressing his feelings. He was not necessarily concerned with providing us with a certain intellectual gratification”. (Ahmed Rassim: Le Journal d’un Peintre Raté, Cairo 1943, p. 49).

The medium of the painting in the picture is oil on panel entitled “The White Cat”, created in 1948 and measures 26.3x32cm.  

 Said's works are on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art.

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