Friday,24 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1437, (4 - 10 April 2019)
Friday,24 May, 2019
Issue 1437, (4 - 10 April 2019)

Ahram Weekly

The Wanly brothers art on show at Salama gallery is a must see

The Salama gallery’s annual group exhibition “Art for All”, which opened on 1 April, features work by late and contemporary artists such as Seif Wanly and Adham Wanly, Essmat Dawestashi, Georges Bahgory and Effat Hosni

The Wanli brothers were eminent figures in Alexandrian art for three decades from the 1940s to the 1970s, and are widely celebrated by the intellectual and cultural circles in the city. Renowned for their spontaneity and innovation, Seif and Adham Wanli had a distinct style in quick sketching and touch painting that captures the immediacy of emotional response. They had a special interest in painting theatrical scenes, opera, classical and folk dance, and the circus.

Mohammed Seifeddin Wanly was born into an aristocratic family. His father Ismail Bey Mohamed Wanly was of Turkish, and his mother Ismat Hanem Al-Daghistani of Caucasian origin. Together with four sisters, he and his younger brother Adham had a Francophone upbringing. 

In 1929, Ottorino Bicchi (1878-1949), an Italian painter from Livorno, opened a studio in Alexandria and the Wanly brothers were among his first students. After Bicchi left Egypt in 1934, together with two friends –the painter Ahmed Fahmi and the filmmaker Mohammed Bayoumi – Seif and Adham established their own studio. 

Through the 1950s, the two brothers visited France, Italy and Spain where they sketched and painted numerous scenes of ballet, opera and theatrical performances as well as landscapes. When sculptor Ahmed Osman (1907-1970) established the Faculty of Fine Arts in Alexandria in 1957, Seif was appointed professor at the painting department. In 1959, the Ministry of Culture commissioned the Wanly brothers along with many artists of their generation, such as Tahiya Halim and Hussein Bikar, to record the architectural heritage of Nubia before its flooding due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam. 

Following the death of Adham, Seif went through a difficult period. At the age of 68, he married the Egyptian painter Ihsan Mokhtar. He died in 1979 in Stockholm where he was preparing an exhibition of Scandinavian landscapes. 

The Wanly brothers influenced one another and developed a similar style. Seif only used his first name to sign his paintings while his brother, Adham, signed Wanly or E (for “Edham”) Wanly. Together, they introduced modern pictorial trends in Alexandria and were among the first to depict international subjects, breaking away from the folklorist style of their contemporaries. 

The exhibition continues through the end of the season.  

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