Cairo: «The Gulf»
The General Egyptian Book Organization, for the late critic and artist Mahmoud Bakshish, issued his book “One of the Pioneers of Painting in Alexandria”, and it deals with an aspect of the life and career of 3 great artists: George Sabbagh, Mohamed Nagy, Mahmoud Said, and the three are united by several paths, including what is historical, which is their pioneering establishment The art of modern photography in Egypt, and the second is geographical, where they were born in the city of Alexandria, and the third thing that unites them is their shift from studying law to studying art and excelling in it, as they entered history from its widest doors as luminous signs in the Egyptian art scene, since the beginning of the 20th century.
Bakshish seeks in his book to make comparisons between the three artists, and to reveal the common, and also different, features and circumstances between them, and how each of them faced the artistic and intellectual challenges in the era in which they grew up with all its vicissitudes and variables, and the extent to which they were affected or rebellious against their class conditions, and were inspired by the different features of life. about them in their environments.
Sabbagh has been associated with the West and his arts since he entered it via a one-way road with no return, which dyed his art with a European tinge, in form and content, while we find that the obsession with the Egyptian identity and the tendency to clash with the popular reality and cultural heritage were strong for Naji and Saeed, so that they made it an entry point for cohesion Renaissance movement in Egypt.
From a second angle, the question of modernity was urgent for all of them, and motivated them to catch up with the movement of modern art in the West, and the wave of new schools in it. It was another challenge for the three of them, and a test of the extent of the talent, which each of them possesses, to build a unique personality, and thus their answers differed from that The question is to the extent of variation, according to the different angle of view of each of them to the meaning of modernity, era and identity.
The book indicates that there are huge dictionaries and encyclopedias specialized in the international art market, whose mission is to monitor the rise, decline or stability in the price of paintings by international artists. These encyclopedias of Egyptian artists only mentioned two names: Mahmoud Mokhtar and George Sabbagh, and the second was excluded from the official history of art, Were it not for the presence of an art group in Paris bearing his name, he would have dissipated there also in the midst of the colliding artistic waves.
Sabbagh (1887-1951) had married a foreigner and his father disowned him, and upon his arrival in Paris, the lights of art snatched him from studying law, and found work in a car dealership, and volunteered in the French army, but he was exempted from service in 1917 due to his poor health, In the same year, he held his first exhibition in Paris, after which his exhibitions were serialized in many capitals of the world.
He was exchanging letters with critics of his art, and in one of them he said: “I work a lot, and I think I have taken a great step in order to be a humble pupil of the great, beautiful, tragic, seductive, enigmatic nature, a master in any case, and contrary to my method I am no longer the finest in Aerial View.” In the studio, he completed it completely in front of the “visible scene.”
As for Mahmoud Saeed (1897 – 1964), he was reluctant to speak and write, immersed in the act of drawing and meditating, and it seems that his family of high social status, and his friends contributed directly or indirectly to the conspiracy of silence, yet his attitude towards the human face – as seen by Bakshish – It is surprising, for when he touches the faces of his female relatives, he strips them of the maximum of signs of tenderness, civility and abstinence.
And if Saeed adheres to the path of safety with his family and his class, then he relieves all pressures, when the model to be drawn belongs to the servants segments, then he strips everything, and when he moves from the subject of “family” to the subject of “servants” he does not move automatically from one subject to another. Another, but moves from one artistic style to another, with the faces of his family adheres to a large extent to the academic style of the school.
And with the faces of the servants, he invents an expressive style of his own, which derives from the pharaonic sculpture the feature of rigidity, and if he sacrifices the spirituality of the mass, and slips it into an innate rudeness that is not devoid of magic, and takes from Rembrandt his magical lighting, even if he frees it from its fixed source, and the same thing is repeated with the faces of men, Friends have the academic style, and the poor have the expressive style.
Muhammad Naji was a serious artist, honest with his time, and with his own concern, looking for himself or for a personal style, distinguishing him between schools, sects and currents with which he was fascinated in the first moments of meeting, but he was moving from school to sect to current in the light of a bird, and before that He was fascinated by the innovations of the Renaissance.
Ramses Younan comments on this by saying: “The classical stage in Naji’s art was limited to visiting museums and transferring one or two pictures from the Revival Age. It does not seem to us that those who contemplate his later works have benefited much from this stage, whether in terms of color wealth, or in terms of The mastery of composition, and the splendor of the melodies.”
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