Born in Cairo, Abdalla was the son of peasants and a self-taught artist whose work was inspired by Egyptian folk art and his own deep connection to his homeland (despite leaving for Europe as an adult). His lack of formal artistic education allowed him to create with academic limitations and his work became an important component of modern Egyptian art. This painting is a fine example of his aesthetic and thematic styles, showing a traditional house and kitchen, with a farmer standing at the open door – embodying the rustic simplicity that Abdalla so admired and the hospitality so important in Arab culture. . The gallery notes, “A variety of pale blue and white tones dominate the composition, in keeping with Abdalla’s belief that these are the colors characterizing the Egyptian palette, due to the dazzling sunlight that softens their intensity.
“The Blue Tree”
Zeid was an important pioneer of modernist art. She was one of the first women to study fine art in Turkey and, according to Sotheby’s, “her works were often said to feature intricate blends of Islamic and Byzantine motifs infused with modernist and Western abstractionist inspirations”. She has experimented with many techniques and styles throughout her career, during which she has worked in Istanbul, Paris, Berlin, Baghdad and London. This painting was completed in 1943, while Zeid was still in the Turkish capital, and was part of his first solo exhibition, which also included several other paintings in which trees were the focus. “The Blue Tree” – inspired by a tree in Zeid’s own garden, is, according to Sotheby’s, “indicating the artist’s gradual transition to abstraction, the branches made of wavy lines traversing the canvas, lit with a bluish glow giving a mystical atmosphere to the painting.”
Saudi-Kuwaiti of Indian origin Al-Kazi is one of the most important female artists of the GCC. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated a willingness to experiment with form and materials. She studied at the Central School of Art and Design in London, where she majored in printmaking, and this work from the early sixties reflects that. “The work is at the same time painted, cut, crumpled and engraved”, indicates the catalog of the auction. “It includes his striking geometric patterns and a button added to the center in a unique way inherent in the style of the artist.”
Belkahia, who died in 2014, was hugely important to Morocco’s modern art scene, founding Groupe Casablanca with Mohammed Melehi and Mohamed Chebaa. He devoted much of his life to taking Moroccan folk traditions and “updating” them in his art, in which the principles of Arabic calligraphy were a guiding factor. This is a painting on stretched leather that uses traditional Berber motifs. The artist abandoned oil paints and canvas in the 1960s, instead creating his own surfaces from animal skins and using pigments he created from minerals and plants. “In this painting, the undulating forms seem to flow through the vellum, spreading a vital energy of a primitive, almost bestial nature,” explains Sotheby’s. “Through these dynamic works, Belkahia appeals to the fundamental sensory function of the skin, conveying both sensuality and mysticism.”
This atmospheric painting is a prime example of why this Egyptian artist is so praised. Like so many of his peers in the Arab world, Yousri drew inspiration from the traditions and iconography of his homeland and wanted to celebrate his country’s working class. “Yousri showcases his country’s ancestral artistic heritage while subtly demonstrating his political commitment, in what can be interpreted as a call for social reform,” the auction brochure reads.
Scholar and writer Fatenn Mostafa-Kanafani describes Sirry as “one of the most influential figures in 20th-century modern Arab art and a leading figure in Egypt’s modernist movement. If Mahmoud Saïd is considered the father figure of Egyptian modernism, Sirry is its mother. She continues: “Unwavering in her commitment to nationalist discourse and gender politics, Sirry devoted the early part of her career to bringing attention to the socio-political conditions of the Egyptian working class. She pioneered an eclectic social realism movement with a punch in the process.
‘Untitled’ (from the Dream series)
This Syrian artist is, according to Sotheby’s, “known for his unique and innovative figurative techniques, which – throughout his three-decade career – (he used) to depict the fluctuations of feelings and psyche in the Arab world. “. Influenced by the Cubist movement in the West and by Assyrian and ancient Egyptian art, Dahoul formulated a singular style “distinguishable by a melancholic and monochromatic aura”. This style was most perfectly realized in his “Dream” series, to which this piece belongs. “Both defensive and abandoned, the painting suggests a form of weariness that gradually gives way to serenity,” says the catalog.
Legend has it that Bikar, born in Alexandria, was a child prodigy – not just a talented artist, but also a poet and musician who taught the lute to others at the age of nine. Sotheby’s auction catalog says of his art that, “while paying homage to miniature paintings of the earlier Islamic period, Bikar had an acute ability to articulate form in an impeccable relationship to geometry by spacing his compositions from logical and linear manner… Bikar flattens his layering patterns to delineate an imaginative sense of space and perspective.