Monday، 20 July 2009 - 12:00 AM
Mohamed Nagi, founder of Egypt’s modern painting school (1888-1956).
"My wish and duty is to revive the artistic appreciation that helped shape the mentality and awareness of the Egyptian people and to awaken the people after the ages of decline they lived."
In the depths of Nagi’s character, the art of painting surged up like waves that rose and fell on the shore, sometimes with great violence and sometimes calmly and smoothly. Along the shores of sound logic, philosophy and patriotism Nagi walked until finally he founded Egypt’s modern painting school.
Born in 17 January, 1888, Nagi studied music and painting at an early age. He was good at playing violin and lute. His poetic and literary talents bloomed when he began reading Egyptian folk tales. His talents found expression in the words he wrote, the paintings his brush drew and the chords he touched.
Nagi studied law in Lyon, France, over the period 1906-10. He is the first Egyptian artist to study arts in the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy, as of 1910 till 1914. There he had the opportunity of studying under the pioneer of the European Impressionist School Claude Monet (1840-1926).
The nationalist movement at the beginning of the 20th century motivated Nagi to work hard and his enthusiasm found expression in the exquisite paintings he made during that period.
Nagi’s paintings served political, cultural purposes and helped spread awareness and disseminate knowledge.
Nagi’s ‘Egypt Renaissance’, for which he was awarded the golden prize from Salon du Paris, and the five murals ‘Ancient Egyptian medicine, Arab medicine, Folk medicine and Inauguration of Mohamed Ali, show a perfect balance between world modern artistic trends and the Egyptian identity.
Nagi launched and pursued vigorous campaigns for saving the Egyptian monuments threatened with inundation such as the temples of Philae in 1947 and Abu Simbel in 1957. He wrote articles in world newspapers and magazines and gave several lectures in Egypt and abroad to win more support.
Nagi was keen on establishing continuously direct close ties with different world cultures. Such a relation started during his stay in Europe.
Nagi is the founder of Alexandria Atelier for Artists and Writers in 1935, Cairo Atelier in 1952, Arts Club in 1941 and Artists Studio in Al-Qurana village at Luxor in 1941.
He is the first Egyptian to hold the position of principal of the Cairo-based Higher School of Fine Arts. Nagi was also appointed director of the Cairo-based Modern Art Museum over the period 1939-47 and the Rome-based Egyptian Arts Academy as of 1947 till 1950.
After his death, Nagi’s atelier was turned into a museum housing all his masterpieces.
"We, artists, need a collective art that concerns itself in the first place with the traditions, historical and social life of the Egyptian community. It is seriously dangerous that Egypt prematurely experiences speculative art or art for art’s sake."
Nagi was also deeply influenced by the ancient Egyptian art of painting on the walls of Thebes temples, as manifested in his masterpiece ‘Alexandria School’ which highlights cultural exchange between the Mediterranean countries and depicts Alexandria as the land where successive cultures harmoniously interact.