Updated: Nov 30
Oil paintings by artist Zaccaria Zeini
El Zeini’s skill in portraying and conveying a multitude of salient themes through noticeably distinctive techniques is but one of his art’s supreme characteristics. After he died in 1993, he was posthumously been recognized as one of the greatest Arab artists of his generation, and for collectors of modern art, this presents a special chance to acquire something of this pioneer’s enduring legacy.
Revisiting the acclaimed oeuvre of late pioneer Zaccaria El Zeini (1932-1993). This collection has been formed through a combination of works sourced from the private collections of the artist’s surviving heirs. It spans an impressive assortment of mediums including oils, watercolors, pencil drawings, and lithographs, across figurative, abstract, and still-life compositions, a comprehensive representation of El Zeini’s diverse body of work. It was El Zeini’s insatiable fascination with the obscure folkloric rites and rituals that permeated the peripheries of Egyptian society, which served as the definitive underpinning of his artistic exploits. So close yet so far removed from the familiar world of the bourgeois city dwellers and cosmopolitan Cairo, El Zeini’s preoccupation was with exploring the habitats and habits of Egypt’s downtrodden popular folk. It was through these often-forgotten societal strata that, despite their almost unshakeable irrelevance to the rapidly evolving world around them, the cultural bedrock of Egyptian society was formed.
These people fostered a curious preservation and amalgamation of; handed-down superstition, occultic spellworking, folk ritual, patron saint deification, and other spiritual non-religious practices, which they merged with conventional religion, all of which typically manifested during the customary moulid festivities. El Zeini splendidly conjured an imposing and illuminating exploration of this surreptitious underworld. He deftly blended the mystical with the mundane, and his sublime technique left his canvases brimming with an intense interplay of color, texture, emotion, and above all, meaning. This meaning remains, like the subject of his art, somewhat cryptic to the observer, as he comports peculiar symbols, shapes, figures, and backgrounds in enthralling synergy. El Zeini was at times critiquing the passivity of women vis-à-vis her role in society. Elsewhere, he captures abstract figurative scenes with an unorthodox flair, casting ambiguous humans amidst inorganic shapes and symbols. This was to emphasize notions of societal seclusion, entrapment, estrangement, and ultimately what El Zeini saw as the hypocrisy of their unconventional customs, which he viewed as both devolving into blasphemy and sin and resultantly, as a potent microcosm of the Egyptian and general human experience.
El Zeini was raised in suburban Cairo before graduating from the Faculty of Fine Arts, he then explored his innate love and talent for painting in one of the art capitals of the world at the esteemed Pravana Academy in Venice, Italy. El Zeini would then return to his homeland and his alma mater as a distinguished professor. During his lengthy career, El Zeini’s versatile portfolio has featured in numerous domestic and international exhibitions. It was the artist’s penchant for altering his compositional style based on his particular experiences during key phases in his life, that attributed each period of his craft a highly differentiated aesthetic. El Zeini’s skill in portraying and conveying a multitude of salient themes through noticeably distinctive techniques is but one of his art’s supreme characteristics. After he died in 1993, he was posthumously recognized as one of the greatest Arab artists of his generation, and for collectors of modern art, this presents a special chance to acquire something of this pioneer’s enduring legacy.
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JM Art Management