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Twentieth-Century Egyptian Art

The Dancing Horse and the Musicians of Upper Egypt

"The Dancing Horse and the Musicians of Upper Egypt"

Signed circa 1950


RAGHEB AYAD 1892 – 1982. Ragheb Ayad was born in Cairo on the 10th of March 1892 and inscribed himself in the School of Fine Arts since its opening in 1908. After graduation he taught art in the high Coptic school and made several trips on his own to France and Italy to complete his artistic education. He was the first to obtain a governmental scholarship to Rome where he stayed for five years studying art in the Superior Institute of Fine Arts. Since his return to Cairo in 1930, he was assigned as director of the decorative section of the Faculty of Applied Arts. In 1937, he is named professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts and director of its free section. He was in charge of reorganizing the Coptic museum and since 1950 became head of the Museum of Modern Art where he made a special section in it for the great sculpture Mahmoud Mokhtar. Since 1924 and for half a century he participated in most of the exhibitions of the ‘Cairo Salon’ plus organizing 40 solo exhibitions.



Ragheb Ayad is considered one of the pioneers of Egyptian art in the 20th century alongside Mahmoud Mokhtar, Youssef Kamel, Mohamed Hassan, Mahmoud Said and Mohamed Naghy. Ragheb Ayad is the first to get rid of the western influences and to create an Egyptian art with its own solid identity. For the rest of his life Ragheb Ayad was dedicated to the popular themes of the Egyptian life whether it is the cosmopolitan Cairo or the upper Egyptian villages and the small towns. He visited all these places recording the pulsating life of the soukes, the moulids, the cafes and the men and women dancers. Ragheb Ayad remained forever the painter of this true Egyptian universe. Ragheb Ayad is considered to be the first expressionistic painter who influenced the second and third generation of artists. Aside from the popular, Ayad was attracted to the religious themes where he portrayed the flight of the holly family in Egypt and the birth of Jesus.


Moreover Ayad is known to be the first Egyptian artist to be influenced by the ancient Egyptian art and this is quiet relevant in his paintings dealing with the rural life. In them we see the succession of different aspects of the rural life being portrayed vertically on horizontal layers instead of the perspective view. The last period of his artistic life is his portrayal of the monks in the different monasteries of Egypt as well as capturing on his canvas the architecture of these monasteries that are considered to be the purest form of architecture. In 1965 Ayad was decorated with the highest honor of the Egyptian state and was also decorated by Italy in appreciation of his art.

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