The City of Alexandria: Its Identity and Environment in the works of Alexandria’s Pioneer Painters

Laila Abu El Seoud Mohamed Fadl
The unique location of Alexandria city in the Mediterranean Basin has attracted several artistic civilizations ever since the time of Ptolemy. This has been the case during the Roman era, and the subsequent eras throughout which Alexandria remained the window of Egypt and most of the Middle East to the European cultures and arts. As a result, Alexandria has witnessed the cultural and artistic renaissance during the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, since "Muhammad Ali" –and his family–permitted the foreign delegations to come and form colonies fused with the human component of Alexandria that had a unique character. Consequently, the foreign artists’ rooms were widely spread and the Alexandrian pioneers of painting art, of the first and second generations, studied under their supervision. Despite being trained by foreigners, their sense of belonging to the Egyptian identity or their participation in laying groundwork for a national art project deeply rooted in the heritage of the nation wasn’t affected. However, they were receptive to maturely cope with the modernity of the western schools of arts. Mahmoud Said, a painter, after completing the art foundation phase, employed his art to portray the modern Egyptian man as a national hero. This portrayal was possible through his use of environmental elements and characters. Seif Wanli was one of the most receptive Egyptian painters to the modern and contemporary western schools of art. He was allegedly known to be unconcerned with the issue of national identity; however, Alexandria kept its high rank in his art despite being characterized by global features. Adham Wanli remained loyal to his impressive and symbolic realism as Alexandria, with all its components, was the core of his artistic creativity. Hamid Aweys left his hometown and went to Alexandria and spent most of his age therein. His belonging to the identity and environment of that ancient coastal city was the same as that of the previously mentioned artists. He was inspired by the city’s environmental and cultural elements in a distinctive way.

Keywords

Alexandria city; Identity; Environment; Said Wanly; Aweys

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