Mahmoud Sa’id aka Mahmoud Said Bey was born April 8th 1897 died April 8th 1964 was an Alexandrian Egyptian judge and African modern painter and icon. His niece Safinaz Zulficar (1921 – 1988) became Queen Farida of Egypt, reigning from 1938 until 1948. His family lived in a luxurious villa (which today houses the Mahmoud Said Museum) in the affluent Gianaclis neighborhood.
Mahmoud Sa’id’s very early works portray simple images of the countryside and his friends and family in a painterly style with heavy, visible brushstrokes. Mahmoud Sa’id graduated from the Cairo School of Law in 1918, and in 1920 travelled to Paris, studying drawing at the private Académie Julian. Unlike other Egyptian ar-ruwwād (pioneer) artists, such as Mahmoud Mokhtar and Ragheb Ayad, who traveled to Europe on official scholarships, Said attended classes at his own expense, embodying the role of elite amateur artist.
Mahmoud Sa’id first solo show was organised by the Atelier d’Alexandrie in 1942, and his first major retrospective exhibition was held at the Gezira Centre for Modern Art in 1951. On the occasion of the eighth anniversary of the 1952 revolution, another retrospective exhibition of Saïd’s works took place at the Museum of Fine Arts of Alexandria, comprising 120 paintings. A third comprehensive exhibition would be organised in the same premises a few months after the artist’s death, in 1964.
Though Mahmoud Sa’id painted primarily for his own edification, the pubic grew to appreciate his work in his later years. Mr. Said became an increasingly respected member of the Egyptian art community, especially after he retired from his legal career in 1949. In the later 1950s and 1960s, he held many retrospectives and served on organizing committees for museums and exhibitions, including the Biennale de la Méditerranée of 1955, 1959, and 1961. Mahmoud Said served as member of the Jury Committee of both the third Alexandria Biennial (1959 – 1960) and the fourth (1961 – 1962).
Mahmoud Sa’id was a great pioneer of modern Arab art. Around one in ten of Mahmoud Sa’id’s 400-plus paintings depict female nudes. He portrayed various models in different positions, often characterised by gold-bronze skin and sensuous bodies, and complemented by simple attributes.
One of Mahmoud Sa’id’s most monumental paintings is La Ville, which now hangs in the main hall of the Museum of Modern Art in Cairo.
Mahmoud Sa’id is the only Arab artist to date to have three paintings selling for more than US $1 million at auction. Given the limited number of his works that come to market, the Alexandrian master remains one of the most sought-after modern Arab artists. Christie’s Dubai was proud to offer six works spanning four decades in its March 2017 sale. The large painting of Assouan — îles et dunes was offered with its preparatory oil sketch, both executed in 1949, and sold for $685,500. All six works came from three private collections of Mahmoud Said’s relatives.
New York, 1937.
Venice Biennale, 1938, 1948.
Gezira Center for Modern Art, Cairo, Egypt.
Mahmoud Said Museum, Alexandria, Egypt.
Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar.
Arab World Institute, Paris, France.
Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE
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