Active during a time of immense upheaval in the Arab world, Kayyali was one of its most prominent socio-political artists, his paintings externalising the pressing humanitarian and political issues that surrounded him. His powerful depictions of ordinary people are characterized by strong fluid lines that define the figures and the absence of extraneous detail. Although reminiscent of Russian social realist painting, through his humane treatment of his subjects he conferred them with more individuality and pathos.
In the 1970s the social-realist paintings in Louay Kayyali's repertoire depict dispossessed working-class figures, where the focus is a single figure, typically boys forced to work in menial jobs such as shoe-shiners and newspaper or lottery ticket vendors, rather than attending school, or men and women engaged in thankless tasks. The present lot is an exceptional and poignant example, the exhausted boy worn sleeping on the ground with an empty begging box in front of him.