From the first generation of Modern Egyptian artists, the aristocratic Mahmoud Said was well-travelled and highly international. He studied painting in Paris in 1920 and took frequent trips around the Mediterranean and futher afield. As accomplished in landscapes as he was in figural painting, the vistas he encountered on many of his trips were recorded in his exceptional and varied group of landscape paintings which he produced throughout his career. His views of Lebanon are almost as well-known as his evocative paintings of Upper Egypt. But just as striking, though less numerous, are his scenes from Europe.
Mahmoud Said's great innovation was the adaptation of the Western painting techniques to express an individual and national character, which comes through even in his scenes of foreign lands. A native of the great maritime city of Alexandria, Said painted the city's old harbour many times. On his travels he was also moved to paint views of several other beautiful ports, including this view of the Harbour of Sirros in Greece (1949). Here Egyptian themes are prevalent nevertheless, as the cubist mass of houses tumbling towards the sea shows a simplification of form verging on the neo-pharaonic, whilst the boats are not unlike Egyptian feluccas.
As he himself put it
"The sea is everywhere in my paintings in Egypt, in Lebanon, and in Greece. I painted the sea, and the sailors in Port Rashid in a strong circular violent movement, like the strong explosion resulting from the meeting of the sea with the Nile ... and also I painted the calmness and the serenity in another work called Around Cleopatra's bath in Marsa Matrouh, and many other paintings where the sea is the key element in all of them, and in my being and if it's not the subject of all of my paintings, it is at least in the background and the Nile in my country is called the Sea.. so if one contemplates my paintings enough you will definitely find a boat with its white sail , blown by the wind and going somewhere it's my everlasting journey " (translated from the Arabic, cited in Esmat Dawstashy, Mahmoud Said, Cairo 1997. p.256).