An applauded sculptor and painter of the Third Generation in Modern Egyptian art history, Gamal El-Sagini defied the conventional art styles of his antecedents and instead praised artistic and stylistic novelty, particularly with the formation of the Sawt Al Fannan (Voice of Art) group in 1945, that reunited a great number of contemporary artists, with the aim of encouraging and promoting talented young Egyptians. At the end of the 1930s, El-Sagini settled in Paris, where he pursued his education, and where, amidst the rise of nationalism that preceded the outburst of the Second World War, he began to concern himself with historic events. As a result, his artistic style became clearly more socio-political. Upon his return to Egypt, El-Sagini was recognised as a social-realist artist who for several years, maintained his position as the celebrated sculptor firmly associated with the revolutionary era.
In the present work entitled Nasser, the artist chooses to depict the President of Egypt at the time, Gamal Abdel Nasser, as the main subject, dominating the surface of the piece with his unproportioned height compared to the other people surrounding him. His size exemplifies his massive presence as a prominent leader, hence the nickname Al-Zaim, which reminds the viewer of Hamed Ewais’ renowned social political work of the same period, Nasser and the Nationalisation of the Canal, 1957 (sold at Christie’s Dubai’s October 2014; price realised US $557,000). Conceived in 1960 as a plaster mould that was later cast after the artist’s death in 2014 under the supervision of the family who in turn limit and control the edition size, this sculpture represents Nasser, who made possible the complete evacuation of the British troops from Egypt, as the greatest, most celebrated, idol of all time. His towering stance and the way his arms are enfolding and pushing forward the people around him, illustrate him as a father figure, with a gaze focusing on the future and the promise of what it holds, guiding them toward a better tomorrow. These figures represent the different generations to come since there are adults as well as little kids reaching out to him for direction and support. The men behind Nasser are carrying doves as a sign of peace, symbolising the ceasefire at that time, while in front of him, a person holds up a flower as an emblem of gratitude and appreciation for liberating them. Last but not least, the men on his side hold working tools implying that together, hand in hand, they can work on building a brighter, stronger future for the nation.
Through this piece, depicting a large portion of Egypt’s population and of the country’s situation at the time, El-Sagini, one of the exceptional pioneers of Social Realism, demonstrates a remarkable expertise of sculpting, transforming a political situation into a striking chef-d'oeuvre.