Fouad Kamel (Egyptian, 1919-1973)
Lots are subject to 5% import Duty on the importat… Read more THE ART & FREEDOM SOCIETY & THEIR FOLLOWERS LONG LIVE DEGENERATE ART '(...) All the achievements of contemporary artistic genius from Czanne to Picasso - the product of the ultimate in freedom, strength and human feeling - have been received with insults and repression. We believe that it is mere idiocy and folly to reduce modern art, as some desire, to a fanaticism for any particular religion, race or nation. Along these lines we see only the imprisonment of thought, whereas art is known to be an exchange of thought and emotions shared by all humanity, one that knows not these artificial boundaries (...) O men of art, men of letters! Let us take up the challenge together! We stand absolutely as one with this degenerate art. In it resides all the hopes of the future. Let us work for its victory over the new Middle Ages that are rising in the heart of Europe.' (Extract from the Surrealist Manifesto, Cairo, 22 December, 1938). This controversial extract is taken from the Surrealist Manifesto, signed by several artists, writers, journalists and lawyers, that was the final precursor of the official foundation of the Art and Freedom Society in Egypt on 9th January 1939. The Art and Freedom Society was the most fertile 'fruit' of Egyptian Surrealism in its active commitment to produce a 'free art'. One of its founding statements claimed that it was formed 'for the defense of the freedom of art and culture and to circulate up-to-date books, to offer lectures and to apprise Egyptian youth of literary, artistic and social movements in the world'. The cradle of the Art and Freedom Society goes back to the socio-political context of Europe of the 1930s, when despotic, totalitarian regimes swept through Western nations, which were struggling to recover from the ravages of the First World War. These dictatorships not only controlled the country and its population, with Hitler's Nazi Germany, Mussolini's Fascist Italy, Stalinist Russia or Francoist Spain, but they also imposed severe regulations on the arts, promoting art as propaganda and dismissing art as a means of unrestrained expression and creativity. In reaction to these constraints, French poet and artist André Breton, considered as the father of Surrealism, inaugurated the creation of the International Federation of Independent Revolutionary Art (known as 'F.I.A.R.I.' in French) in the manifesto he wrote with Léon Trotsky on 25th July 1938, entitled Pour un Art révolutionnaire indépendant, at the house of Mexican Surrealist and Socio-Realist painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico City. Breton's and Trotsky's statement called for 'the independence of art for the sake of the revolution' and for 'the revolution for the sake of art's liberation'. The word spread throughout 1938 and 1939 as the manifesto circulated in pamphlets and was printed in independent left-wing periodicals. It was the catalyser for the apparition of 'F.I.A.R.I.' cells across France, Belgium, England, Italy, Spain, Germany, New York and other countries. Despite their differences, they all fought the same battle, in their defence and promotion of art as an independent creative expression. Egypt's Surrealist cell was the Art and Freedom Society, whose appellation paid tribute to the Breton-Trotsky manifesto of 1938. The Art and Freedom Society survived into the 1940s, despite the dispersion of the F.I.A.R.I due to several historical factors, notably the beginning of the Second World War and Trotsky's murder by Stalinist assassins in August 1940. One of the main pioneers of this Society was George Henein, an ambassador's son, who had studied in Paris at La Sorbonne. Paris introduced him to the writings and thoughts of André Breton, which he brought back with him to Egypt and incorporated into his own theoretical writings. Henein had been part of a Francophone debate group called Les Essayistes and had already published a few articles in Un Effort, yet it was upon his return in Egypt, that he aggressively paved the way to Surrealism through lectures and publications in the mid-1930s. After meeting Breton in Paris in May 1936, Henein publicly voiced his engagement with Surrealism at a conference in Cairo on 4th February 1937, labelled Bilan du mouvement surréaliste. Several artists and poets shared his enthusiasm and answered to his call, such as Kamel El-Telmissany, Ramsès Younan and the brothers Anwar and Fouad Kamel, hence laying the foundations for the Art and Freedom Society. The Long Live Degenerate Art manifesto of 22nd December 1938 was the counterpart of the dismissed 'Entartete Kunst' or 'Degenerate Art' exhibition, that was held by Nazi Germany to purposely ridicule the exhibitors publicly and to outline what art should be in their eyes. As mentioned above, the manifesto openly attacked totalitarian regimes and hailed the cosmopolitanism of the group. Its seminal role in officially launching the Art and Freedom Society also highlighted the importance of theoretical writings in explaining and promoting the new definition and role attributed to art. Although the Art and Freedom Society was above all an avant-garde trend in visual arts, it comes with no surprise that its members were also prolific in directing periodicals, translating books and publishing critical articles. The Art and Freedom Society was hence directly involved with the editing of the monthly issue al-Tatawwur ('Evolution' - the first avant-garde periodical in Arabic), the weekly French newspaper Don Quixote, a few issues of Art et Liberté and of The New Magazine. Yet the Art and Freedom Society's activities which had the most impact on society at the time but also still on today's society, were their group shows. During the short life of this Egyptian Surrealist cell, from 1939 to 1945, its participants organised five successive group shows of 'Independent Art' in Cairo. The first exhibition opened its doors on 8th February 1940 and featured works by Fouad Kamel, Ramsés Younan, Kamel El-Telmissany, Aristide Papageorges, Aristide Angelopoulos, and several others. Mahmoud Saïd, although one of the forerunners of the First Generation of Egyptian artists, who did not qualify himself as being Surrealist as he produced stylised figurative paintings, was its guest of honour, praised by Ramsés Younan for his ambiguous and iconic masterpiece Femme aux boucles d'or (1933). More than twenty years later, art critic Badr El Din Abu Ghazi described this controversial show as 'a violent revolution against order, beauty and logic'. From 10th to 25th March 1941, the second group show of 'Independent Art' included additional artists, such as the talented female painter Amy Nimr, Bulgarian artist Eric de Nemes and reknowned master Laurent Marcel Salinas. The diversification of artists exhibiting in the Art and Freedom art shows continued for its third show, hosted by the Hotel 'Continental' in Cairo in 1943, during which Mahmoud Saïd re-appeared side by side to the society's usual suspects, next to a few new names to 'Independent Art', such as Inji Efflatoun and Georges Cyr. The two last Art and Freedom Society shows, in 1944 and 1945, both took place in a hall of the Lycée Français in Cairo, Youssef El Guindy Street. The internationalisation and multiplication of the Society's members continued to grow during the 1944 and 1945 exhibitions. Artist, art historian and art critic Saad El-Khadem participated to the latter and would later play an important role in understanding and preserving the art of his fellow Surrealist friends. Several factors came into play for the dissipation of the Art and Freedom Society, mainly due to the change of attitude, theoretical and political views and physical emigration abroad of its key members. Georges Henein officially declared that he detached himself from the group in a letter to André Breton in July 1948. Along with another fifteen Surrealist members, Ramsés Younan was arrested for his political activities and tendencies in early 1947 and he fled to France until the 1956 Suez Canal led him to return to Egypt. Other artists with Surrealist tendencies were either exiled or silenced and Nasser's military coup in 1952 was a further enhancement of the government's hostility towards the Surrealism hailed by the Art and Freedom Society. Although some critics have argued that this Egyptian Surrealist 'cell' was flawed since its conception, due to the different stands of its adherents, it is undeniable that the Art and Freedom wave shook up the traditional concepts of Classicism and Academicism in Egypt, offering a ground-breaking way of thinking and a new approach to producing and exhibiting visual arts. Although George Henein's writings were in French and therefore were limited in their impact on Arab culture, many Egyptian poets and writers read French and were deeply influenced by his texts, such as Tawfik El Hakim. 'To most people these days it seems that Surrealism was a cloud passing over Cairo. They don't realize that the cloud rained and the earth sprouted anew. We have eaten of that crop and it has entered our cultural system'. (Samir Ghareib, Surrealism in Egypt, Cairo 1986, p. 63). The legacy of the Art and Freedom Society permeated in the creation of new groups, one of the most notorious being the Contemporary Art Group, formed by Egyptian artist Hussein Youssef Amin in 1946. He had exhibited in some of the Art and Freedom Society shows and rallied artists to produce art that should not veil and falsify human misery, echoing what the Surrealists had said a few years earlier. Some of the followers of the Contemporary Art Group were Youssef Amin's students, when he had taught drawing in secondary school, and included artists Samir Rafi, Abdel Hadi El-Gazzar, Hamed Nada, Kamel Youssef and others. These artists were influenced by the Surrealists' creation of an art deprived of heroic glossy subject matters and an art loaded with criticism of political oppression and catalysing social change. However, the Contemporary Art Group's artists were more committed than the Surrealists to use visual arts as a means of representing Egyptian national identity and of occasionally supporting the country's recent independence. Christie's is delighted to present an unprecedented selection of iconic and exceptional masterpieces by the forerunners of the Art and Freedom Society, Ramsés Younan, Kamel El-Telmissany and Fouad Kamel, but also by their followers of the Contemporary Art Group, with the likes of Samir Rafi and Hamed Nada. THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Fouad Kamel (Egyptian, 1919-1973)


Fouad Kamel (Egyptian, 1919-1973)
signed 'Fouad Kamel' (lower right)
oil on canvas
31 3/8 x 23¼in. (80 x 59cm.)
Collection of Saad Elkhadem, Cairo.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1976.
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Lot Essay

'Between death and everlasting life there is a fierce battle producing a most dreadful mutilation which I encounter in my paintings. Indeed into the depths of everything a spirit is creeping even into the inanimate'.
(Fouad Kamel, writing in the catalogue of the second group show of the Art & Freedom Society, March 1941 - quoted in Ghareib, 1986, p. 42).

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