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Ramsès Younan (Egyptian, 1913-1966)
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Ramsès Younan (Egyptian, 1913-1966)

Composition No. 3

Ramsès Younan (Egyptian, 1913-1966)
Composition No. 3
signed with initials and dated ‘RY 65’ (lower right); signed and titled ‘RAMSES YOUNAN COMPOSITION N°3’ (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
38 1/8 x 51 1/8in. (97 x 130cm.)
Painted in 1965
The artist's estate, Paris.
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2014.
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Post Lot Text
This work will be included in the forthcoming monograph on Ramsès Younan, by Sylvie & Sonia Younan & Jean Colombain, to be published in 2018 by Les Presses du Réel.
Sale Room Notice
Please note that this work was acquired directly by the artist's estate in Paris in 2014, and not as stated in its provenance in the catalogue.
Also please note that this work will also be included in the forthcoming monograph on Ramsès Younan, by Sylvie & Sonia Younan & Jean Colombain, to be published in 2018 by Les Presses du Réel.

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Michael Jeha
Michael Jeha

Lot Essay

The artist Ramsès Younan is a major proponent of the avant-garde, Arab surrealist movement in Egypt, known for his mainly non-realistic paintings and ‘dreamscape’ works that embody a natural palette of colours, with gentle lighting and softly layered colours, inspired by the environment of Southern Egypt. Painted only one year before Younan’s death in 1966, this current work encapsulates the climax of his artistic journey towards structural abstract art, a gradual transition from his landscapes and scenes of Egypt.

A writer and social activist of art and politics, Younan was one of the founding member of the Egyptian Surrealist group ‘Art et Liberté’ in Cairo, whose motto was ‘Long Live Degenerate Art,’ defined in their revolutionary manifesto in 1938 and which continued until 1945. That year, Younan moved to Paris for eleven years, an experience which would strongly impact his work, developing a new abstract style epitomised in Composition No. 3. In Paris, he was heavily involved in media, working in Arabic divisions of French broadcasting channels. He was ultimately laid off in Paris, refusing to broadcast news against the Egyptian state by the French broadcasting service in conjunction with the Suez Canal in 1956.

With his formal transition towards his 1960s lyrical compositions, he continued to use natural, earth tones palettes, as the present Composition No. 3 embodies, with heavily oil darkened pigments on a thickly painted surface. These works contain an overall poetically harmonious and ethereal composition, redolent with the inner struggles Younan faced in making sense of the politics, war and academic struggles of the time. Moreover, these later works sought to present the subconscious of which surrealists across the globe wished to unravel, as they were fervent readers of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis on dreams.

In discussing Younan’s 1960s structural abstract composition, Racha Ragab, the curator at the Museum of Modern Art, Cairo mentions:
'In Ramsès Younan's works, the composition is as much baroque as it is classical. The proliferation of lines, resulting from the numerous horizontals and the hatched perpendiculars as if they caused the composition's body to bleed, the very ingenious transitions into the softer and almost infinite areas that are illuminated by the ochres and purples heightened by gold - all these intrinsic qualities are the foundations of an internal reality fused with a way of thinking that is subtle, coherent and physically true.
Nevertheless, an overall harmony always dominates the painting, giving it a classical accent. The coloristic constants he uses converge at the core of a unique colour tone: a scaly brown, a purpled green, a red-orange pigment and a mauve-brown colour, accentuate their multiple resonances, bathed in a golden light, pacifying the contrasts and synchronizing the subtle sensations from the dream and from the life. His painting is that of an intellectual, of a poet and of a man who is 'torn between two worlds', to use Maurice de Gurin's word.' (R. Ragab, in exh. cat. Exposition de l'Artiste Défunt; RAMSIS YOUNAN 1913- 1966, Museum of Modern Art (Salle Abaad), Cairo 2009, pp. 56-57; translated from French).

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