Marguerite Nakhla (Egyptian, 1908-1977)
Lots are subject to 5% import Duty on the importat… Read more THE SCHOOL OF ALEXANDRIA The School of Alexandria is not an art movement like the Art and Freedom Society was, in that it was predominantly geography and ambition, not theory and style, that naturally brought its members under this standard art historical denomination. The School of Alexandria refers to the Modern Egyptian artists based in the coastal city Alexandria, as opposed to their Cairene counterparts, based in the Egyptian capital. Each artist had his own approach towards visual arts and contributed in his own way to the creation of Modern Egyptian art. Yet the common thread between these striving artists was their commitment towards reconciling a growing sense of nationalism with their rich cultural and folkloric heritage through art. The historical, social and cultural setting provided a fertile ground for the emergence of Modern Egyptian art in Alexandria. The notion of 'national identity' was very recent as the chain of multi-ethnic invasions raging through Egypt for more than 2,000 years was only breached in 1922, when the country declared its independence from British protectorate. The consequences of this turbulent history are both political and cultural; on one hand, the people's growing feeling of resistance against colonialism led to nationalism and ultimately independence; on the other hand, 2,400 years of history tainted by a variety of ethnicities meant the accumulation of an unparalleled cultural heritage, overwhelming this new nation. In contrast to Western art, which emerged from the common notion of nation, ethnic arts developed relatively independently from each other, being rooted in different races, cultures and nationalities from the Islamic diaspora. Hence the challenge for Modern Egyptian artists to bring together through art the concept of nationalism, intrinsically linked to unity, with the disparity of their country's opulent and abundant cultural baggage and the 19th-20th century concept of the so-called 'Egyptian Awakening', that had been triggered by several cultural factors in Egypt's history. Cairene sculptor Mahmoud Mokhtar (1891-1934) was recognised for embodying this very notion of Neo-Pharaonism through his graceful and monumental works, the most iconic being the imposing sculpture at the entrance of the Cairo University, entitled Egypt's Awakening (1919-1928). Within this political and cultural context, the Egyptian artist had to create a 'national' style and to achieve this, it was necessary to turn towards Western art. Western art had been introduced in Egypt over the past centuries with leaders hiring European artists to work for them. Moreover, Orientalism, Romanticism and colonialism brought waves of foreign artists who settled in Egypt. Alexandria, with its rich culture and strategic location in the Mediterranean, counted more than a fifth of the population that was foreign in the 1920s, including predominantly Greeks and Italians, but also British and French nationals. Many Egyptians in both Alexandria and Cairo were Jews, Armenians and Syrians, who had obtained Egyptian citizenship. This large fraction of foreign expatriates, amongst which many artists, that populated Egypt's main cities coincided with the concept of 'Al Nahda', an Egyptian cultural renaissance, that emphasised the importance of learning from the West and of obtaining an 'education of taste'. Prince Youssef Kamal (1874-1932) played a crucial role in creating this 'education of taste' by providing Egyptian artists a direct access to Western artistic aesthetics and techniques. Being an art lover, he was at the origin of the Société des Amis de l'Art in Cairo of 1923. Moreover, Prince Kamal also founded the first Egyptian School of Fine Arts in Cairo in 1908, a privately owned school that funded free education of its students. Amongst the first students who enrolled and graduated in 1910 were Mahmoud Mokhtar, Mohamed Hassan, Ragheb Ayad and Youssef Kamel. The works of these painters and sculptors were showcased for the first time publicly in 1911 at the 'Première Exposition pour les Aînés'. Artistic societies and cultural events flourished in both Cairo and Alexandria, with the opening of 'Salons' and 'Ateliers' in both cities. There was a permanent cultural exchange between the two cities, whether it be through artists' studies or through exhibitions. Although the College of Fine Arts in Alexandria was inaugurated only in 1957, Modern art developed in Alexandria much earlier, led by pioneers Mohammed Naghi, Georges Sabbagh and Mahmoud Saïd. The School of Alexandria was undoubtedly influenced by the city's cosmopolitanism and refined cultural history, which its artists incorporated and celebrated through their art. Cairo's artists appeared to be generally more directly engaged in politics through visual arts, finding themselves at the core of the action, during the years leading to Egypt's independence, although no other Egyptian painter better than Alexandrian master Hamed Ewais spearheaded Socio-Realism in Egypt. As opposed to the Cairene pioneers of art, the forerunners of Alexandrian art were men of law who were not destined to study art methodically. Yet, they were some of the most original and creative artists, using academic theories as a stepping-stone for their imagination and innovation. Successive generations of artists followed and continued their trend, enabling Alexandria to finally develop its own discipline of fine arts, in parallel and sometimes hand in hand, with Cairo. Christie's is proud to feature a comprehensive group of paintings by the leading figures of the School of Alexandria, including works by first generation artists Mahmoud Saïd and Mohammed Naghi, by second generation artists Adham and Seif Wanly and one of Hamed Ewais' most iconic masterpieces. In addition to this fine selection, Christie's is offering for the first time an impressive work deeply-rooted in Ancient Egyptian culture by sought-after Alexandrian sculptor Ahmed Abdel Wahab as well as a rare selection of paintings by some of the most important Alexandrian female artists, Marguerite Nakhla, Cléa Badaro, Mariam Abdel Aleem and Effat Naghi. PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, ITALY
Marguerite Nakhla (Egyptian, 1908-1977)

14 Juillet

Marguerite Nakhla (Egyptian, 1908-1977)
14 Juillet
signed, titled, inscribed and dated 'M Nakhla Paris 14 Juillet' (lower right); signed and titled 'M Nakhla XIV Juillet' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
25 7/8 x 31 5/8in. (65.8 x 80.2cm.)
Painted circa 1930s
Leighton Fine Arts Gallery, Buckinghamshire.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
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Lot Essay

Marguerite Nakhla was one of the leading Egyptian woman artist of the 20th century and played a significant role as one of the pioneers of Modern Egyptian art. Christie's is proud to include two outstanding examples of her oeuvre that showcase her stylistic versatility. In Nakhla's paintings, the subject matter dictates her style and depicts a scene she observed around her.

In the present work, Nakhla depicts a typical Parisian scene, with people dancing in the streets and celebrating the French national day on the 14th July. With vibrant touches of red, green and blue used for some of the dancers' clothes, the festive tone is also echoed in the bright red and blue of the French flags, proudly hanging over the scene. In this lively painting, Nakhla identified and portrayed, with a humouristic touch, a wide range of people she had observed that day: the merry couples dancing at the centre of the composition, the woman dancing with her dog in the foreground, the young children dancing, the family watching the show on the left, the seated lovers on the far right, waiting for their order that the waiter of 'Au Vieux Paris' café is bringing to them and the musicians in the background playing their instruments on a sheltered stage. Without doubt, Nakhla had very carefully analysed the scene. She succeeded in creating a deep relationship with each of her characters, capturing each individual human expression and in conveying the 'joie de vivre' of this scene in Paris.

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