Many of the critics that studied my works emphasized the fact that it was because of my art that young working girls, maids, peasant girls, fishermen and labourers entered the saloons within the rich aristocratic circles... one of them is Kamal Al Mallakh, who has written: "... it is thanks to Said that these popular subjects entered the aristocratic saloons at a time when the Egyptian scene, or oriental reality was so far from the mentality of those people in the hierarchy, or the palatial residences... The truth is that for me, man is man, beauty and aesthetics has no boundaries socially or... it changes from one generation to another... I fell in love with the girl with the honey-coloured eyes... the one with the golden belt... these peasant girls of my country are authentic and classy. It is the woman, the girl, the femme with her pure instinctive beauty no matter what her social status is.
The sea is everywhere in my paintings, in Egypt, Greece and LebanonI painted the sea and the fishermenI painted calmness and silence in 'Marsa Matrouh' and other paintings that are always linked with the sight of sea, it is in my being.. If it is not in all my paintings it is at least in the background The 'Nile' in my country is referred to as the sea if you contemplate my paintings you are certain to find a boat with its white sail blown by the wind heading to a certain place it is my everlasting journey...
The life of Mahmoud Said represented a psychological battle in that he was torn between the life that he was born into, that of aristocracy and power through being the son of a prime minister, and the struggles of the working classes.
Said studied law and its harsh realities, which also suppressed all emotions for the sake of logic. His love though was for fine art and it was this that filled his inner being.
His art became his tool outside of the courtroom to defend the real and marginalized people of society through their difficulties in life, their constant battle in the world that surrounds them, in the village, the sea, the river, and the across the dessert.
Mahmoud Said is an Egyptian artist of international acclaim with a supreme body of work which stretches over forty five years of great artistic vision. He was born in Alexandria, the second largest city in Egypt, a city that appeared in or formed the subject of many of his most acclaimed works.
After enjoying a steady upbringing, he pursued a career in law, traveling to Paris at his own expense to further this. At that time, painting was his only serious hobby which he solidified by joining the 'Académie de la Grande Chaumière', as well as the school of art in the Saint Germain area.
Mahmoud Said loved Egypt and all Egyptians. Upon his return to Egypt, he intentionally moved east with his inspiration, turning his back on all the Western and European pressures and to a certain extent removing the aristocratic skin from which he was born into, embracing art as a new means to connect with his own people, connecting with their culture and understanding of his real Egyptian surroundings.
The bodies of working girls, women, prayers and peasants became his dough that he would play with, moulding and painting by adding his warm distinctive palette. Unlike a lot of his peers, like Ahmed Sabri and many other artists from the first generation who went to Europe's ateliers and visited Orientalist studios still popular in Alexandria at the turn of the 20th century, artists who were commissioned to paint specific still life subjects, religious themes, historical moments and mainly landscapes; Said's heart and soul was elsewhere and he painted many portraits which captured the true essence of everyday life in Egypt. He had a fondness of painting full-figured women and exaggerated portraits.
In these works, he controlled his models with their golden brown skins, their dress codes and black wrapped veils. Every bit of it asserted the Egyptian identity, a rare three-dimensional quality, unlike other artists in the region, most importantly with the effect of the vivid sun, the glaring light and the stillness of a tradition.
The present lot, Petite Fille D'Assiout, was painted in 1945. Said still felt the challenge of painting yet another Egyptian icon and in 1960 Mahmoud Said spoke about his experience in painting peasant girls (Banat Al Balad) on a few occasions. It is because of the compelling contrasts in their personalities that Said says that, in his opinion, although he found simple attributes in the character of each Egyptian girl that are a combination of human and animal, he found purity in heart, with a strong sexual burning - smiling joyfully, yet deeply sad, this girl he says is a big vessel where many contradictions are boiling. This is why he painted this subject with so many darker tones lit by a degradation of colours with surprising light that is shed on her body and face. Almost like being in a photographic studio for the first time, he placed her under the spotlight to showcase her beauty.
In her personality lies the higher point of the drama, a great sense of conservation with a turban on her head, and the black scarf around her neck covering an inner hidden desire. All this psychological fight is between the establishment and order, against the freedom and the real essence of what he had lived for. This is why in paintings like Petite Fille D'assiout we see a lot of Mahmoud Said personality and thoughts appear on the canvas.
Said's work is Egyptian because of the colour of the sky and that of the river. It is because of the light and the warmth coming out from the depth of each of his characters that he was able to capture and to overfill it in the atmosphere of his canvases.