Widely recognised for his modernist depictions of ballerinas and theatrical compositions, Seif Wanly was equally inspired by the traditional and folkloric Egyptian heritage as by the Cubist and Futurist artistic trends that he acquainted while studying in the atelier of the Italian master, Otorino Becchi and gracefully combined both styles in his works.
Employing a distinctive style of bright colours, form and composition, his paintings reveal angular lines and vivid hues, harmoniously combined in delicate compositions of which the present work is a delightful example.
Born in Alexandria in 1906, Seif grew up in an aristocratic family and established a studio with his brother in the early 1940s where intellectuals and artists would gather to discuss artistic trends and cultural subjects. In the late 1950s, Wanly travelled to Nubia, on the upper reaches of the Nile and started his acclaimed series of rural scenes from the villages he discovered, often depicting their vernacular architecture and folkloric sceneries. Through flat coloured planes that revealed his European Cubist and Futurist influences, he portrayed life in Upper Egypt and took part in a governmental project that aimed to document culture and conditions prior to the relocation that occurred to enable the construction of the Aswan High Dam. At the turn of the century, a dam was built along the Nile in Aswan to help control flooding and provide power to the region. However, in times of extreme flooding, the dam proved to be inefficient and the land and surrounding villages found themselves covered with flood waters. The disaster that occurred at the time led several thousand Nubians to migrate and resettle outside of their villages.
Inspired by the unfortunate events that he witnessed while visiting the region, Seif Wanly dedicated his paintings to the depiction of Nubia. The present work, a colourful and vibrant composition made of bold lines and vivid colours, reveals the Nubian exodus as numerous figures march down the hill to escape, leaving behind their homes and memories. A graceful composition, filled with nostalgia and melancholy, the present work reveals the history of his homeland and its people and undeniably stands amongst the gems of twentieth century Egyptian art.