One of the most celebrated female artists of the Egyptian Modern art scene, Tahia Halim's apprenticeship under who was to become her future husband Hamed Abdallah, coupled with her studies at the prestigious Académie Julian in Paris allowed her to shape a unique and personal Impressionist style that was inspired by Egyptian folk culture. Her artistic practice, loved by many both locally and internationally, shows an acute sensitivity to Egypt's rich cultural heritage epitomised by the use of a deep and rich palette of earthy ochre tones that exude a sense of warmth which radiate from the figures in her compositions.
Painted in 1958 at the height of the artist's success - she had received the first Guggenheim price for her work entitled Pity and had also painted The Dervishes (lot 56 in the present sale) - the present work, Al Jeeran fi Salam (Neighbours in Peace) celebrates the political union and establishment of the United Arab Republic which joined Syria and Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser. Espousing an ideological platform that combined Arab Nationalism, Socialism and Secularism, the birth of the Union was greeted with immense enthusiasm and Halim takes the opportunity to exude this sense of happiness in this composition by depicting two female figures, each in both Egyptian and Syrian national dress, smiling as they exchange flowers in a symbol of friendship. Alluding to the colour palette of the UAR flag - black, red, green and white, through various details, the artist represents the figures in profile with a subtle symmetry of composition. As such the work is also reminiscent of Ancient Egyptian Frescoes and Assyrian panels, once again bringing together Halim's love for rich historical heritage and underlying intention to symbolise the unification of two cultures.
Delightful in its configuration, Al Jeeran fi Salam (Neighbours in Peace), alongside The Dervishes, are both gems in the artist's oeuvre that were exhibited in the 1960 Venice Biennale revealing Halim's early exposure in the international art scene while highlighting the continually shifting regional political and social structures that shape the Middle East as we have come to know it.