Adham Wanly


The Alexandria-born brothers Seif and Adham Wanly got introduced to the world of art through the stories of their French teacher during their school years. Similar to other pioneer artists, their parents preferred to see their sons pursue ‘serious’ studies. In 1925, and without their parents’ knowledge, the two brothers enrolled in art classes with an Italian painter, Otorino Bechhi, after realizing they could not afford to take classes with Arturo Zanieri, one of Mahmoud Said’s teachers. For years, both brothers would work as public sector employees to make ends meet, while pursuing their love of making art. Their studio, rented for a symbolic amount in a building owned by Prince Youssef Kamal as a sign of support, was to become a cultural gathering space, where intellectuals, painters and art loving British soldiers would gather and exchange ideas and knowledge. This is when they got acquainted with and got influenced by the Barbizon School, an art movement towards emotional Realism. Thanks to their cousin who would become the director of the Cairo Opera house, they would visit the Opera to sketch the ballerinas, the theater and the opera scenes. In 1950, the brothers would have their first solo exhibition at the Egyptian museum for modern art in Cairo. Dubbed the ‘descendants of Degas” by a French journalist in 1956, the brothers would earn a lifetime prize from the newly founded Ministry of Culture in 1959 to dedicate themselves to their art solely, enabling them to resign from their jobs. Adham Wanly is always mentioned in connection with his brother, Seif, and indeed the two brothers were always together. Adham, though younger, is the one who signs himself Wanly. He has grabbed the family name for himself while Seif, the older, appears content to sign himself Seif.