Tahia Halim (1919-2003) was born in Donkola, Sudan, where her family was working at the time. Her primary education was inside the Royal Palace of Cairo, where she was raised, as her father was the laureate of King Fouad I of Egypt.
Halim studied at Cairo’s Academy of Fine Arts as well as under important teachers such as the Lebanese painter Youssef Trabolsi and the Greek artist Gerom; then under the Egyptian artist Hamed Abdallah at his studio 1943. After their marriage, in 1945, they left for Paris to join the Académie Julian between 1949 and 1951. When Abdallah and Halim came back to Egypt, they taught together art in their private studio, in Down Town in Cairo. When Halim returned to Egypt in 1951, she had developed a more confident personal style, which came to be known as folkloric impressionism.
Tahia Halim was an artist of legendary realism. In 1958, she became the first female to win the Guggenheim prize and the Guggenheim Museum in New York later purchased Halim’s painting ‘Hanan’ (‘Tenderness’). She received five national prizes by the Egyptian State – the Golden Award from the Cairo Salon in 1960; the Ali Labib Gabr prize in 1960; the State Prize in 1968; the Medal of Arts and Sciences of the first degree in 1968 and the Arts Award from the Higher Institute of Culture in 1995. Halim exhibited at the 1955, 1960 and 1970 Venice Biennial in the Egyptian Pavilion.
Throughout her lifetime, Halim’s work was characterized by a simple but poetic style, establishing herself as one of the pioneers of the Modern Expressive Movement, where she excelled in expressing the Egyptian character’s idiosyncrasies. Her works concern the Nile, boats and the popular and national subjects as well as her infatuation by the Nubian woman and scenes of old Nuba before it was drowned under the waters of Nasser Lake.