Abdel Hadi al-Gazzar

“Let me live in the world of magic I admire. I do not want to know what things are. Knowledge renders life unbearable.”

Dubbed the spiritual godfather of the symbolic movement, Abdel Hadi al-Gazzar is one of the most important Egyptian modernist painters and perhaps the most inventive. He was born in 1925 in Alexandria, son of a scholar of Islamic law. At age eleven, he moved to Cairo’s traditional Sayyeda Zeinab neighborhood when his father was appointed professor at al-Azhar University. In 1950, Abdel Hadi al-Gazzar graduated from the Egyptian School of Fine Arts.

Although he died young at the age of 41 in 1966, his astonishing body of work is amongst the most compelling images of twentieth century Arab art. Al-Gazzar exhumes the most authentic layers of Egyptian popular culture, affirms the Egyptian personality in all its authenticity and adds his own fascination with magic and the unknown, two elements which permeate his oeuvre throughout the different periods of his artistic production.

al-Gazzar was a member of the Contemporary Art Group, founded by arts educator and mentor Hussein Youssef Amin and the rising surrealist painter, Samir Rafi.

Both Hussein Youssef Amin, with his rich cultural and pedagogical capacity, and Samir Rafi, one of the most exceptional artists of the 1940s and 1950s, exercised a decisive influence over Gazzar’s artistic trajectory.

Abdel Hadi al-Gazzar participated thrice at the prestigious Venice Biennale (1952, 1956 and 1960), at the São Paulo Biennale (1953, 1957 and 1961), and at the Alexandria Biennale (1955 and 1965), as well as in the collective exhibitions of the Contemporary Art Group (1946, 1948, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1956). His first solo exhibition took place at the Museum of Modern Art in Cairo in 1951. He was sent on a government scholarship to pursue higher studies in Rome, Italy, in 1954. Finally, in 1964, he was awarded the Prix National d’Encouragement by President Gamal Abdel Nasser.