Paintings by the late Omar El-Nagdi(1931-2019) are currently on show at Grant gallery.
Know as the Picasso of the Orient, El-Nagdihas a special philosophical vision that appears in his works, lines and characters, and despite his "universality" he did not relinquish his original Egyptian culture, which he is keen to emphasise. Much of his work is inspired by the Pharaonic and Islamic art, although it has its own unmistakable imprint, and he also draws on Assyrian-Babylonian and Coptic art. He was master of calligraphy, expressionism, abstract art and philosophy.His paintings often touch on the surreal and the sensory.
He mastered working in oil and aquarelle painting, sculpture, etching and mosaic, and exhibited alongside such legends as Dali, Monet and Picasso. A renowned name on the international art scene, El-Nagdi has had work sold at Christies’, most recently for US$137,000 in 2013.
Painter, musician and director, El-Nagdi studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts, after which he continued his art education in Russia and Italy, graduating from the Academy of Venice in 1965. In the 1960s, he initiated a series of works for which he is still renowned today – based on singular forms of calligraphy, predominantly in the repetition of the Arabic numeral for one and the first letter of the Arabic alphabet.
“When I work, I like to work with no limits, that is why I like large format painting,” he is often quoted as saying.
The exhibition is on view until 23 November.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.