Renowned Egyptian painter Gazbia Sirry dies at 96

Ahram Online , Thursday 11 Nov 2021

World renowned Egyptian painter Gazbia Sirry died in the late evening of Wednesday at the age of 96, according to an announcement made by the Visual Arts Sector of the Ministry of Culture.

gazbia sirry

The Zamalek Art Gallery — where the artist held a number of exhibitions throughout her life — also mourned her passing.

Born in Cairo in 1925, Gazbia Sirry studied fine arts and became a professor in the Painting Department of the Faculty of Arts at Helwan University. She was also a professor at the American University in Cairo.

She was widely believed to be one of Egypt’s leading artists, with a varied and innovative career of more than 50 years. Her academic work traced Egypt’s political history. 

Her work is dominated by women in unmistakable poses of power stemming from female unity, performing roles in the public and private spheres.

Her earlier work deals with polygamy and strengthening the fertility and reproductive power of women. 

Sirry’s paintings captured the relationship between feminist consciousness and Islamic futurism.

In the late 1950s, Sirry made stylistic and thematic changes to reflect the grim mood created by the discontent from the crackdown on dissent and the curtailment of political freedoms across the country.

In the mid 1960s, when it became highly abstract, these dramatic changes are apparent. Her art is distinguished for its innovation in expressing the feelings and traditions of the Egyptian woman during the 1960s.

Abstraction was replaced in the early 1970s by the reappearance of human forms, but the dark paintings represented Sirry’s fears for women’s emancipation.

In the 1990s, she helped liberate Egyptian women from age-old traditions through her work.

Sirry has held more than 50 solo exhibitions across the globe, including Paris, Washington DC, Venice, Sao Paolo, Stockholm, Dakkar, Kuwait, and Tunis; several of her paintings were even officially purchased by international museums.

Among her many accolades are the first-place prize at the Salon du Caire, the State Merit Prize, and the first degree of the Order of Sciences and Arts.

In her nineties, Sirry continued to paint for the love of art and as a way to express her joys and fears. Her latest exhibition in Cairo was held in April 2020.

In 2016, Sirry held a retrospective exhibition titled ‘Art Is My Life’ that celebrated her rich artistic repertoire at Cairo’s Zamalek Art Gallery. The exhibition spanned the 68 years that made up Sirry’s career, exhibiting works from as early as the 1940s, all the way to the artist’s most recent paintings in 2010.

Her paintings are on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art in Cairo, the Alexandria Modern Art Museum, the Marine Museum in Alexandria, and in other renowned museums and institutions.

Sirry’s funeral will take place on Thursday 11 November following the noon prayers at Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Cairo’s Mohandeseen.

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