Lost painting by Egyptian artist Abdel-Hadi Al-Gazzar found, transferred to modern arts museum

Ati Metwaly , Thursday 16 Jun 2022

The Egyptian Ministry of Culture announced that it had retrieved a long-lost paining by one of the foremost Egyptian painters Abdel-Hadi Al-Gazzar (1925–1966) and placed it in the Museum of the Egyptian Modern Art's collection.


Titled Inspired by the Red Sea Lighthouses, the painting dates back to 1964 and it was loaned to the Egyptian culture ministry, but had been lost since 1971.

The painting resurfaced recently when the ministry learned about it being placed on sale.

The “owner” of the painting had had it in his possession for 18 years after he obtained it during the demolition of a building. He claimed that he was not aware of its value, placing the painting in his coffee shop. When one of his customers pointed to its potentially high value, he began contacting the art specialists and dealers, including Sayed Zeinhom.

The latter recognised the significance of the painting, one of Egypt’s modern art treasures, and contacted the culture ministry's fine arts sector which took the steps towards recovering the painting.

Meanwhile, the fine arts sector's head Khaled Sorour issued a statement that the artwork is indeed the "lost" painting by Al-Gazzar and that it is among the state’s belongings, representing the country’s cultural heritage.

Once retrieved by the culture ministry, the painting was examined, confirming its originality. The ministry decided to place it within the collection of the Museum of the Egyptian Modern Art, located on the grounds of the Cairo Opera House in Zamalek.

The ministry underlined that the recovery of the painting is a part of the strategy that aims to regain all “lost treasures” whether they are inside the country or abroad.

Abdel-Hadi Al-Gazzar (1925–1966) is among the most important Egyptian artists of the postwar era. “Having studied in Cairo and Rome, Al-Gazzar was among the third generation of artists who joined Hussein Youssef Amin’s Group of Contemporary Art, which rejected Western academic approaches to art making,” according to the artist’s biography.

Following his graduation from the Higher School of Fine Arts, he held his first solo exhibition in 1950 at the Museum of the Egyptian Modern Art.

A son of an Islamic scholar, Al-Gazzar worked in his early years at Al-Azhar University and later on at the Faculty of Fine Arts. Living in Sayeda Zeinab district, his early work is inspired by urban religious traditions such as moulids, as well as other Egyptian beliefs and folklore, religious symbols, magical and occult imagery and metaphysical values. He also explored existential and philosophical themes. One of his most well-known works from this era is Moulid of the Dervishes (1951).

In the years leading up to the 1952 Free Officer’s Revolution, and during the Nasser regime, Al-Gazzar turned to depictions of the working class as well as the developments of the time. Following social changes, including those in the scientific fields, Al-Gazzar painted one of his most remarkable works, The Man Looking in the Microscope (1956).

Al Gazzar represented Egypt three times at the Venice Biennale between 1952 and 1960.

In 1964 he was awarded the Medal of Arts and Sciences and the National Encouragement Prize for the painting The High Dam (1964).

In an interview with his daughter, Tayseer Al-Gazzar, published in the National News paper, she described her father as fully indulged in art.

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