The great artist Effat Nagy is one of the pioneers of contemporary Egyptian painting, distinguished for her creative journey, which lasted more than half a century, and her role in establishing an art scene, with the School of Fine Arts opening three years before she was born.
Born in Alexandria in 1905, Nagy was fascinated by all kinds of culture and, while studying music and mathematics, she was taught art by a private tutor as well as her brother legendary artist Mohamed Nagy. She later received formal training at the Academy of Arts in Rome.
In 1945 she married artist and researcher Saad Al-Khadem, whose work inspired her. By 1956 her brother was declaring that her work surpassed his own. She exhibited in the High Dam Exhibition in 1964, having been among the 64 artists commissioned to record the world that would be submerged under Lake Nasser. Today her work and her husband’s are on permanent exhibition at the Museum of Saad El-Khadem and Effat Nagy.
The museum contains some 200 paintings and pottery pieces: 24 paintings by Nagy and 34 by her husband, including a large nude for which Nagy was the model. The building also contains their old library which holds many useful books on folklore and astrology. Nagy left her house to the Egyptian government, but it was the French government that funded her biography. As well as Paris, she had exhibited in Florence and Rome in 1962 and at the Golden Circle Gallery in Switzerland in 1971.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 6 August, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly