Egyptian artist Mohamed Nagy (Alexandria, 1888 - Cairo, 1956) is regarded as one of the founders of modern Egyptian art. He was responsible for establishing the modern painting school of Egypt.
Born on 17 January 1888, Nagy studied music and painting at an early age, becoming an accomplished violinist. His poetic and literary talents bloomed as he began reading Egyptian folk tales.
Nagy studied law in Lyon, France in 1906-1910 before becoming the first Egyptian to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy, in 1910-1914. There he had the opportunity to study under none other than Claude Monet (1840-1926).
The nationalist movement at the beginning of the 20th century motivated Nagy to work hard and his enthusiasm found expression in the exquisite paintings of that period.
Nagy’s paintings served political and cultural purposes and helped spread awareness and disseminate knowledge. Egypt Renaissance, for example, for which he was awarded gold at the Salon du Paris, together with his murals Ancient Egyptian Medicine, Arab Medicine, Folk Medicine and The Inauguration of Mohamed Ali show a perfect balance between modern world artistic trends and Egyptian identity.
Nagy founded the Alexandria Atelier for Artists and Writers in 1935, Cairo Atelier in 1952, the Arts Club in 1941, and the Artists Studio in Al-Qurana in Luxor in 1941.
He was the first Egyptian to hold the position of principal of the Cairo-based Higher School of Fine Arts. Nagy was also appointed director of the Cairo’s Modern Art Museum in 1939-47 and the Egyptian Academy of Arts in Rome in 1947-1950.
After his death, Nagy’s atelier was turned into a museum housing his masterpieces and inaugurated by then Minister of Culture Tharwat Okasha on 13 July 1968.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 September, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly