Hussein Bicar (1912-2002), one of Egypt’s most popular artists, lived to the age of 89. Born in 1913 in Alexandria, Bicar graduated from the School of Fine Arts in Cairo in 1933. He taught in Morocco, later travelling across Europe. A painter and portraitist, Bicar illustrated children’s books and news stories with equal dexterity, and his 60-year career spanned many genres. He was a founding member of the Akhbar El-Youm press institution in 1944, and he also founded the Helwan Wax Museum. Among his most famous paintings are The Semsemia Players, The Green Planet, Palm Trees and the Mountain in Nubia, and Trees Die Standing Up. The Eighth Wonder, depicting the transportation of the temple of Ramses II to Abu Simbel, is widely regarded as a classic of modern Egyptian painting. His unique style is marked by extreme economy of means that nonetheless evoked a deep sense of mystery. In his later years, Bicar became better known for painting portraits, particularly of women.
The artist received many awards, including the Medal of Arts and Science in 1967, the Gamal Abdel-Nasser Prize in 1975, and the Mubarak Award in 2000, shortly before his death.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly