Naghi, Mohamed Musa (1888–1956) By Davies, Clare
The painter Mohamed Naghi is remembered today alongside Mahmoud Mukhtar (1891–1934) and Mahmoud Said (1897–1964) as one of the core members of the so-called first generation of Egyptian artists. His early nationalist paintings executed after the Uprising of 1919 won him recognition. Paintings produced in 1931–1932 while Naghi was in Ethiopia brought him further acclaim. After the system of foreign privileges was abolished in 1937, a number of Egyptian artists, including Naghi, were assigned high-ranking positions in state art institutions. A “Pioneer” artist, Mohamed Naghi sought to develop a school of modern Egyptian art that was true to what he perceived as art’s universal foundations (and especially an equilibrium both formal and moral in nature) and the roots of an Egyptian identity grounded in a metaphysics of the collective. Like many of his contemporaries, his work drew on motifs referencing the art and intellectual history of Pharaonic Egypt, Egypt’s Islamic Golden Age, and a shared culture of the Mediterranean basin, as well as important contemporary literary and artistic figures. However, it was his interest in Egyptian folk art (al-fann al-sha‘abi) that would prove most influential for subsequent generations. Despite early setbacks in his dealings with the art establishment, he eventually became a powerful figure in Egypt’s new state arts sector and argued for the need for state intervention in cultivating an Egyptian artistic renaissance.