Pioneers of Modern Egyptian Art: Hamed Nada

Written by: Dr. Ashraf Reda

Date: 2013-09-22

Hamed Nada(1924 – 1990)

The Egyptian artist, Hamed Nada, has been one of the prominent figures of contemporary art for 40 years enriching the art of photography with his unique artistic style and twist of native culture. His personal style remains distinctive in modern Egyptian contemporary art today. Nada was fascinated by the idea of surrealism and bizarre juxtaposition present in Egyptian society which he presented through his vibrant paint brush strokes producing a work of art capable of transporting the audience into a world of fantasy and imagination.

Nada was moved by the paintings of a well-known Egyptian artist, Abdel Hady El Gazar, which focused on a very unique population distinguished by their magical beliefs, peculiar attire and long beards. The chaotic lifestyle which this segment of the population led, really fascinated Nada as it was extremely contradictory to the monotonous lifestyle that he had read about in the literary and philosophical works of authors such as Taha Hussein, Salah Abdel Sabour and many more.


Nada was considered one of the first artists to focus on this specific aspect of the Egyptian culture and present it in his works. Towards the end of the 1940s especially, he began to uncover the underlying theme of this bizarre population’s culture in his work, exposing their peculiarity, magical beliefs, imaginations and hectic lifestyle.

Using the two contradictory lifestyles; that of the knowledgeable, educated and organised compared to the eccentric lifestyle he had witnessed, Nada was able to develop his own style which he achieved in his beautiful paintings.

Further searching took him on a trip to the city of Luxor, where he adopted a different painting approach, paying much less attention to detail and using careless brush strokes. He began to concentrate on the importance of gender differences in underprivileged and uneducated populations, where myths are the main form of belief. Hamed portrayed the male figure as the aged and frail whereas the woman represented the more lively and active figure. This representation was built upon observations from celebratory events and carnivals in the underprivileged areas, which he aimed to promote through his work of art. The theme he adopted for this project was a worn out tapestry of images reflecting an aged painting.

The works of Nada began to be more and more influenced by the elementary symbolic themes he observed on temple walls and caves. This simple form of art brought about constructive criticism from the audience, which Nada greatly appreciated and believed would further develop his work. The main theme unifying his work was that it was inspired by Egyptian culture and so leaving us with wealthy cultural art.

He is best known for his art in the late seventies and early eighties when he returned to tragedy and cynical aspects of life as his main themes, with a touch of surrealism for which he gained popularity. He began to use metaphors in his paintings such as animalistic features intertwined with human features, which leaned towards imagination rather than reality. Exotic and unusual colours were also used to represent nature, reinforcing the mythical aspect. The background of his paintings usually consisted of vague abstract forms in colours such as grey or shades of white with crimson to reflect the desired emotions.


Hamed was born in Cairo in 1924 and received his diploma from the College of Fine Arts in 1951; he then earned a diploma in the art of mural painting and design from the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid in 1961 and was a member of the group of Contemporary Art, the Ghoury Artists Association and the society of fine arts. He held a teaching position at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo until he became president of the Photography Department Faculty in 1977 he is considered the founder of the section of mural painting at the college.

Hamed Nada established dozens of art galleries throughout his life and represented Egyptian art in many important international exhibitions including: The Alexandria Biennale 1955 - 1961, the first International Festival 1966 in Dakar, Senegal, Egypt, France, the 1948 Gallery, Paris, Sao Paulo Biennale 1954-1959, an exhibition in Damascus and the Venice Biennale 1952 -1956; he also took part in the Egyptian Contemporary Art Exhibition in Paris 1971 and the Fourth Kuwait Exhibition of Fine Artists Arabs 1975.

Before his death in 1990, Nada received the State Award of the Supreme Council for Culture; he also received the Arts and Science award and his work was put together for a 20 minute documentary in 1978.