Hamed Owais

(1919 - 2011) Born in Egypt in 1919 into a peasant family in the small village of Kafr Mansour. There, he received his primary and secondary education before working as a metalworker. He soon realized he was not fit for this profession and moved to Cairo, where he joined the School of Fine Arts. After he graduated in 1944, he pursued his studies at the Institute of Art Education in Cairo, where he was trained by the pedagogue and critic Youssef el-Afifi. He received his diploma in 1946 and in the following year, he founded the Group of Modern Art, together with other artists of his generation, such as Gamal el-Sigini, Gazbia Sirry, Zeinab Abdel Hamid, Salah Yousri and Youssef Sida. Hamed Owais is one of the leading Social Realist painters in Egypt. His work embodies the struggle of the people of the Egyptian working class: peasants, fishermen, laborers, factory workers, craftsmen, barbers, builders and market sellers. He was one of the first Egyptian artists to address the question of unemployment and the everyday life of Egyptian laborers in the 1940's and 1950's. His work was strongly influenced by the ideas of the Group of Modern Art, whose members rejected Surrealism, as they believed that art should touch the masses and clearly reflect social ideologies. Owais, like other artists of his generation, such as Gamal el-Sigini, was a partisan of the ideals of the 1952 revolution, which he expressed in his works. He admired the European modernists such as Picasso and Matisse and found affinity with Mexican Social Realists, such as the muralists Diego Rivera (1886 - 1957) and David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896 - 1974). Owais' work can be seen in the Museum of Egyptian Modern Arts in Cairo, the Museum of Fine Arts in Alexandria, as well as in Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha. Although Hamed Owais is one of the most prominent Egyptian artists of his generation, only a few studies have as yet been devoted to his life and work, which merit being documented in greater depth.