Ahmad Osman was born in the small village of Eneiba near Aswan in Nubia. He studied at the School of Decorative Arts in Cairo under the English painter and decorator William Arnold Stewart (1882 - 1953). After graduating in 1927, he worked with the Mission of the University of Pennsylvania as the registrar for the archaeological excavations in Palestine. In 1928, he received a scholarship to study in Rome, where he first took classes at the Scuola Libera del Disegno del Nudo before entering the sculpture section of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. After receiving his diploma in 1932, he traveled to Florence to specialize in decorative sculpture at the Regio Instituto d'Arte. The following year, he returned to Egypt where he was appointed professor of sculpture at the School of Applied Arts in Giza (former School of Decorative Arts). At that time, the School was directed by the artist Mohammed Hassan (1892 - 1961).
In 1937, Osman was named director of the sculpture section of the School of Fine Arts in Cairo. The same year, he participated in the decoration of the Egyptian Pavilion at the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques appliqués à la Vie moderne in Paris, headed by the Egyptian politician and collector Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil (1877 - 1953). In 1938 he exhibited at the fifteenth Venice Biennial together with artists Mohammed Naghi (1888 - 1956) and Mahmoud Saïd (1897 - 1964), where Egypt was represented for the first time. Osman left his position at the School of Fine Arts in Cairo in 1957 to establish the Faculty of Fine Arts in Alexandria of which he became the first director.
Besides his occupations as an artist and teacher, he was involved in the safeguarding of the Egyptian cultural heritage. In 1954, he participated in the relocation of the colossal statue of Ramses II from Mit Rahina (Memphis) to Bab al-Hadid square in front of Cairo railway station. He also participated in Unesco's Nubian campaign from 1959, by developing techniques for cutting and reassembling the stone blocks of the Temple of Abu Simbel.
Ahmad Osman was one of the most prominent Egyptian sculptors of his generation. While his early works employ characteristics of Italian classicism, towards the end of the 1930's he started sculpting a series of bronzes representing busts of Egyptian peasant women. These sculptures are characterized by their realism in depicting the features of the peasants and daily rural activities. They embody the simplicity and joyfulness of rural life, which he often expressed through a smiling Egyptian peasant. Osman also specialized in ornamental sculptures and was commissioned to decorate several public buildings. In 1936, together with his colleague, the sculptor Mansour Farag, he created the reliefs to decorate the entrance gate of the Zoological Garden in Giza designed by architect Mustafa Fahmi (1886 - 1972). In 1947, he sculpted the bronze reliefs decorating the pedestal of the monument to commemorate Ibrahim Pasha on the Opera square in Cairo, which was created by the French sculptor Charles Cordier (1829 - 1905).
Under Gamal Abdel Nasser, Osman was commissioned to sculpt the exterior façades of the Officers Club in Zamalek and the Armed Forces Club in Heliopolis, as well as the monumental stylized bronze eagle above the entrance of the Cairo Tower in 1961. Osman was also a talented painter and produced a series of feminine and masculine nudes with charcoal, as well as several portraits, genres he developed while studying at the Scuola Libera del Disegno del Nudo. In his drawings, Osman reflects his background as a sculptor, by applying clear lines and shades on sculptural volumes. His works can be found in private collections, the Museum of Egyptian Modern Art in Cairo, the Agriculture Museum in Cairo, the Museum of Fine Arts in Alexandria and the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha.
|1949|| Exposition Egypte-France, Pavillon de Marsan, Paris, France|
|1938 || Venice Biennial, Italy|
|1937|| Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques appliqués à la Vie moderne, Paris, France |
Awards and honors
|1968||Egyptian State Merit Award|
Modern Egyptian art, sculpture, Faculty of Fine Arts in Alexandria, Italian classicism, rural life, peasants, nudes, Nubian campaign.
Iskandar, Rushdī, al-Mallākh, Kamāl, al-Shārūnī, Ṣubḥī. 80 sana min al-fann: 1908-1988, (Eighty Years of Art: 1908-1988). Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organization, 1991.
Al-Ṣadr, Sacīd Hāmid. Al-mathāl Ahmad cUthmān: hayātuhu wa camāluhu (The Sculptor Ahmad Osman: His Life and Work). Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organization, 1985.