Mohammed Hamed Owais was born in 1919 into a peasant family in the small village of Kafr Mansour in the governorate of Beni Soueif. 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.
From 1948 to 1955, Owais worked as a drawing teacher in the Farouk Ist Secondary School in Alexandria. He traveled to Italy in 1952 and visited the Venice Biennial where the works of Italian Social Realist artists were being exhibited. In 1958, he was appointed a professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Alexandria just after it was founded by the sculptor Ahmad Osman (1907 - 1970). In 1967, Owais received a scholarship to continue his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid where he received his diploma in 1969. From 1977 to 1979, he served as the head of the Faculty of Fine Arts in Alexandria. He died in Cairo in 2011, at the age of ninety-two.
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 developed a clear and direct style portraying the life of the average Egyptian worker. His peasants or fishermen are massive and muscular, which reflects the strength of his social convictions. Their large bodies often seem to be enclosed in the reduced space of the canvas that appears as a metaphor of the social boundaries of the Egyptian society. When he moved to Alexandria, Owais was influenced by the abundance of light and vibrant colors of the Mediterranean port, as well as by the work of Alexandrian painter Mahmoud Saïd (1897 - 1964). Although Hamed Owais is commonly associated with the socialist ideology of the Gamal Abdel Nasser era, his original style and work overall reflect his humanist character.
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.
|1981 ||Participated and curated the Contemporary Egyptian Art Exhibition in Beijing, China|
|1972||Academy of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia|
|1971||Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia|
|1958||Alexandria Biennial, Egypt|
|1956 ||Venice Biennial, Italy|
|1955||Alexandria Biennial, Egypt|
|1954||Venice Biennial, Italy |
|1952 ||Venice Biennial, Italy|
Awards and Honors
|2000||State Merit Award in Fine Arts|
|1998||Award in Arts, National Exhibition for plastic Arts, Cairo, Egypt|
|1997||"Pioneer in Arts Prize", Alexandria Biennial|
|1982 ||State Merit Award, Egypt|
|1958||Cairo Salon Prize, Egypt|
|1956||Guggenheim International Prize|
Modern Egyptian Art, Group of Modern Art, social realism, Egyptian working class, revolutionary art, Mexican muralism.
Azar, Aimé. La peinture moderne en Égypte. Le Caire: Les Éditions Nouvelles, 1961.
Fenon. Accessed 10 January, 2014. http://www.fenon.com.
Karnouk, Liliane. Modern Egyptian Art (1910-2003). Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2005.
Shorouk News. Accessed 10 January, 2014. http://www.shorouknews.com/news/view.aspx?cdate=14102011&id=05ecf50f-fe32-4b09-bdcc-8baa5ce620e9.
Zamalek Art Gallery. Accessed 10 January, 2014. http://www.zamalekartgallery.com/en_exhibition.php?exhibitionID=16&artistID=8&availiable=.