Youssef Kamel was born in the neighborhood of el-Dahir in Cairo. In 1908, he was among the first students to join the School of Fine Arts in Cairo together with artists Mahmoud Mokhtar (1891 - 1934), Ragheb Ayad (1892 - 1982), Antoine Haggar (1896 - 1962) and Mohammed Hassan (1892 - 1961). The School was founded the same year by Prince Youssef Kamal. Kamel studied in the painting section under the Italian painter Paolo Forcella. He graduated in 1911 and the same year, and participated in the first exhibition of the students of the School of Fine Arts held at the Automobile Club in Cairo. In 1912, he was appointed as a drawing teacher in secondary schools. Between 1921 and 1922, Kamel and his friend, the painter Ragheb Ayad agreed on an exchange, according to which each of them would work in turns as a teacher for one year to finance the other's stay in Italy.
In 1925, Kamel received a scholarship to pursue his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rome together with his colleagues, Ragheb Ayad and Mohammed Hassan. He shared a studio with them in Rome and studied under the renowned Italian painter Umberto Coromaldi (1870 - 1948). During that period, he executed several copies of masterpieces in the collection of the Villa Borghese and painted a series of vedute, Italian townscape views, featuring Roman antique and Renaissance monuments, a genre he would later transpose to medieval Cairo. After receiving his diploma from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, Kamel returned to his homeland in 1929 and was appointed professor of painting at the School of Fine Arts in Cairo. In 1937, he became the head of the painting section when the Alexandrian painter and diplomat, Mohammed Naghi (1888 - 1956), was director of this institution. Kamel also worked as a curator and directed the Museum of Egyptian Modern Art from 1948 to 1949 before he was named director of the School of Fine Arts in Cairo between 1950 and 1953.
Youssef Kamel belongs to a generation of Egyptian artists commonly referred to as the pioneers (ar-ruwwād), as they were the first to be educated in artistic institutions established according to European models, such as the School of Fine Arts in Cairo. Kamel remained faithful to the lessons of his two Italian teachers, Paolo Forcella and Umberto Coromaldi, who were both followers of the Machiaioli movement. They introduced him to the technique of oil painting and the genres of landscape, nudes and portraits, which Kamel adapted to Egyptian subjects. His work expresses a sense of peacefulness and nostalgic timelessness through the use of light strokes and gentle colors. Kamel also portrayed some of his contemporaries and friends with great sincerity, such as the sculptor Mahmoud Mokhtar as well as individuals from the countryside and the working-class neighborhoods of Cairo. His works can be found in private collections, the Museum of Egyptian Modern Art in Cairo, the Agricultural Museum in Cairo, as well as in the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha. Unfortunately, on the 20th of July 2012, an important collection of his works was stolen, following a looting in his family villa in the neighborhood of Matariya in northern Cairo where many of his paintings were preserved.
Exposition Egypte-France, Pavillon de Marsan, Palais des Tuileries, Paris, France
Cairo Salon organized by the Society of Fine Art Lovers, Egypt
First exhibition of the students of the School of Fine Arts in Cairo, Automobile Club, Cairo, Egypt
Awards and Honors
Egyptian State Merit Award
Modern Egyptian art, pioneers, School of Fine Arts in Cairo, rural life, Medieval Cairo, portraits, landscapes, vedute.
Abū Ghāzī, Badr al-Dīn. Yūsuf Kāmil (Youssef Kamel). Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organization, 1982.
El-Shimi, Rowan. "Yusuf Kamel's art vanishes in Egypt's security vacuum". Al-Ahram online, September 17, 2012: http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContentPrint/5/0/53131/Arts--Culture/0/Youssef-Kamels-art-vanishes-in-Egypts-security-vac.aspx
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