Les porteuses d'eau

Hamed Abdalla Egyptian

Not on view

One of Abdalla’s most ambitious works, this painting exemplifies the type of anthropomorphized writing first developed by the artist in the 1940s. Abdalla borrows the image of two Egyptian farmer women stooping to fill their vessels with water from a river—a trope in European academic and Orientalist art—and transforms the subjects through Arabic script. The figure on the left is constituted of the Arabic word al-mawrid (the source) or al-muwarrida (the purveyor), potentially referring to the river that has historically replenished the Nile Valley or the farmers who cultivate the region. Abdalla’s synthesis of Arabic and the human figure represents both a political statement in support of Pan-Arabism, an assertion that the origins of modern abstraction lie in the arts of the Middle East and northern Africa, and a work of modern Arab art in its own right.

Les porteuses d'eau, Hamed Abdalla (Egyptian, Cairo 1917–1985 Paris), Gouache on Japanese paper on canvas

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