Hamed Abdalla, Les Porteuses d’Eau, 1956. Gouache on Japanese paper on canvas, 126 × 253 cm. Courtesy of Mark Hachem Gallery

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HAMED ABDALLA
Bio: Egyptian, 1917–1985
Title: Les Porteuses d’Eau, 1956
Medium: Gouache on Japanese paper on canvas
Size: 126 × 253 cm
Acquired by: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Artist represented by: Mark Hachem Gallery, Beirut/Paris/
New York
Acquired from: Abdalla family
Acquisition place: New York
Acquisition date: November 2018
Exhibited in 1956 in Amsterdam and Rotterdam
Exhibited in 1957 in Copenhagen
Hamed Abdalla, Les Porteuses d’Eau, 1956. Gouache on Japanese paper on canvas, 126 × 253 cm. Courtesy of Mark Hachem Gallery
Hamed Abdalla, Les Porteuses d’Eau, 1956. Gouache on Japanese paper on canvas, 126 × 253 cm. Courtesy of Mark Hachem Gallery

One of Hamed Abdalla’s most ambitious works, this large-scale painting on Japanese paper exemplifies the type of mot-forme or écriture anthropomorphique first developed by the artist in the 1940s. The painting is both an image and an example of Arabic script or calligraphy. In this piece, Abdalla borrows the familiar image of two Egyptian peasant women stooping to fill their vessels with water from the river, already firmly established as a trope of modern academic and Orientalist painting and sculpture in Egypt. In this case, however, the form of the stooping figure on the left also constitutes the Arabiclanguage word al-mawrid (the source) or al-muwarrida (the purveyor). In this context, the term may refer to the river that has historically replenished the Nile Valley and/or the peasants who cultivate it. Abdalla’s synthesis of Arabic-language script and the figurative image represents both a political statement tied to his support of Pan-Arabism, an artistic proposition regarding the origins of modern abstraction in the historical arts of the region, and a work of modern Arab art in its own right.

Credit: Abdalla family
Courtesy of Mark Hachem Gallery
Credit line: The Metropolitan Museum
of Art, Art Jameel Fund, 2019 (2019.198)

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS #55

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